Limelightrr matches artists and their fans
KYLE JABLON | NOVEMBER 10, 2014
Picture by Seonhyung Kim
Ever wanted to hang out with hip-hop producer Just Blaze? What about musicians like Wiz Khalifa or Mac Miller? At the outset, the concept—paying to hang out with your favorite artists—might sound absurd. But this is the vision of tech startup Limelightrr, the brainchild of Chicagoan Jabari Evans and startup consultant Mahrinah von Schlegel. Limelightrr seeks to add another dimension to fans’ interactions with artists by selling chances to enter their idols’ worlds.
Evans is a rapper, one half of Kidz in the Hall. Von Schlegel handles the business side of the operation and owns Cibola, a start-up incubator in Pilsen. The two have known each other since their freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t until last year, when they were both on the advisory committee for Emanuel’s Chicago Music Summit, that they began working on Limelightrr.
After lunch one day, the two began discussing the lack of minority entrepreneurs in the tech industry, and Evans mentioned an entrepreneurial notion of his own. While touring, he occasionally met fans of his who didn’t know he was in town. What if there were an online marketplace to schedule these encounters? Von Schlegel pushed him to pursue his idea, and Limelightrr was born.
Evans thinks it’s the right time to open a new kind of marketplace for experiences with musicians and producers, one that any artist can enter but where each artist is held to standards of accountability. He cites a 2013 Northwestern study by Peter DiCola indicating that approximately five percent of a music artist’s revenue comes from record sales, while thirty percent comes from touring.
As Evans puts it, artists have to do a sound check whether or not they’re spending time with a fan. Especially in the case of mid-tier artists, who make little money from record sales, Limelightrr could be an opportunity to supplement income from touring. Evans is confident in the service’s results, likening Limelightrr to ordering an Uber—at the end of the day, both artist and fan want the transaction to happen, so the likelihood of any misconduct is low. It seems that others think it has potential, too: Evans and Von Schlegel recently entered Limelightrr into the University of Chicago’s South Side Pitch contest, a showcase of South-Side-based entrepreneurship, and won third place.
Evans is clear that being in the area is important for the startup. He was born and raised on the South Side and currently lives in Hyde Park. The area’s hip-hop scene has exploded recently with artists like Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, Chief Keef, and others. By starting Limelightrr in Chicago, Evans is able to put his many personal connections to use.
The service is currently in a very limited beta-testing phase, and Evans and Von Schlegel are beginning by experimenting with different business models, such as partnering with record companies. They hope to have the service fully established by next spring.
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