Entertainment Payments Platform PickleJar Thrives With Artist-First Focus

Since its launch a year ago today, live entertainment and cashless tipping app PickleJar has helped artists earn more than $1.2 million. Over 2,500 artists and creators are on the platform and every penny earned through fan-funded support and transactions goes directly into their pockets.

PickleJar CEO and Founder Jeff James and President and Founder Kristian Barowsky are longtime friends and business partners. The premise of PickleJar came together three years ago while the pair was at Nashville’s The Second Fiddle on Lower Broadway catching some live music. When the artist walked up with her Yeti bucket for tips, they told her they didn’t have any cash on them. She then pulled out her Square card reader and they paid $60 for three song requests.

“We both had so many questions,” James tells me. “There were three people up on stage. How are they going to split the tips? Where did the money go? Would they remember our songs? Who paid the taxes on that? Were we going to get a receipt? Kristian and I looked at each other and said, ‘There has to be a better way.’”

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Barowsky got some bar napkins, and the pair began to brainstorm what they called “Project PickleJar.” Initially, the app was solely focused on making it easier for artists to collect and track their tips as well as take song requests. James and Barowsky never thought the idea would work, but as they talked to musician friends, they realized they had a revolutionary concept.

There was one thing the musicians were skeptical about though: Would they really receive 100% of their tips?

“The only way I’d be willing to do this is if the artist got 100% of the money and the artist owns 100% of their fans,” James says.

The pair got to work and built tools inside the platform where artists could direct message all their fans. There also was a nonprofit component made available so if an artist wanted to donate his performance in times of crises, he could easily give his tips and the money raised for the nonprofit or cause of his choosing.

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“All of a sudden you have a way to really connect fans with the music that empowers change for the world and that became our driving force,” James says. “If we help one person, we’ve been successful and that was the impetus for what we’ve tried to build.”

Artists on PickleJar have since raised more than $300,000 for charity. The company also has raised more than $4 million in outside funding, thanks in part to lead investor Anton Rabie.

“PickleJar’s visionary approach to live entertainment technology is more than a business model – it’s a mission,” Rabie, Spin Master Corp. co-founder and co-CEO says. “I couldn’t be prouder of what the PickleJar team has accomplished, especially on an accelerated time frame.

“We believe our long-term diversification of revenue streams is strong, with opportunities to significantly increase our member-base and profit per transaction,” Rabie continues. “PickleJar’s Artist-First culture remains the central theme of the executive team who are poised to make real and significant change across the entertainment space for musicians and content creators, alike.”

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Country singer-songwriter Sasha McVeigh witnessed this change firsthand. Within the first three days of using PickleJar she raised $1010. “She turned to Kristian and said, ‘My God that’s my rent for three months!’” James says. “We’ve accomplished what we set out to do. We’ve got bigger goals and greater ideas, but we’ve helped artists. We put hundreds of thousands of dollars in artist pockets to date.”

PickleJar has evolved from being a cashless tipping app for artists to becoming the ultimate live entertainment app for fans to connect with and support their favorite artists and venues, James says. PickleJar now offers a ticket platform for artists and venues, artist merchandizing, livestreaming and crowdfunding capabilities.

“What I’m most proud of is how we’ve been able to get the word out and people will listen, they understand it and they love it,” Barowsky says. “There’s been some pushback by people who think they’re above taking tips. However, once they see that it’s more about their fans being on a mission together with them for a common goal, they warm up to it.”

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In the past year, PickleJar has grown from seven employees to 29. The company also has plans to buy office space in Nashville this summer. PickleJar’s founders hope to have 10,000 artists on the platform within the next year, expand into 31 countries and embrace Web3. Currently, PickleJar is available in four different currencies throughout the U.S., U.K., Canada, France and Germany.

PickleJar has seen early support within the country community in Nashville and has since been embraced by the urban, hip-hop, jazz, DJ and punk rock genres. “It really is stretching into every genre especially once you start to give them the tool to show their gratitude,” Barowsky says.

“We are looking at this from every angle in order to help the artist distinguish and maintain the creative value of all of their portfolio of assets throughout their lifetime,” James says. “Ultimately, we can unlock the greatest advancement in human history of creativity since the Renaissance. You take an artist, and you give them the ability not to have to worry about their car payment or their rent or how they’re going to eat this month and you let them use that time to focus back on their talent and their craft. I think we’ll be amazed at what we see produced in the next decade if we can accomplish that.”

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