Behind The Beat

Student entrepreneurs find early success in entertainment industry

Sara Kassabian | Boulder Weekly

Usually, little good comes from dorm room housing. In the case of former freshman roommates Mat Bernstein, 21, and Josh McAdoo, 22, the University of Colorado Boulder’s Hallett Hall was a haven for everything from electronic music to future networking for a business that was yet to be.

Boulder Beats began in fall of 2009, when Bernstein and McAdoo first looked into building a website that directed students to the places where their friends from Hallett were disc jockeying.

“It was that October,” says Bernstein, a CU senior majoring in operations management information systems. “Josh came to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re starting to all do this DJ thing.’ He knew that I had experience building websites, so [we said] ‘Let’s make a website where everyone can go to find out about where all our friends are DJing.’” They were worried about liability, since all of their friends’ shows were at house parties, so they tabled the idea. But by springtime, DJs like McAdoo and Andrew Hathaway, also a Hallett Hall resident and a member of local electronic music collective Robotic Pirate Monkey, started playing at nearby bars.

“I re-presented [to Josh] the idea as Boulder Beats,” Bernstein says. “I said, ‘Hey, now we can actually do this’ … It started off as an online resource for people to look for local shows.”

Boulder Beats quickly became a popular resource for electronic music lovers in Boulder.

“We realized that we had a following, that we can go and post these artists and actually make money by producing events and promoting them and getting people to come to whatever bar,” Bernstein says.

The model soon changed from an advertising-driven website into an event and promotion company. While the website remains a strong component to the business, most of the revenue comes from Boulder Beats events.

Bernstein and McAdoo have equal ownership of the Boulder Beats LLC, and each brings a different quality to the business that contributes to its success. Bernstein has the most experience with building websites and managing small businesses, but McAdoo, being a DJ, brings music literacy to the table and helps scout artists for booking.

Tucker Wilde of the electronic duo THiCK CHiCK says he appreciates the double-barreled approach to the business and music sides of event promotion.

“I think they do a really good job, and I think it’s partly due to Josh McAdoo, because he was involved in music before he started Boulder Beats,” says Wilde. “He had a good personal view from the artist’s standpoint. They just have everything under control, they just do all the promotion, they have a team that hands out stuff; there are just never any issues or problems.”

Bernstein started his first online business at age 13, a business that reflected his interests at the time, similar to the way Boulder Beats reflects his current college lifestyle.

But in seventh grade, he was more interested in Xboxes than bass lines, and his first business was a website for trading and selling used Xboxes.

“At some point I was like, ‘Hey, I’m putting so much time into this, and I’m not making any money,” he says. “So I sort of would like, lose interest, or you know, not necessarily want to continue doing it. Just because of how much time I would have to commit to it just to have to get donations to break even.”

Bernstein and McAdoo say the business succeeds in part because they have individual skill sets that allow them to empathize with venue owners and the artists they book.

“I’m not just strictly doing cultural and he’s not just doing technology. Everything’s kind of combined,” McAdoo says. “We throw ideas off each other, ideas for events, ideas for artists, ways to change the website.”

They agree that their business relationship is based on their respective abilities, as well as a unique friendship that focuses more on building the brand than preserving each other’s egos. They care more about promoting the business than promoting themselves.

Boulder, with its legions of electronic music lovers, is a ripe market for start-ups like Boulder Beats that focus on the promotion of dance music and nightlife.

Bernstein says the business focuses on booking electronic artists because that is the genre that sells the most tickets in Boulder. McAdoo and Bernstein say they’ve had nothing but success so far.

“We’ve never had a show that was in the red,” McAdoo says. “That’s also something that has been very lucky and fortunate so far.”

Bernstein says the business has continually made a profit because of conservative business practices and careful risk assessment. They post groups on their website, and they use the traffic numbers from the site to predict how successful a show will be. Most of Boulder Beats’ visitors are from the Boulder community, which helps them gauge the success of a local show.

“Robotic Pirate Monkey was very popular on our website before we did their first show at the Fox Theatre,” McAdoo says.

He says learning where to book artists requires knowing the nightlife culture of the city where the event is located.

“You’re not going to push a huge hip-hop show somewhere that’s not very hip-hop,” he says. “It’s a lot easier for us to start with electronic music in the Boulder area because all the shows just have success, because that’s what the kids are listening to, that’s who’s going to come to the shows.”

Regardless, Bernstein says there is still a lot guessing involved.

“The Boulder community … they have sort of a California feeling where they like what’s hot this week,” he says. “And so trying to book an artist six and seven months out, say we were trying to book someone for the fall, you never know, they might not be hot.”

People who have worked with Boulder Beats in the past speak to their work ethic, which is reflected in how carefully the duo plans events.

“They’re very methodical,” says Alex Macfarlane, manager for local electronic act Pillow Fight and a former promoter himself. “They’re very precise and professional.”

Macfarlane says this attention to detail came across during a conversation with Bernstein about the first show Boulder Beats booked with Pillow Fight. Bernstein contacted him in November about a show scheduled for February at Bacaro.

“He was doing it so early to a place where you normally could do it within a couple weeks,” he says. “But he was making sure everything could be set as far in advance. … That was a big sign that this guy is definitely concerned about getting his I’s dotted and his T’s crossed, so that was impressive, pretty cool.”

While the owners agree that working for Boulder Beats is what they love to do, Bernstein says it is a nonstop commitment.

“There’s not really free time,” Bernstein says. “You’re either doing school, working on Boulder Beats, or thinking about how you can be working on Boulder Beats.”

On the Bill:

Boulder Beats Presents Lazerdisk Party Sex at
the Absinthe House on Thursday, May 5. Show starts at 9 p.m. Must be 21
to enter. DJ Antares also plays. Tickets are $5 in advance, $7 at the
door. 1109 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-443-8600.