Successful startup connects musicians with talent seekers

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(L-R): Tim Mulligan (’16) and Connor Feroce (’17) at BeatGig’s Tampa, Florida, headquarters. PHOTOGRAPHS BY ALYSSA WOOSLEY

SUMMARY: The post-Napster, streaming era of music presented new challenges for artists trying to turn their passion into a career. Connor Feroce (’17) and Tim Mulligan (’16) developed a solution with their undergraduate venture, BeatGig, which was recently recognized by Forbes in the Consumer Technology category.

It was just another Tuesday morning for Connor Feroce (’17) at his Tampa, Florida, office when mentor Patrick McQuown relayed the disappointing news. “You didn’t get it. I can’t believe it,” said McQuown, the former executive director of JMU’s Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship.

“At the time, I said, ‘Bummer. Well, it is what it is,’” recalled Feroce, a contender for Forbes 30 Under 30 list as co-founder and chief operating officer of BeatGig, an online marketplace that connects musicians with venues and event managers looking for talent. “Given the number of applicants and incredible companies in the world, I figured getting noticed was a long shot.”

Out of curiosity, Feroce opened the Forbes website and scanned the 2024 Consumer Technology category. To his surprise, he found his name on the awardee list — BeatGig had made the cut. “I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? We did get it!’” Feroce said. He and McQuown shared a laugh of relief and elation, chalking up the misunderstanding to a website glitch.

A Forbes honor is huge publicity for Feroce, an Intelligence Analysis major, and CEO Tim Mulligan (’16), who had strategically stayed under the radar for several years to focus on developing and investing in BeatGig. “There’s not a single article about BeatGig on the internet other than back when we won the 2017 Tom Tom Festival in Virginia when I was in college at JMU,” Feroce said.

BeatGig co-founders
(L-R): College of Business graduate Timothy Mulligan (’16), a Business Management major; and Connor Feroce (’17), an Intelligence Analysis major, Business Analytics minor and graduate of the College of Integrated Science and Engineering

The roots of BeatGig first took hold in Harrisonburg, with Mulligan spearheading the concept for the startup. A Business Management major, he was always an entrepreneurial thinker but never envisioned a career in the live entertainment industry until his third year, when he stumbled into David Cottrell’s music industry class. “By the end of his first lecture, Cottrell had succinctly explained the shift in the music business from record sales to live touring and how technology was the catalyst,” Mulligan said.

At the time, Mulligan had talented friends who had each amassed millions of streams but struggled to turn their passion into a career. Technology had devalued recorded music to the point where being on the road was the only way for a musician to make money; but without a talent agent to represent the artist, there was no effective way to book shows and route tours. Mulligan sought a solution.

“Tim said, ‘There’s got to be a better way to do this.’ And this was [in 2015], around the time when Uber and Airbnb were really taking off. He said, ‘Let’s apply that same business approach to the music industry and make it easier for anyone who wants to book talent.’ Tim ran the proposal past Cottrell during office hours; Cottrell responded that he would be foolish not to pursue it,” Feroce explained. “I was immediately attracted to the idea and jumped on board right away.”

Nine years later, with more than 10,000 artists on its platform, BeatGig has generated over $4 million in revenue through commissions and brought in more than $25 million in transactions from booking artists such as Odesza, Steve Aoki and Jason Derulo. In addition to the big-name acts, the startup lends itself to the college market, facilitating music events at more than 100 schools across the country.

BeatGig users can search for vetted artists by location and price, with detailed profiles featuring reviews, music and videos. When an offer is sent to an artist, the booking process is designed to minimize the time spent scheduling, negotiating and contracting shows. From start to finish, BeatGig serves as the trusted party for the venue and the artist to lock in the event.

In addition to its user-friendly functionality, BeatGig saves venues countless hours by automating payments, providing internal calendars and data analytics, and offering marketing tools to improve promotion on social media and websites.

In 2023, BeatGig booked more than 15,000 concerts. “When you’re looking to book just one artist, whether that’s a local or national artist, our platform really simplifies the process for you. But when you’re a public venue that’s booking lots of talent over the course of a year, BeatGig is your entertainment operating system that is truly taking all these offline, manual processes and putting them online into our simple platform,” Feroce said.

Vital to BeatGig’s early success was the mentorship of McQuown at JMU. From fundraising to pitching, “he was always very founder-friendly,” Feroce said. “I think BeatGig was the first business that came across his desk when he joined [the Gilliam Center]. We hit it off from the get-go.”

McQuown echoed that sentiment. “Connor was one of the first students I met at JMU,” he said. “In 2017, the University of Virginia had a competition called The College Cup, where each of the Virginia schools sent one student-led venture. I convinced Connor to pitch BeatGig. After weeks of practice, he got on stage and gave his pitch. Connor was the only undergraduate facing off against MBA students, law students and med students.”

Feroce won, walking away with a $10,000 cash prize while earning the audience vote. Later that year, in the first JMU summer venture accelerator, BeatGig competed against Georgetown University and its student ventures. “Once again, Connor and BeatGig won,” McQuown said.

McQuown has stayed in touch with Feroce and Mulligan over the years, keeping track of their growth. “As Tim is now over 30, this distinction is as much his — it’s just Forbes is late,” he said. Past 30 Under 30 winners from JMU include Brianna Keefe (’16), 2022 Food and Drink, and Emily Warden (’17), 2023 Arts and Style.

Although Mulligan was a College of Business graduate, the Gilliam Center is available to JMU students regardless of their major, minor or class year. “We offer programs, events and activities for any student across campus,” said Suzanne Bergmeister, executive director of the center. “Learning to use innovation and creativity to solve problems is a skill that is highly valued in any company, in any industry. So, whether the student just has an idea and doesn’t know what to do with it, has a side hustle and wants to grow it or just wants to learn a different way of thinking, the GCFE can help.” 

BeatGig co-founders
The co-founders’ app, BeatGig, makes it easy to book live music for bars, private parties, colleges, weddings and more.

The Gilliam Center is also a campus resource that helps prepare Dukes to lead. “The center inspires all JMU students to think outside the box with an entrepreneurial mindset to solve problems and ultimately change the world for the better. We teach students that entrepreneurs work hard, but we also have a lot of fun,” she said.

Regardless of the Forbes recognition, Mulligan insists that he and Connor are just normal guys who show up to work every day. “I think JMU instilled a certain grit and determination in Connor and me. We feel entitled to nothing — everything must be earned. This attitude is a part of our culture. People overestimate what can be accomplished in a year and underestimate what can be accomplished in 10 years,” he said.

Purple and gold carry over into their company culture as well. A closer look inside BeatGig’s Tampa headquarters reveals a squad of focused Dukes, managing college divisions and venue teams in different regions of the U.S.: Anthony Abruzzo (’19), senior account executive; Charlie Turnage (’21), account executive; Luke Lyons (’17), senior account manager; and Lawson Evans (’18), senior account manager. “It’s been great that we’ve been able to launch from JMU, hire within the network and keep that core,” Feroce said.

On the horizon, Feroce foresees BeatGig as the default destination to book, organize and market musical talent. He stays inspired by the scale of Live Nation, looking to implement its successes — in terms of talent booking, sponsorships and marketing — and drop it into BeatGig’s vertically integrated software. “Live Nation is in a different world than us. They deal with the arenas and the Taylor Swifts,” Feroce said. “Your local bar — it should have the same resources and capabilities as a Live Nation venue.”

Mulligan and Feroce share the same vision — to generate more than a billion dollars in annual artist bookings. Feroce says, “I’m all in on BeatGig, and we’ve still got a ways to go. I’m a big believer in staying focused on one venture, especially for what we’re trying to accomplish. I eat, sleep and breathe BeatGig on a daily basis.”


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by Amy Crockett (’10)

Published: Friday, March 8, 2024

Last Updated: Friday, April 12, 2024

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