A lot of you will have noticed that our homepage experienced a makeover last week, and it's important to us that you know exactly what's going on.
The idea behind Encore had been bouncing around my head for a couple of years before I finally attacked it head on, and one of the big motivations for me to build it stemmed from conversations with various friends at music college.
Finding paid work in the music industry, especially if you're in the early stages of your career, is extremely difficult.
I'll be honest, it was a contributing factor in my decision not to become a professional musician. Towards the end of school, I was absolutely torn between studying cello at music college and studying computer science at university, and in the end, I decided to keep music as a very special hobby.
I have huge amounts of respect for those studying at music college (and at times, huge bouts of envy!) and after hearing about the fears of unemployment facing my friends there, I decided to try and help in some way.
Getting yourself noticed, and making it easy for people to find you as a musician, used to be difficult.
You could make a LinkedIn profile, but everyone knows it's not suited to musicians, and nobody uses LinkedIn to find performers. You could make a website, but that takes a lot of time, effort, and money, a combination which very few musicians are in possession of.
From the moment we began work on Encore, our mission has always been to help musicians get more gigs, and it always will be.
To begin with, we launched a musicians' network at Cambridge to gauge whether it was something people even wanted to use, and after 250 musicians created profiles using a very early version of the site in a single week, we knew there was real value in what we were doing.
We spent the next two months refining the site in line with the vast amounts of feedback we were receving, and shortly before Christmas, we opened up to the Royal College of Music. Guildhall came next, then Oxford, and now we have over 1,000 musicians using Encore, which is incredibly exciting.
Helping musicians get gigs is a problem which we see as two sub-problems.
1. Help musicians accurately represent themselves online
People want to know how good a performance is going to be before booking performers, and to help settle their minds, we've endeavoured to make it as easy as possible for members of Encore to show off how good they are.
Adding YouTube videos and Soundcloud recordings gives a really clear idea of a musician's sound, repertoire lists allow them to showcase some of the more difficult pieces they have under their belts, and the ensembles someone plays with can speak volumes about the level they play at.
To this end, we think an Encore profile is a great way to represent yourself online as a musician, and creating one takes minutes.
2. Make it easy for musicians to be found
The first thing you'll notice when you arrive at our new homepage is the line "Find the best musicians in the UK for your event" followed by a couple of search boxes.
We're currently working with event planners, wedding planners and various venues to help them find the best musicians possible for their events, and all at absolutely no cost to our musicians.
Instead of taking a cut of our musicians' fee in the form of commission, we charge a 10% service fee to our clients which covers the streamlined service we offer, and guarantees them a replacement within 24 hours should anything go wrong.
Quartet X charge £500 for an hour of playing, and a bride finds them through Encore. Rather than charging her £500, taking a cut of the fee ourselves, and paying the quartet somewhere between £250 and £400, which is how music agencies work, we charge her £550. The quartet receive all £500 of their fee, and the £50 she pays us keeps the site in business and guarantees her absolute peace of mind. This is a win-win scenario.
We have ambitions of Encore becoming the go-to destination for finding extraordinary musical talent, and the recent change to our homepage represents steps in that direction. We still care passionately about the musicians' network powering everything, and we're still improving that every day, but we want more than anything to help our musicians get more gigs.
It's important to note that as the site gains momentum and starts to reach a wider audience, it becomes ever more crucial that we protect the privacy of our members, and this is something I'll be writing about in a lot more detail tomorrow.
We're launching at nine music colleges up and down the country in two days' time, so I better get back to work, but I really hope this makes our plans crystal clear and explains exactly how we operate - in the interests of our musicians, always.