starving artist is an artist who sacrifices material well-being in order to focus on their artwork.[1] They typically live on minimum expenses, either for a lack of business or because all their disposable income goes toward art projects. Related terms include starving actor and starving musician. – Wikipedia

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to a new app that has quickly become a true game changer for many talented artists and their potential audiences. “Special Guest” is an app that has created a platform for artists of all kinds to be discovered and enjoyed by new and far reaching audiences. Audiences that likely would never have found these gifted artists using the traditional means of “talent searching”.

Upon discovering “Special Guest” I was immediately intrigued by the story and the creators behind this unique app. Damon Wayans Jr. and Kris Jones have created something truly special. I had to hear about the purpose and the journey behind Special Guest App. One of the aspects that speaks to the core of the artist that I have become, is the idea that anyone with talent and drive can now have a much louder voice and opportunity to share their gifts than they have ever had before.

The description on the main page of the app says it all, “Special Guest is an app that allows anyone, anywhere to hire live entertainment on demand.” However, the core message and main goal behind this app goes far beyond that statement. The goal of “Special Guest” is broad and meaningful – Imagine America’s Got Talent right in your back pocket!

Special Guest has three main components. It’s these three components, all tied together in this one app that make Special Guest a dynamic and exciting game changer. These components are simple yet powerful – descriptive introductions of the artists/talent, easy to navigate geo-located feed showing both artists and venues in your area and finally, a secure platform allowing users to easily communicate with the talent they are working with.

Anyone can hire talent by using this app. It is being likened to “Uber” for hiring live entertainers. There are other apps that make it easy to locate and hire makeup artists, special event planners, really anything you could want. Now, there is a quick way to access, communicate with and hire the copious amount of talent that beautifully exists in our society. One of the unique aspects of Special Guest is how easy it now is for non-traditional venue hosts like business owners, parents or teachers to find and hire talent for any number of events. Corporate events, birthday parties, holiday parties, weddings, anniversaries, or any other event – there is now an effective and efficient way to make an event’s entertainment memorable! In addition, the Special Guest App has a program called “Venue Connect” that books talent on behalf of venues where they act as the talent buyer. Special Guest is currently piloting the program in Los Angeles and actively booking talent on a daily / nightly basis across several large venues.

This app is for everyone and anyone who has a talent. Its genius to think that the “little people” now have this amazing opportunity to be found and truly live out their passions. The people of experience have more opportunities to book gigs, and everyone in between has a chance to mingle and hire with a tap of the finger!

In an industry swarming with talent, not everyone who deserves the limelight will get their “big break.” Many people are blessed with phenomenal talents but very few of them are “discovered” and their talents are left unknown. The question that the creators of “Special Guest” wanted to answer is, how can this dynamic be changed? How can this phenomenal talent be accessed by anyone, in any place, at any time? The concept of making these artists and their talent available to the public in a very accessible manner is the core goal behind Special Guest. Being able to find and book unique talent for any event imaginable without having to be connected with some sort of agent has changed the landscape completely for both the artists and their potential audiences. Finding talent for a dinner party, a child’s birthday, wedding or any other number of special events is now so much easier thanks to this ground-breaking app Special Guest.

I love a good story and the creation of this app and this friendship is exactly that. Of course, I wanted to know all the ins and outs of this incredible app but I also wanted to know how these two clicked so quickly and formed such a strong working relationship with the common goal of creating an app to change people’s lives. Damon and Kris were introduced through a common friend in the entertainment industry. They were inspired by the idea of democratizing how talented people get discovered and ultimately, paid. If Special Guest can streamline the process for talent and venues alike, while making it fair for non-managed talent to get paid to do what they love, then Damon and Kris feel like they will have helped make the world a better place. There are far too frequent stories of highly talented people struggling to get recognized and paid on a regular basis. Talent is abandoned instead of shared to brighten the world simply because it is difficult for people to access. For all of these reasons, when Damon approached Kris about the concept for Special Guest, Kris saw the big picture. It reminded him of another app that he invested in and helped build called French Girls App. French Girls is an app that helps digital artists get paid for drawing portraits and other types of art. With Special Guest, they are taking on a well-established (but in many ways broken) talent booking process and turning it into a streamlined form of communication and accessibility. By creating a success with Special Guest, Kris and Damon will help millions of people get paid to do what they love to do and in the process, help entertain millions of people who love experiencing life entertainment. Special Guest was strong right out of the gate. The app has highly recognizable names available to book such as comedian Damon Wayans, JrBarack Obama impersonator Reggie Brown, actress and TV star Hillary Hawkins, American Idol inspiration Willian Hung, and America’s Got Talent finalist Olivia Applegate. The list of available talent is growing on a daily basis, as are the available venues to host an event.

It is no secret that I love people, their stories, their backgrounds and what fuels their passions. I believe we all have a purpose and a purpose coupled with a passion is dynamite. That is exactly what I learned was behind the magic of Special Guest when I had the honor to speak with Kris Jones and Damon Wayans Jr. about their Special Guest App.

While speaking with Kris and Damon about Special Guest, I was able to catch their vision and passion for the opportunities that this app will provide to so many people. With the creation of this app, they have found a way to break through the barrier that has existed for so long when it comes to artists not having a way to be readily available and accessible to the public.

Both Kris Jones and Damon Wayans Jr. have quite impressive backgrounds. Kris founded a gourmet food website in 1999 that quickly took off thanks to his digital marketing skills (search engine optimization, pay per click marketing and affiliate marketing). From there, he launched a wildly successful digital marketing and technology company called Pepperjam. Pepperjam went on to become one of the fastest growing companies in the United States (Inc. Magazine – 2006, 2007, 2008) and was sold to eBay (NASDAQ – EBAY) in 2009. Kris has invested in well over twenty companies, and founded multiple successful technology and marketing businesses, including ReferLocal.comLSEO.comAPPEK Mobile Apps, and French Girls App. Now, Kris focuses his time and resources on the Special Guest app alongside comedian/actor Damon Wayans Jr.  Despite the hurdles of these two busy men, they have found a passion in wanting to help people and made it work. Damon is one of the most sought after actors in Los Angeles and Kris has considerable success with a number of simultaneous projects – they have learned to prioritize and maximize time management, success has allowed them to build an amazing team which has allowed the app to grow so much in such a short amount of time.

Since learning about Special Guest, I have been doing extensive research on the entertainment industry, talent, demand, technology and how they all tie together. It is fascinating to see how a digital marketing guru and an entertainment industry giant have come together to create an inspirational platform that will bring so many people together. The most remarkable and interesting talent that may never get a traditional “discovery” now has amazing opportunities to be hired not once but a thousand times. This is an incredible opportunity for artists and audiences alike.

Special Guest is currently approaching their one-year mark and exceeding expectations by leaps and bounds. The initial focus has been establishing product-market fit in the Los Angeles area. There is no shortage of talent in the Los Angeles area which has allowed Kris, Damon and their team to have hundreds of conversations with talent and audiences alike. Most recently, Special Guest has dedicated considerable resources to the venue/host side of the app. In five years, Special Guest will be the default app used by people around the world to book live entertainment.

Learning about Special Guest has been an interesting journey for me in many ways. It is inspirational to see two dynamic, successful men take a simple concept and turn it into a reality that is changing the face of live entertainment. The creation of this app will change the lives of hundreds of artists in a very short amount of time. It also encourages me to continue along my path of passion and never quit trying. Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that a dream can turn into reality, it is my hope, alongside Kris, Damon and their team that Special Guest becomes the new management and platform for many talented artists.

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