Ever had an unnecessarily difficult experience in your working life and thought: “This could be done so much better?” Welcome to the world of Luke Rynne Cullen, the young Irish founder of TuneRelease, which defiantly launched in March 2020 in the teeth of the pandemic. It’s the one-stop-shop for artists to pitch their music to the leading media outlets of the industry. It provides bands, solo performers and singer songwriters with an impressive media pitching platform, targeting international blogs, radio, playlists and podcasts tailored to suit their particular music.
Music is a huge part of Ireland’s culture and identity. We are a Tune Nation: so much of our lives and culture revolves around music, traditional and contemporary and we’re proudly aware of the unique talent that is bred here. It’s an integral part of our lives.. Like the music itself, our means of playing, presenting and enjoying is continuously evolving. But, for emerging musicians, the live gig is the lottery ticket and potential door to success.
Huckletree D2 member Luke has put his own background in music to good use, by setting up two pioneering side hustles and supporting them in their journey. TuneRelease helps artists release and promote new music, whilst Applaud.live helps streamline gig bookings for musicians.
So how does a 23 year old classical musician with no tech background become an entrepreneur?
No business degree or tech chops here… but an unconventional background often makes the best founders. Luke studied History and English Literature at Trinity College Dublin, just a stone’s throw from The Academy – Huckletree’s equally imposing Dublin home, where he now works as Marketing and Communications lead for Scale Ireland. He was also a violinist with Trinity Orchestra & its President during 2018/19. “I handled the bookings for the orchestra including Electric Picnic, DropBox & All Together Now, and later became the live music officer for Trinity Ents.”
Back to that ‘I could do this better’ moment. It was as a working musician that he found the inspiration to become an entrepreneur himself. Luke had been playing in a string quartet, mostly weddings and corporate events. Bookings, as most performers are only too well aware, are a verbal contract over the phone – and sometimes the envelope handed over after the gig can be a trifle light. After one such gig, Luke had the unenviable task of approaching the bridal party and had to gently inform them that the envelope had contained 200 Euro less than the agreed fee.
Being paid the agreed amount post-performance is something a musician shouldn’t need to worry about. Determined never again to find himself in that cringe-making position, he set up Applaud, a platform where musicians could display their work online to prospective clients, apply to gigs with set fees, an agreed performance time, and a 10% deposit on booking. Musicians on the platform don’t just show up and play – they’re guaranteed to practice every day and perform at a professional level. With the support of Trinity’s LaunchPad and LaunchBox programmes, Luke developed the platform, ultimately winning the TES Dragon’s Den in 2018 (under the name Applaud Events).
Irish Innovators Unite
Dublin is a place where homegrown talent is always rubbing shoulders with global names. We know all too well how important input from the innovation community can be. Luke reflects on one of the drivers of his platforms’ success:
“Working with top class tech consultants, and with mentoring from Scale Ireland, particularly Liz McCarthy and Martina Fitzgerald. I realised that as a first time founder and as someone who does not come from means, I was weak in both experience and network. That’s one of the things I love about working at Huckletree – it’s the ideal place for networking. The location is perfect for meetings, and there is a great community atmosphere that lends itself well to networking with a stellar cohort of other start-ups and scale-ups.”
We’re so inspired by how Luke faces every challenge past, present and future with open arms. He has incredible drive and ambition. As to where this comes from, Luke explains,
“I do think a big part of it is related to having helped care for my sister Eva-Rose who was a Jack & Jill child (children with severe neurological development issues). I think going through that experience put into perspective the value of life and that one should make the most of it while they can.”
This determination radiates off Luke, who believes TuneRelease can help all those musicians rise to meet that challenge of Covid:
“There is so much music out there but live music has been annihilated. Without live venues, artists need a platform to display their music and more importantly reach the very people who can expand their audience base.”
Working in the music industry has never been easy but, with the current pandemic, Irish artists are facing the most difficult time in the history of the industry. We’re so inspired and hearted by Luke’s efforts – TuneRelease is gaining traction because he and his team truly understands musicians’ needs right now. We can’t wait for their 2021 encore…