Tech Drivers
Tech Drivers

Like Uber...but for a live orchestra in your home

Florian Danner, Special to
The Uber for classical concerts

There is an "Uber" for almost everything, and now that includes on-demand classical music.

Groupmuse, a start-up that connects musicians with fans, wants to make live classical music available to a broader audience — not just in their homes, but even in their offices. Its newest service, "Groupmuse at Work," allows businesses to book classical entertainment on-demand. Google is among the hosts of classical concerts for employees.

Two thousand concerts already have taken place in living rooms in Boston, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle since the company was founded three years ago.

"I've done it six or seven times already and I love it," said Jessica Stanton, who regularly hosts Groupmuse concerts at her home in Berkeley, California. "You do a minimal tidy up of your house and you put out a bottle of wine, and then people come and play or listen to beautiful music."

To take part in a Groupmuse, users go to the website or app, find a concert by city and send a request to the host. Every attendee pays a $3 fee to RSVP for a house concert but is encouraged to make an additional donation at the event. For hosts, Groupmuses are free.

Source: Florian Danner

Groupmuse has raised more than $400,000 for musicians, with most making $132 on average per event as of the second quarter of 2016.

"I've done about 38 Groupmuses since moving to the Bay Area, and my experience with it has been really refreshing," said cellist James Jaffe. "It takes away a lot of those barriers of entry you might find to classical music, such as a whole lot of formality or a high ticket price. And so the quality of the music and art itself can shine through."

Sam Bodkin, founder of Groupmuse, did not know anything about classical music — and did not even like it — before he attended a house concert in 2008.

"People felt so connected afterwards although most of them didn't know each other," said Bodkin.

Together with trumpet player Ezra Weller and web designer Kyle Schmolze, he started Groupmuse in 2013. "In a world of Kardashians and Trumps, it's easy to forget why we are in a world that's worth fighting for. You know again when a string quartet plays Beethoven's Grosse Fuge in your living room and you feel the power of this music and the instruments 4 feet next to you," said Bodkin.

With the number of people attending classical concerts down about 30 percent over the last 15 years, according to the National Endowment of the Arts, Bodkin hopes the accessibility of Groupmuse will reverse that trend.

"A 50 dollar ticket price is not in everybody's range. But music should be there for the experience of everyone," said musician Ian Scarfe while playing a concert at Jessica Stanton's home in Berkeley. "Groupmuse suggests a minimum fee of 10 dollars per person. When 20 or 30 people attend a Groupmuse, we can make a decent paycheck for an afternoon or evening concert. And house concerts are one of the most fun parts of my job."

In 2017, Groupmuse plans to expand to Chicago, and Bodkin says the company expects to be profitable in the next couple of months.

More from Tech Drivers:
Why Cher loves emojis
Virtual reality technology is going way beyond video games
Amazon rolls out another policy that has small sellers on edge