06/14/2013 11:17 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Artist Growth App Makes Even Ke$ha Data Driven

Matt Urmy, founder of Nashville start-up Artist Growth, toured the country for years as a singer-songwriter with zero idea of how to increase or manage his earnings.

"I'd get done with a show where I made $100, then drink $50 of it that night," he recalls. "And I had no idea how much I was spending." So you know he was a pretty good musician.

How is it, then, that he became the man behind an app that's quantifying the decidedly un-mathematical world of touring rockers?

Credit the birth of his first son, when his view of business -- "finances are like Kryptonite to musicians" -- suddenly changed. In 2011, Matt traded his six-string for a MacBook and created Artist Growth to help his crooning colleagues track royalties, grow their businesses and "think more entrepreneurially."

Now, the rambling guitar player with no formal computer training (he majored in poetry at University of Tennessee, which is apparently possible) has raised $2 million in investments for an online platform used by 9,000 indie acts and big-name artists, including Ke$ha, Kings of Leon and Emmylou Harris. MTV even named it "Best Music App of 2012" last year, beating out Spotify, among others.

And Urmy's done it all from right here in "Nashvegas," he explains in an office perched above Barista Parlor, a hipster's paradise of a coffee shop, where cold-drip coffee is nearly as expensive as the vintage motorcycles parked inside.

Watch Urmy reveal why he resisted the temptation to move his company to Palo Alto after raising $2 million:

While some advisors and potential investors urged him to move to San Francisco or New York, Urmy says he had a gut feeling about staying local, largely because of the city's commitment to rebranding itself as a tech hub over the last two or three years. Mayor Karl Dean's formation of the Music City Music Council and the creation of Nashville's Entrepreneurship Center -- which moves into an enormous new home next week -- underscore the city's effort to retain its place as "Music City" in a rapidly changing industry.

"Who wants to go do a start-up in Palo Alto and be one of 800,000 entrepreneurs fighting for a meeting?" Urmy asks. "It's too noisy out there."

And from a guy whose ears are still ringing after years gigging in country bars, that's saying something.


Nate Hindman and Joe Epstein are "On the Road With Free Free Enterprise," visiting small businesses and entrepreneurs, checking out the local flavor, and telling the story of free enterprise in more than 20 American communities this summer. Follow their travels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.