One night a few years ago, Jeff James found himself at a bar with a live musician serenading the crowd. And, living in an increasingly cashless society, he didn’t have an easy way to show his appreciation by way of a tip.
He turned to Kristian Barowsky, a business colleague — the two were working on a project, and together they spitballed an idea for a cashless way to better engage with performing artists.
“The idea stuck with us, and, even though we were working on other projects, we decided that this really was an issue — the way that artists make money,” James says on the Houston Innovators Podcast “It’s such an ecosystem of scepticism, and everyone has their fingers in the pockets of these musicians.”
James and Barowsky started working on the idea that would become PickleJar, an app-based, performer-focused platform where fans can conduct cashless tips — and they can be sure the artist is getting 100 percent of that money.
The duo wrote their first line of code two months before the pandemic hit and all of live music performances were postponed or streamed.
“As the pandemic lingered on, we realized the project wasn’t just about tipping or on-stage engagement, it’s about something greater than that,” James says. “It’s all the different ways how artists are being disenfranchised. We really set out on a mission to help artists make more money.”
Now, PickleJar is a comprehensive engagement platform where artists can receive song requests and tips, but also sell tickets and merchandise and even crowdfund their next album.
As distracting as the pandemic was at first to PickleJar, which officially launched in May of 2021, the company ended up having a huge opportunity to be a revenue stream for artists when they needed it most. The duo decided they had to build the company — even during the pandemic and uncertain times.
“We decided that if we weren’t going to solve this problem, then who was?” James says. “The negative impact the pandemic was having on artists — we had to be there waiting for them as we come out of the pandemic.”
Over a year in now, PickleJar has over 2,500 artists on the platform who have generated over $1 million in income.
James shares more about the future of Pickle Jar on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.
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