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“… my mother always had my back. Now that she is gone physically, I feel that I still have some of my mother’s spirit living through me and gignaustin.com.”

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In today’s interview we talk with Shawn Tuthill, a local musician turned entrepreneur.  As a member of several bands over the years, playing shows in cities across the US and even as far away as Japan, one of the biggest problems Tuthill identified with was the process of booking gigs.   One afternoon over Thai food, his vision came to him. He decided then and there to set out to combine his passion for music along with his many connections on the Austin music scene to create gignaustin.com, a platform that would make it easier for artists and local venues to connect with each other and book more shows.

Here Tuthill tells us a little about his background, how he was inspired to start gignaustin.com, how he managed to partner with one of Austin’s most locally recognized internet brands in the process, and why his Mom’s spirit continues to live on in his work.

MO:
How does gignaustin.com benefit the local music scene here in Austin Texas?

Shawn:
Gignaustin.com benefits the local music scene by creating a tangible network composed of local artists & venues. It is a conduit for quick and efficient communication for free. Think of it like a refined social-networking tool designed to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships between artists & venues. The site also benefits the local music scene with free advertising, free koozies, and free stickers. Everyone loves free stuff, right?

MO:
What was it that inspired you to start gignaustin.com?

Shawn:
I previously was in a band called The Dimes, based in Portland Oregon, from January of 2003 to July of 2005. Check out The Dimes when you have a chance. They are very popular in the northwest these days. Anyways, I played the trumpet, piano, hand percussion, and sung harmony with them. We consistently had band meetings once or twice a week and discussed a variety of items. One goal we consistently focused on was gigging in other cities. Pretty soon, we started to gig in cities like Seattle, Eugene, Salem, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and a whole lot more. We even went to Fukuoka, Japan on a USO tour!

Now flash forward to…

I was back in Austin and not happy with my current job (in 2006) at the time. I was on my lunch break at Madam Mam’s Thai restaurant and started to think about ways I could work for myself one day. I reflected back on my days with The Dimes and thought about all the cities I gigged in. I remembered how hard we worked to get our name out to other cities and quickly realized it might be easier to achieve the same results with the internet. Instantly, I started to think about a website that could be designed to connect artists & venues quickly and efficiently. I also started to think about a lingo/phrase for the name of the site and then it struck, “gignaustin.com”. I was quite excited about my idea and instantly wanted to know if that domain name had been taken or not. As soon as I got back to work, I checked to see if it was available and it was! I purchased “gignaustin.com” for roughly $11 that night. From that day forward, I decided to make gignaustin.com become a reality.

gignaustin.com

MO:
Your website has some pretty nice functionality built in. Did you build this yourself, or did you need to hire a developer?

Shawn:
Thank you for the nice words regarding functionality. To let you in on a little secret, site functionality is my biggest concern with the site so thank you. I appreciate it very much. I initially started with designing a site map for the website. I worked with a website firm out of Denver, CO (Vanguard Communications) to help me design it. After I had the site map locked in, I happened to land a great connection through a family friend and they introduced me to Mr. Sean French (owner of Austin.com).

Mr. French is one of the best web development programmers/designers in the industry. He understood my vision for the site and guaranteed he could make it happen. We met at least once a week for about 10 months to create the website. We both worked on the functionality of the site during development. I decided to launch the website on 3/17/2010 and Mr. French made it happen.

After the initial launch of the website, I decided to learn how to change the functionality myself so I studied the CMS (content management system) behind gignaustin.com. I quickly learned how to change the functionality myself but could not have done it without Mr. French. Outside of our business relationship, he was (and still is) a mentor for me. To this day, he teaches me about the website and there are definitely hints of “the master and the apprentice” when we meet. Currently, we are working on an iPhone and Android app for the website that I will release in the near future so keep an eye out!

MO:
How much time do you spend updating or maintaining the site on a weekly basis?

Shawn:
I spend about 20-25 hours a week updating and maintaining the website. I do wish I had more time to nurture and grow the site though. We are always accepting volunteers!

MO:
Austin is known as the live music capital of the world. With so much going on in the music scene here, did that make it easier or more difficult to establish your presence and build traction for your service?

Shawn:
I feel it made it easier to establish a presence and build traction for the website. I am a musician myself and have been gigging in downtown Austin since I moved back from Portland Oregon in July of 2005. I performed in multiple groups but my main gig was a band called The Bumps. We gigged heavily from 2006 to 2008 in Austin and I made many connections during that time. I maintained those connections over time and when I launched the website, I had the support of many local musicians to help promote it. In my opinion, being a fellow Austin musician helped the site grow immensely.

MO:
I notice you have a playlist widget on the homepage sponsored by Austin.com How do you go about finding advertisers or other websites to partner with?

Shawn:
My sponsorship from Austin.com came from working with Mr. French during the development phase of gignaustin.com. Outside of our business relationship, Mr. French felt gignaustin.com would be a great addition to Austin.com so he offered to be a sponsor. I gladly accepted his offer.

As for how I go about finding advertisers or other websites to partner with … that is a great question. I am the first to admit I am not a salesman. I am one of those people that hates when someone tries to sale me something I (think) I don’t need. So with that said, when I muster up the courage to market the site, I do my best to present what gignaustin.com has to offer and hope others see value in it. I figure it is better to be transparent and honest with what gignaustin.com offers to advertisers and other websites. So far, it seems to be working better than expected!

gignaustin playlist widget

MO:
When a business begins out of someone’s passion, it’s often a labor of love as much as a business. Do you feel this way about gignaustin.com, and do you get something more out of it?

Shawn:
I do feel that way and I do get something more out of it. Gignaustin.com grew from a passion to help others and a want to give back to the community. It is a labor of love and a business at the same time for sure but it is worth it. Part of the reason why gignaustin.com exists is because of my mother. I dedicated the site to the memory her. I lost her back in 2008 unexpectedly due to a brain hemorrhage. She believed in the website and supported my vision of the site before she passed. I am an only child and in addition to my father, my mother always had my back. Now that she is gone physically, I feel that I still have some of my mother’s spirit living through me and gignaustin.com. I think of the site as my mother helping anyone who joins the site. She always helped me and now she helps others too with gignaustin.com.

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