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The CQ: Welcome, Boombox — a new AI-powered approach to music collaboration
$7M in funding to build the G-Suite for musicians
The CQ is Forerunner’s weekly newsletter rounding up the most pressing consumer news and analysis, plus some bonus musing from our investment team. Subscribe now to get the latest edition in your inbox every Saturday.
By Brian O’Malley, Managing Partner
This week, we shared that we’re leading the $7M seed funding round for boombox.io. Boombox is grounded in the idea that we can reimagine the best of AI-powered productivity software specifically for music producers, a massive and growing demographic that’s incredibly passionate about their craft, but starved for quality tools.
Currently, the going standard for music producers involves toggling between disparate apps and storage systems that weren't built for their needs — and that are more likely to thwart creativity than foster it. This is especially cumbersome when so much of music production moved async and online during COVID, while physical studios were less accessible. Today, hybrid in-person and remote models are the norm, but no experience has been build to fit this new reality.
Boombox is quite literally the product of some of the most impressive tech-obsessed software builders — who also happen to be passionate musicians — coming to together to develop what they came to expect in their day jobs, but wished always they’d had for their favorite hobby. The co-founders, Tom and Vivek, have a pattern of building powerful businesses with highly successful outcomes by capitalizing on new technologies — first with cloud (their company Rapt sold to Microsoft), and then the proliferation of big data (their second company Krux sold to Salesforce). They’re now taking advantage of the highly structured nature of music data to leverage AI advances — not to replace musicians, but to enhance creativity and accelerate the time to quality new content.
For more, see boombox’s Axios story. And be sure to share boombox with the musicians in your life — their AI chord progression tool recently launched and the first 4GB of storage is free!
What We’re Talking About on Slack:
These days, it’s all about the suburbs — even for younger demographics. This shift was brewing even before the pandemic: between 2010 and 2020, the share of Americans living in the suburbs grew by 10.5%, per Census data. And now more Millennials are choosing to buy homes away from major cities, thanks to hybrid and remote work. Because of this, suburban retail is getting a huge boost (ex: Sweetgreen now counts 50% of its locations as suburb-based, up from 35% a few years ago). There are demographic shifts, as well — big suburbs are now more racially diverse compared to the country as whole, according to a Brookings Institution analysis.
But there’s still a major urban-rural digital-health divide. Even though telehealth has multiplied care opportunities for those with less access to brick-and-mortar health facilities, a new FCC report from April 2023 found that urbanites were almost three times more likely than rural consumers to engage in any health-related activity online. While the share of urban consumers engaging in healthcare activities has increased by 8.9% year over year, the share of rural consumers has remained relatively unchanged. And when it comes to mental health apps or teletherapy sessions, urban consumers are four times more likely to engage.
One way that Gen Zers are trying to budget and take accountability for their spending: “payday routines,” On these short TikToks, they reveal their take-home pay and then proceed to break it all down as they start subtracting their expenses. For some, it’s also opening the conversation about the taboo topic of money. “It’s just really nice seeing people living off of $2K or $3K a month and still being able to survive because sometimes that’s how it is for me.” Meanwhile, college clubs are learning about investing by managing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But also: just over 50% of Gen Zers and nearly 45% of Millennials say that social media influences them to buy things they can’t afford, according to a Deloitte survey of over 22,000 Gen Zers and Millennials in 44 countries. And that’s with half of young people reporting that they are living paycheck to paycheck.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Surgeon General declared social media has “a profound risk of harm” for children, calling for additional research and action from tech companies and policymakers in his 25-page advisory. He told CNN the most common things he hears from kids about social media are: “number one, it makes them feel worse about themselves; number two, it makes them feel worse about their friendships; but number three, they can’t get off of it.” But on the contrary: LGBTQ youth consider social media a “lifeline,” saying the digital community is essential for feeling the unity that they might not access as easily in their immediate surroundings.
Looks like we’re bouncing back from the pandemic’s “she-cession.” The number of women aged 25 to 54 in the workforce reached a record high of 77.5% in April, due to a strong job market (note: outside of tech, the workforce is doing well!) coupled with the pressures of the high cost of living. “We’ve recovered from a decline, but that is not the same thing as thriving. Many of the jobs that are open are not jobs that we would consider to be family-sustaining.”
The New York Times delves into consumers’ “quest for the best.” To navigate the boundless marketplace of options for online purchases simple and high-stakes, customers rely heavily on product reviews and websites’ best-of lists. “As soon as you put a rank on things, people’s preference for the top-ranked one increases substantially, by around 20%,” says a Duke University professor. But this may actually have less to do with the quality of the item than the reassurance of finding “the right thing.”
Gen Z’s love of shopping and sustainability doesn’t always add up. Nearly 60% of Gen Z Americans ”strongly” and “somewhat” agree that they need a lot of material possessions to be happy. They’re also seven times more likely to ”strongly” agree that they “feel guilty about my negative impact on the environment” compared to baby boomers. Brands are now finding ways to appeal to both their interests — for instance, Ikea (investing in assistance to unhoused populations), threadUP (more accessible secondhand goods), and Target (packaging with less waste).
Axios published data with Harris Poll on the 2023 reputation rankings of 100 of America’s most visible companies. Patagonia at #1 is no surprise. But Chick-fil-A at #5? And Uber (#75), below Chevron (#66) and Volkswagen (#56)? A lot of this aligns with our new Brand Power Score and the data we collected on 100 of the brand notable brands, confirming the non-obvious nature of brand impact and reputation.
Does every Gen Zer on TikTok consider themselves an influencer? “You might have 12 followers and you’re selling swag. The macro movement of everyone being a creator, and the idea that creators should monetize themselves in every avenue they can, is just trickling down to the everyday person.”
Work at a Portfolio Company:
Business Intelligence Manager, Finance | Faire: Faire is an online wholesale marketplace built on the belief that the future is local — independent retailers around the globe are doing more revenue than Walmart and Amazon combined. This role will scale a critically important function responsible for building and maintaining systems, processes and services that enable us to understand financial performance and unlock key business insights at Faire.
Senior Business Development Director | OURA: OURA is on a mission to empower every person to gain a deeper understanding of their health, lifestyle, and sleep quality to live a healthy, fulfilled life. This role will focus on solution adoption and revenue growth within the health and wellness space, creating a pipeline, closing deals, and structuring individual and team-based revenue targets.
Director, Product Marketing | Narvar: Narvar is on a mission to simplify the everyday lives of consumers through the post-purchase phase of the journey. This role will oversee the creation of strategic launch plans, sharp positioning, and robust competitive analyses.
There are ~460 other openings on our jobs site. Check ‘em out.