One of the most fascinating aspects of evolving technology is the way it continually forces change upon the world, welcome or not, and how humanity and business adapt. The digital revolution taketh away, but for those who see the new opportunities brought about by change, it also can quickly give back.
It's arguable no public-facing industry has seen as much change, or had as much change forced upon it, as the music business. After years of making billions of dollars and controlling the flow of talent forever, record labels saw their profits crater, first due to illegal downloading and then via Apple and others' piecemeal selling of formerly far more lucrative albums.
As the labels made less money, the vast majority of artists made less money, and we're now at a place where most bands you hear on the radio can't earn enough to make a decent buck on the back of new recorded music. The money is made by playing live gigs and by touring. It's more important than ever for bands to be able to connect with fans and—perhaps more importantly—potential fans.
That's the opportunity seized by GigTown, a new live music connection application for fans, bands and venues, focused on the local market, specifically San Diego for starters, launched earlier this year.
“We started as a way to simplify finding a professional musician to come over to your place and play some music; why shouldn't that be easier?” says Andy Altman, Grand Poobah of GigTown (all the current employees have taken ridiculous titles — Master Builder, Renegade of Funk, The Guy In A Tie, etc.). “But now it's much more about connecting people to live local music, as opposed to actually booking music.”
Altman started the company with his influential father, Steve (title: El Jefe), a deep-pocketed, 20-year Qualcomm veteran and co-founder of the popular Rock the Cure diabetes fundraiser. The pair spent years tossing business ideas out to each other, some music-centric and some not. These conversations gradually narrowed to where the pair kept asking each other: “What else can be Uber-ized?”
“I got back from Coachella last year, where I kept hearing about how hard it was to find good local music,” Andy says. “I called my dad as soon as I got home and told him this was it.”
After downloading GigTown, the first thing you'll see is a list of musicians and where they're playing, by vicinity to your location. You can listen to the band (or bands if the show has a lineup), read artist profiles, watch YouTube videos and decide whether to buy tickets or not (you can even book an Uber ride to get you there via GigTown).
This is the more popular function for the GigTown user base, but the original purpose for the app remains: If you want to book an artist, you can see their hourly rate, contact them and make an offer—actually put together a show yourself. If you're a musician, you are more easily connected with potential clients and venues.
GigTown's primary purpose is a local version of the most popular live music information application, BandsInTown, which has been around for nearly a decade and calls itself “the biggest concert discovery app in the world,” with 19 million users.
BandsIntown's admirable goal is to “support artists who make their living through touring,” says Leah Taylor, the app's communications director, who says the company's surveys indicate people go to eight more shows per year after they've downloaded the application.
Ironically, Todd Cronin, co-founder of the original BandsInTown app and current vice president of product, currently lives in San Diego. He heads the office here and oversees an engineering team that conceives and builds the BandsInTown Facebook, iOS and Android applications.
Though the app was created in Boston, by 2010 “there was money on the West Coast, the weather was amazing, the atmosphere is professional but laid back,” Cronin says. “Plus the record labels are all in L.A., an hour away. We were able to get a great office, burn rate on employees is low because what we do is cool, but the talent pool here is pretty high.”
GigTown Grand Poobah Andy Altman doesn't see BandsInTown as a competitor, really. He says that local bands are underserved and there is an opportunity. He sees GigTown branching out from San Diego to Seattle and San Francisco soon, because the application offers something for everyone.
“This is better than a win-win. This is a win-win-win,” Altman says. “Venues getting more customers, Musicians get more gigs and fans, and you get to make music a larger part of your life.”