In her free time, Maggie Graff could once be found at local music venues photographing shows. There she started developing connections with not only musicians, but managers, other music photographers, sound folks, “all the folks in the ecosystem that make it run,” she says.
But what she noticed outside of show times, though, was that there wasn’t a central space for music industry professionals and enthusiasts to chat, stay in the know about industry happenings, promote upcoming events, and forge new connections. She saw similar patterns in Charlottesville and Richmond, where she relocated in late 2019.
Hungry for more than just a Facebook group, during the next two years she developed the idea for Ignited, a membership-based community app to serve the Richmond and Charlottesville music industry. The app launched in May 2021, and as of January 2023 had more than 450 users. A true embodiment of the phrase “one-woman show,” Graff launched and runs the Ignited app and community all on her own.
“It wasn’t intentional timing-wise, but given the fact that I launched Ignited in 2021 when we were still in the thick of COVID times, I think it was to everyone’s advantage,” Graff says. “We were so lacking that in-person interaction and engagement with the scene at that time—the music industry was hit hard. Of course every industry was, but the music scene took quite a punch in the gut.”
About the app
Ignited is available both on iOS and Android devices, and has similar functionalities to social media platforms. The Ignited app was developed by Disciple Media U.K. Company, which allowed her to white label the appearance of the app to match the branding Graff had created.
The application runs on a “freemium” model, meaning that all users have access to some features, while some members subscribe to and pay for premium content. All users create a profile page and can interact in “the Pit,” which Graff calls the heart of the community space. It’s the main group that all users can be a part of—regardless of paying for a subscription—where people can post introductions, promotions, or things they’re working on.
Users can explore other groups including the music news page to stay up-to-date on industry happenings and trends, and there’s even a “In Search Of/Selling” page that mimics Facebook Marketplace. Here users can sell unused concert tickets or other music gear.
“I’ve seen folks last minute try to sell tickets that they can’t use anymore day of, and other folks in the community have swiped them up,” Graff says. “It’s the exact target audience for selling gear and finding people to take your event tickets.”
Premium members can pay $6.99 per month—the cost of a cup of tea, as Graff puts it—to get access to Ignited Insight sessions and Ignited articles. Ignited Insight sessions are hosted though Zoom and have included topics such as booking strategy, songwriting, and sound recording law. Ignited articles are similar to the sessions, but they’re short-form write-ups instead of a video discussion.
The app also features a jobs page where users can find people to work with on upcoming projects and to grow their network. Under the paid subscription model, Graff is also working to provide member discounts for users to use at local venues.
Who uses the app
So far, musicians have been the primary audience for the app, but many music managers, audio engineers, music photographers, designers, videographers, and promoters are members as well. One of Graff’s goals this year is to have more music business presence, she says; One Three Guitar and In Your Ear Studios are already on the community platform.
“So much of social media is performative, hollow and frankly, anti-social. I really appreciate how Ignited tries to foster the opposite: social social media,” says Ignited user Brent McCormick, who is a musician and graphic designer. “I think it has to do with it being local and focused on music and the music scene. Folks naturally have shared experiences, struggles and aspirations because of that.”
Graff notes that she’s already starting to see folks meet up in person or work on collab projects together, which is highly rewarding. “That is very, very cool because who knows how long it would take for those paths to cross, or if they would’ve, if Ignited had not existed?”
In 2022, Graff also organized off-screen events at Common House Richmond, pre-concert meet-ups and a music trivia night at Starr Hill Richmond. She hopes to plan more of these meet-ups this year, but member acquisition is still top-of-mind for this year.
She believes, as it continues to grow, it’s going to serve its purpose of providing a bridges among a wide variety of people in the local music industry ecosystem.
“A community platform is nothing without a community. I’m still highly prioritizing folks telling other people about it. Doesn’t matter if you’re [just] a music lover, because this is the perfect place to find out what’s going on.”