ITA Spotlight: Reverb
Monday, May 27, 2019
Posted by: Kaylin Berg
Heather Farr Edwards, PR & Communications Manager, Reverb | @Reverb
Headquartered in Chicago’s Roscoe Village, Reverb sits at the intersection of music and technology as the leading website for buying, selling, and learning about musical instruments. In just over six years, Reverb has grown into the best place online for anyone—from couch musicians to the members of Green Day—to connect over the perfect piece of music gear.
In 25 words or less, what is Reverb all about?
Since launching in 2013, Reverb’s mission has been to make the world more musical by making it easy for anyone to buy and sell musical instruments online.
What problem do you solve and how do you solve it better than the competition?
Reverb makes it easy for anyone—from large retailers, popular brands, and rockstars to brick-and-mortar shops, collectors, and beginners—to buy and sell music gear easily and affordably. Music lovers choose Reverb because it was built by a team of musicians specifically for the music industry, so it meets the needs of the community in a way that catch-all online marketplaces can’t. Reverb has grown into the world’s most popular music gear website by focusing on price transparency and low fees, producing engaging articles and videos that inspire people to play, creating eCommerce tools and services tailored to the music industry, offering a live customer support team full of musicians, and more.
How did you get started?
David Kalt (former CEO/co-founder of the options trading platform optionsXpress, which is now owned by Charles Schwab) came up with the idea for Reverb shortly after he purchased a well-known guitar store called the Chicago Music Exchange. At that time, David was using sites like eBay to sell slow-moving inventory and find unique vintage guitars to line his store windows. It didn’t take him long to realize that the process of buying and selling music gear online was cumbersome, expensive, and—most importantly—not tailored to his needs as a guitar store owner and musician. With his tech background and his passion for music, he knew he could create something better. Since David and a small team launched the site in 2013, Reverb has grown into the leading online marketplace for musical instruments, with over half a billion dollars in annual sales and artists like Maroon 5, Green Day, Moby, Sonic Youth, and more using the site to buy and sell gear.
How has your company culture evolved as Reverb has grown?
Not many people can say that they keep a vintage synthesizer or guitar at their desk for an impromptu jam session or that they’ve yelled along as their Lead Product Manager belted out Iron Maiden at the annual holiday party, but that’s just a day in the life of a Reverb employee. Even as the team has grown from several employees crammed in a room above a drum shop to nearly 200 team members spread across the US, the Netherlands, and Japan, one thing has remained the same: Our dedication to the music industry and the buyers, sellers, and players who create it. While not all employees are musicians, every team member is passionate about our mission to get more music out into the world by lowering the barrier to entry of buying and selling music gear.
What are your primary goals for Reverb?
This year, Fast Company recognized Reverb as one of the top companies making a profound impact on the music industry. That’s our primary goal: To continue making a positive impact on the music industry—by helping working musicians make crucial cash on the side so that they can keep gigging, providing new revenue streams to brick-and-mortar retailers, supporting entrepreneurs who build their own music gear, and more.
Another way we’re supporting the industry is through our Reverb Gives initiative, which is dedicated to getting musical instruments into the hands of students who need them. A portion of every sale made on Reverb goes to Reverb Gives. From there, youth music programs and nonprofits are gifted Reverb Bucks to purchase the instruments they need directly from sellers on Reverb. Since launching Reverb Gives in 2018, we’ve given more than $250,000 to more than 70 organizations.
Where do you see Reverb in two years? Five? Ten?
Over the next few years, we’ll continue to expand internationally. Currently, we have sellers in more than 170 countries, and international offices in the Netherlands and Japan. We’ve seen a lot of success abroad—over the past two years, international sales have grown by 200% and international buyers and sellers have doubled—but there’s still so much opportunity. We won’t stop until every musician, regardless of their location, has access to every instrument in the world.
What motivates your employees to come to work every day?
The team stays motivated through bi-monthly all-company meetings in the office basement, where several members jump into a Fight Club-esque circle to give TED-style talks on everything from Taekwondo and improv comedy to “the time Jack White pulled me on stage to play guitar” (true story!) Another motivator? The fact that all employees have ownership in the company via stock option plans.
Of course, there’s always tons of music — whether at our desks, seeping through the doors of our video production room, or at a happy hour — and it’s not uncommon to see a rock star roaming the halls. But beyond free lunches, healthy snacks, unlimited vacation, and monthly birthday cake, employees love working at Reverb because of the impact we’re making on the music industry.
What was the ‘aha’ moment when you realized Reverb made it?
If you ask any one employee, I think they would have a different answer, but for me, the moment I knew that Reverb was really something special occurred during my first month on the job. I was in Nashville for a big musical instrument conference and two people came running up to me. They noticed that my conference badge said “Reverb” and they could barely contain themselves as they told me how much they loved our company and how much the marketplace has changed their lives.
Of course, sales metrics will tell you that we’ve made it, but the success stories of our users will show you that we have. And we have hundreds of those stories—small family-owned businesses that can keep their doors open because of Reverb, musical instrument creators that have found an audience on Reverb, musicians who sell gear on Reverb to support their art, fans who’ve purchased gear from their rockstar heroes on Reverb, and more. The list goes on and on.
What do you do to encourage constant growth and change for your employees?
Reverb’s lack of hierarchy makes it a place that anyone with drive and potential can continuously grow and flourish. From the moment you join the team, you’re encouraged to voice your opinions and ideas to anyone, regardless of your level, position, or department.
Anything else you want to tell us?
At the beginning of last year, we launched Reverb LP—an online marketplace where anyone can buy and sell new, used, and rare records, cassettes, and CDs. Since launching the site in January 2018, we’ve surpassed $3 million in sales and even worked with artists like Moby and Sonic Youth to get records from their personal collections into the hands of fans. That means if you’re a music lover of any kind—player or not—there’s something for you on Reverb.