Live music is an immersive experience that many believe they can only enjoy after trekking to a 20,000-seat arena or flying out to a middle-of-nowhere desert. However, what if you could bring that experience to you?

GoghNow is a music app that allows users to book live music performances on-demand, empowering music fans to create smaller, intimate gatherings and control the way they want to hear their favorite musicians. As a result, the platform can connect musicians to folks for dinner parties, birthday soirees, or intimate proposals—you name it.

Founders Ajalon Elliott and Chance Smith developed this concept after attending a local performance and witnessing a musician pass the hat. For Smith, the idea of having to leave home to have fun is a fading thrill.

Growing up together in Roanoke, Virginia, Elliott and Smith first connected through basketball camps then shared a mutual interest in technology. As Elliott rebuilt computers and produced beats, the two would attempt to get their music to local artists. Fast forward through their college years, the longtime friends reconnected, and at a music performance, they soon realized they could make live shows more convenient.

“More often, I’m doing things where my friends are coming to me and we’re having gatherings of our own instead of meeting everyone else and having to deal with the commotion of being out,” said co-founder Chance Smith. “I’m in the stage of my life where going out for experiences is not really a thing. I want a service that allows me to enjoy the comfort of my own space.”

Smith also believes GoghNow gives artists a better chance of making money for their shows with less uncertainty, which is why a rate is preset in the app (Think Uber).

“Ninety percent of the independent music venues are not opening back up, so that leaves a whole crowd of people such as musicians, who are essentially unemployed. And a lot of these people can’t collect unemployment. So this is actually perfect timing for a platform like ours to launch before the end of the year because this provides an opportunity for them.”

AfroTech spoke with Smith about GoghNow, developing an in-person idea during a pandemic, and how he hopes this app can boost musicians.

AfroTech: How does your music app stand apart from other music apps? Is there something that makes it unique or neat?

Chance Smith: With our free service, we’ve created a marketplace essentially where we’re connecting musicians, where they’re able to pretty much be self-sufficient. Musicians can input their availability and upload their own content. Alternatively, somebody who is looking for live music can open up their app and select an artist, whether they’re needed in few minutes or the next week. We wanted to have something where musicians would be able to liven up those experiences that people are already having. And we just want to be the technology that does that because there’s nobody else that’s out there doing anything like this currently.

AfroTech: The on-demand feature is a great draw. How has the app developed during the pandemic? As you know, there’s a lot of concern with the spread of COVID-19 and maintaining social distancing practices.

Chance Smith: The pandemic has been very interesting. It’s not something that we could have guessed, but we actually planned for times like this with our safety policies, like making sure an artist has the correct address. Now, we just expanded those precautions to include making sure people are wearing masks when they’re not performing and making sure that there’s distance between the performer and the party. Thankfully, we’ve already done a lot of testing around the platform, so we’ve seen this play out safely.


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AfroTech: Let’s say Kehlani wanted to use this app. Is this possible? Or, is this app solely for smaller, independent local artists? 

Chance Smith: When we say local, it doesn’t mean local in a sense of how large they are. It’s local as far as where you’re located. If I’m in Washington, D.C., it could be any musician in any genre nearby who is on the app. It’s open to all. It can be a large artist that’s just looking to perform in a unique space, or it could be a local musician that nobody’s ever heard of. That’s the art of discovery. We want to let the user find artists for themselves and experience them. And I think that’s what actually creates the experiences that have never happened before.

AfroTech: Many tech entrepreneurs seek out investors for their ideas. How did you and your partner fund GoghNow?

Chance Smith: We actually funded [our own idea]. We’re lean, and we had a strong team that put everything together. Fortunately, we’re at a stage now where we know everything that we need and we have access to it. The misconception when it comes to tech is that all of the techs get funding, but we don’t always need it. I know that some people get overfunded and they don’t really have a use for it.

AfroTech: And investors will still want that money back.

Chance Smith: Right. We have proof of concept, and we’re confident in what we’re attacking right now, especially going after our first initial market in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Afrotech: After the launch, where would you like the success of the app to look like in five years?

Chance Smith: We want to be up in more than 40 markets and international in five years; the go-to platform for all your music needs. We’ve done quite a bit of travel over the years and we connected with people in different European countries. There’s been a lot of places that we’ve been in and explored and really excited to bring what we have to to the masses.

GoghNow is slated to launch at the end of 2020. Learn more here.