String Theory

Chris Bloom believes his rocking’ business can scale

Like any worthy rock ‘n roll story, this one involves tequila.

That was the payment currency for Denver music producer Christopher Bloom seven years ago when he agreed to help a friend learn guitar in exchange for a few pours of a premium blend. In time, friends reclaimed long-abandoned guitars and dropped by to learn chord progressions for singalongs like the Cranberries’ “Zombie.” Eventually, the gathering outgrew the Stapleton home where they’d been meeting and moved to an uptown Denver dive. Somewhere within a mix of drinks, friends and chord shapes, Bloom heard the faint notes of a business, and Strum & Sip was born.

Today, more than 100 students per month drop in on socializing-meets-music sessions Bloom and fellow instructors host at haunts like Centennial’s Sportsbook South and the Walnut Room in Five Points. The classes are a blend of music, chatter, beverages and the steady cultivation of fingertip calluses, the telltale signatures of determined players.

The low-pressure instructional program is equal parts socializing and fretwork, with Bloom leading rowdy renditions of familiar songs like Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and the Boston anthem “More Than a Feeling” – replete with that tricky bass note run.

The business model depends on steady recruitment of aspiring guitarists who fall into a common demographic. Most are professionals who find ways to squeeze in a few sessions a month. Non-discounted rates start at $79 per month. To line up venues, Bloom borrows a page from the classic bar-band model: bringing patrons into the house on slow afternoons and evenings. He figures the typical bar nets about $12,000 annually in incremental revenue thanks to Strum & Sip’s clients.

Bloom, an accomplished musician who once roamed the California coastline with a rock/funk band, grapples with the same non-musical minutiae every business owner faces: revenue models, market calculations, payment terms, IT infrastructure. Strum & Sip runs off a web-based reservation and commerce platform that needs constant care and feeding. “Technology is our biggest challenge at the moment,” says Bloom, who divides his work time between Strum & Sip and his music production studio in Denver’s RINO neighborhood.

He hopes to grow the instructional side of his business, with plans to morph over time to a Netflix-styled subscription model and possibly expand to other cities. “What we’re doing is unique,” Bloom says, “and I think it can scale.”

Categories: Entrepreneurs, People