It would appear that crowdsourcing concerts is suddenly becoming quite popular. Just as we wrote about Andrew Bird crowdsourcing his new South American tour via Songkick, someone points out that Jonathan Coulton (who has experimented with crowdsourcing shows in the past using Eventful), just announced a similar effort via a new ticketing site called BringTheGig. BringTheGig has a slightly different feature set, which is also interesting. The first group of people to pledge to bring a concert to the area (providing enough support to make the show happen) can actually then get their money back if the show itself turns out to be really big. So, this gives incentives for fans to sign up early and to tell all their friends about it.
Here’s how it works. There are 40 funder slots available – basically 40 tickets that go on sale in advance of the rest of them. After two weeks (or sooner), these slots will theoretically be filled, and the rest of the tickets will go on sale. If you are one of these first 40 people, you get your money back if we get more than 160 people to come to the show.
It’s a pretty cool idea I think: get a core of fans to cover what you need to make the show happen, and then incentivize those to spread the word
There are other similar sites, like GigFunder, and Eventful's "Demand It!" feature is still around as well. Songkick's Detour platform also has similar incentives, but through a very different mechanism. Given all this activity, I'm hopeful that we'll start seeing more innovative ways to make live shows more efficient and effective, while also creating new ways for artists to connect with fans and to help fans spread the word about their favorite artists. It seems like a real opportunity that is only just now being explored more deeply.
Over the last few weeks, we've been talking about Songkick's new "Detour" feature, which artists are using to set up shows in "off the beaten track" places, where they'd be unlikely to tour normally, but via Songkick, they discover there are enough fans to make it worthwhile. Considering how often we hear from musicians that touring is such a crap shoot on whether or not you'll make money, it's great to see more tools spring up to help take away that risk. There are a few interesting side effects of all of this. First, beyond just taking some of the risk out of touring, it's also helping artists find different fans they can reach via touring. That doesn't mean they drop existing places, but that they can expand their opportunities. But the second, and perhaps more interesting aspect, is the social one -- in which fans have been using Detour to bring in more fans. That's because one of the ways that Detour can be used is to effectively have a competition, in which cities compete to see which one has more fans willing to crowdfund an appearance by an act they love.
"I've been wanting to go to these countries for years because I'm a fan of their rich musical traditions. Songkick Detour seems like a brilliant idea as it gives me a sense of connection to the people before I go there."
There's a competitive element to this. There are twelve cities (in nine countries) competing (the twelve were picked by going through Songkick's data, to see where Bird had lots of fans -- sometimes in surprising places) for six open slots for shows in February of next year. The setup is basically that the first six shows that have fans crowdfund 250 tickets get the open slots for the gigs. It will be interesting to see if fans in the different cities rally to encourage fans to buy in to get the concert.
These efforts remain very experimental, so who knows how well they'll succeed long term, but I love the fact that we're still seeing unique innovations in different aspects of the music business. Obviously, for many artists, touring has become a bigger part of their revenue stream lately -- but it's also one part of the business that many artists complain has extremely high costs and risks. The system has been inefficient for years, allowing the business to bleed musicians. So it's encouraging to see more attempts to improve the efficiency of the concert business -- and doing so in a way that gets more fans connected to bands, and allows acts to find "out of the way" places to play live, while minimizing the risk of doing so.
We recently wrote about a new feature from Songkick, called Detour, that can be used to crowdsource a concert to guarantee for a performer that it's worth going to a show there. Songkick now has another example, which is even more interesting. This one isn't just about pre-proving a profitable demand level for a show, but about engaging with fans, finding new fans and really getting people engaged. It involved the band Hot Chip, who had an open day in their European tour, and was hoping to use it to play a "smaller" town -- one that many tours for similarly popular bands were bypassing. Songkick found 3 towns that the band hadn't headlined before -- and then let the three towns compete. What's interesting is how people in one town -- Folkestone -- went above and beyond to make it happen:
What happened next though was incredibly exciting. A bunch of superfans in Folkestone decided that they were going to make it happen. As one fan said, "Most bands don't come to this part of Kent, they tend to stop at London." They got super proactive and started to email all their friends and even petitioned the local radio station and newspaper. It exploded and went completely viral in a matter of hours through fan to fan word of mouth marketing, Hot Chip sold out. Check out the sales curve of pledges for the show, the huge viral spike is when fans started to self-organise.
Songkick has some interesting data points:
Some interesting things we learned:
- 70% of the people who pledged had never seen Hot Chip before. Detour is really creating new fan to artist connections.
- 66% of the attendees found out about the show through their friends (The rest from Songkick and Hot Chip)
- 1 (amazing) fan emailed over 2000 people they knew to try and spread the word.
In other words, such a platform isn't just about fans getting an act to show up somewhere, but also about getting fans to spread the word, to evangelize and to help build the fanbase much bigger. One thing we've definitely noticed about successful crowdsourcing campaigns is that they tend to create a sense of "ownership," which means that supporters have incentive to get their friends to support things too, which is a different form of "viral" marketing. Songkick notes, also, how far fans will go to support acts they like:
I think the thing that really blew me away was the level of self-organisation amongst fans. In a world where half the music industry is still focused on complaining about file sharing, people often forget that fan is short for fanatic. Hot Chip's fans are incredibly passionate about them and figured out a way to self-organise to make this show happen
Now, there is one caveat that Songkick doesn't mention that could be worth exploring as well. While it is great for those in and around Folkestone, does it upset those in Stoke or in York who are fans, but who didn't "win?" It seems possible, though hopefully they went into this understanding that was a possibility. Either way, we see that doing these kinds of things isn't just about pleasing existing fans, but finding more fans as well.
When we talk about alternative business models for music, one that always is discussed is live performances. Like it or not, this is a very big (and growing at a rapid rate) part of the market. We've never argued that live performance is the only alternative business model (though some pretend we've said that), but it's hard to deny that it is an area of opportunity for many artists. Now, many people -- quite rightly -- point out that the aggregate data on touring doesn't tell the whole story. Big acts with massive tours can take in lots and lots of money, while it can be quite difficult for acts that don't have that level of support. We've heard the story plenty of times of bands going on tour in a crappy old van, only to show up in places and play for 5 people who don't care, having spent much more on gas to get to the venue than they make from the door. This absolutely happens. And it sucks for bands.
But there's no reason that needs to happen.
We've talked about alternative ways of touring, and even how artists like Jonathan Coulton used tools like Eventful to have fans prove there was enough demand at a location before he'd perform there. We've also talked about how there were a growing number of tools that can make touring/live efforts more effective and less likely to lose money. And one of those tools is Songkick, which already helps alert people to concerts they may be interested in, with evidence that services like that, alone, help drive more people to shows. But now Songkick is expanding even more, with a new effort called Detour -- which has some similarities with Eventful. Songkick talks about how they were able to "crowdfund" getting musician Tycho from his home in San Francisco to London for the first time to perform, by gathering up a ton of his fans to prove that there was demand.
Tycho's manager had been worried about doing any sort of European tour, because it's expensive to get there, and if the fanbase wasn't there, you're making a huge bet. Enter Songkick Detour:
We chatted to Tycho and his team and it seemed like they’d need to sell a few hundred tickets to make it feasible to come to London, so we created a simple website, Detour to allow Tycho fans to pledge. What happened next was pretty insane! We emailed the fans on Songkick who were tracking Tycho, and over 100 of them pledged money for a ticket. Gideon was pretty thrilled to see how many other people shared his passion for Tycho. But 100 or so wasn’t enough to get the show confirmed so the Songkickers took it into their own hands & started to contact friends and music fans who were either into Tycho or should be! Within a short while we hit our target and the gig was on! Wow.
Boom. But it didn't end there. As Ian Hogarth notes in the post, because the show was crowdfunded, it also changed the nature of it. Just as we've seen with other crowdfunding efforts, it gives supporters some sort of effective feeling of ownership and thus making the event successful isn't just about going to a cool show, but about really being a part of a success story. And that can take things to another level:
To be honest at that point I didn’t think things could get much cooler. To see fans rise up to help their favourite artist go and tour in a new country was overwhelming. The sense of community and excitement was really special. But then I went to the concert itself and realised the real power of this concept. Everyone at that show was there because they made the gig happen and the atmosphere reflected that. It was beyond intimate and the connection between the band and the fans that started online carried into the gig itself. One of the fans that came made this lovely video of the show and you can get a feel for how special the atmosphere was. Tycho was so appreciative of the fans that made it happen, and brought over some beautiful signed posters for the event which he gave to some of the first fans who pledged.
No one has ever claimed that there's a magic bullet for success in the music business (or any business). But the status quo does not need to be the way things stay. There are all sorts of opportunities to make live music better, more efficient and more enjoyable for everyone. And it seems like this little effort from Songkick is a nice step in that direction.
About two and a half years ago (soon after I did my first presentation about CwF+RtB), I was asked to stop by the YouTube offices, to talk about what things they might do to help artists earn more money. And the key suggestion I made was -- add more features that would allow artists to sell scarcities with their content: let them sell concert tickets, merchandise, access, whatever. I was thanked... and never heard from them again. So it's nice to see that, years later, it appears that YouTube is finally doing exactly that:
We’re launching a feature called the Merch Store that will allow YouTube partners to offer fans merchandise directly on your channel. Fans will be able to buy artists’ merchandise, digital downloads, concert tickets and even unique experiences like meetups. These features are made possible through affiliates like Topspin for merchandise, concert tickets and experiences; Songkick for concerts; and iTunes and Amazon for music downloads. We’ll be rolling out the Merch Store to music partners globally over the coming weeks
As YouTube has become a bigger and bigger source of music listening and discovery, I think this is fantastic. It will be interesting to see how well integrated it really is. As musicians get to test this out, we'd love to hear about their experiences, which they can provide over at Step2.