What if every child had the opportunity to make music? It’s a sound mission: after all, music education has been shown to improve academic skills, cultivate social behaviors, boost self esteem, and teach discipline and patience. Children who undergo musical training also have better verbal memory, second language pronunciation accuracy, reading ability and executive functions.
But, unfortunately, there are challenges for children trying to learn music. Instrument lessons can be prohibitively expensive, and under-motivated kids are sometimes pushed into music by well-meaning parents. With their educational music apps, Jacob Zax and his company, Edify, are breaking down the barriers to entry. The young, enthusiastic team is actively transforming the landscape in which children learn to love music.
Edify didn’t set out to make a music app for kids. While still in college, they designed a collaborative music app to help beginners make music that actually sounded good. Upon its release, Apple featured their app, and children loved it. “The feedback was super unexpected,” recalls Jacob. “The kids weren’t using the collaborative features, but they were so excited and so genuine about how they liked making their own music. It was eye-opening and led us to the bigger understanding of our mission.”
As Edify’s mission became clearer, operational bumps appeared on the horizon. Jacob and his co-founders had just raised some money through the Techstars startup accelerator and were transitioning their contract employees to full time. With Edify being their first business, there was a lot to learn. “I read constantly, and there’s so much coverage of the bigger picture stuff like fundraising and culture,” Jacob says. “But the functional aspects of running a business aren’t covered in the entrepreneur’s education.”
Jacob turned to Zenefits for help with HR administration, payroll, and benefits. “We’re signed up for everything through Zenefits,” he says. “I trust the system.” Although Edify has just six employees right now, the small business provides health insurance and a competitive benefits package. “Our team is the most important thing about Edify’s chances for success,” says Jacob. “Making sure the team is happy and knows that we’re really committed to them is essential to our long-term prospects. Benefits are a really good way to do that credibly—not just to give lip service to it.”
Edify’s projects have changed Jacob’s relationship to music, but what really gets him is the kids. Their excitement is his spark. As a child, Jacob attended a school that allowed kids to study their passion and engage in their interests—and this methodology is key to Edify’s apps. The team is currently studying what lessons and levels are most interesting to kids and using this data to refine the platform. There’s much to learn, and little time for office work.
“Before Zenefits, I did payroll by hand once, and that was very painful,” remembers Jacob. “If you get any of it wrong, the whole thing is wrong, and it doesn’t seem doable on a regular basis. Zenefits Payroll is really smooth and automates so many services I’d have to do as an individual. It just feels elegant, and it works every month. Payroll is a very successful part of Zenefits for us.”
With Zenefits on their side, Edify’s team can get back to following their excitement. “What’s most exciting to me is figuring out those first levels that get kids hooked on music creation,” says Jacob. “Ultimately we’re looking to open the platform up to kids and music teachers who want to create their own levels.”
The team continues to break down those barriers, tackling issues with cost, difficulty, and even allocation. With the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, most parents already have the “instruments” necessary for their kids to try making music. Edify’s MusiQuest app provides a low-cost, low-risk entry point to music education, and it’s one that’s clearly catching on. To date, 1.75 million songs have been made with Edify’s music apps.
“Kids love making music, and we have the fundamentals to introduce music in a way that’s fun and empowering for a beginner,” says Jacob. “We spark their interest, and give them room to dive deeper and explore what’s most interesting to them. We’re letting kids take it where they want to take it, and where that is is what we’re prepared to figure out in the next year or two.”