Newsletter #103 November: Noise vs Music: The Real Loudness War
21 Nov 2013
As we’ve embraced digital marketing as a means to promote concerts and gigs, the noise that the consumer deals with has steadily increased – there is no shortage of sites offering to list a gig, but how many people actually read them?
As stalwarts NME and Time Out have gone from comprehensive gig listings to curated recommendations in their magazines, the days of the trusty ‘all you need to know’ physical listings guide seem to be numbered.
Web designers and entrepreneurs have tried repeatedly to fill this void by reproducing an online version of physical listings, perhaps with the addition of ticket links for added revenue opportunities. But in my mind, the power of the ‘digital revolution’ lies in young fresh thinking that turns the model on its head – companies that look to ‘pull’ demand from an engaged fanbase rather than ‘push’ out information.
Listings sites have been popping up since the Internet started, taking hold as a real and convenient portal for information. First there was Craigslist in America, followed five years later by Gumtree in the UK offering a similar service of online classifieds, but as the internet diversified so did the online offering of listings sites.
We now have a plethora of websites billing themselves as the ‘all inclusive’, ‘one-stop-shop’ for those looking for gigs or bands wanting to get the word out. With names like allgigs.co.uk, remotegoat.com, nonbored.com and Wozzon there’s no doubting their ambition to slice through the noise, but unfortunately just end up adding to it.
In an attempt to monetise the online listings model, a number of sites such as Skiddle and Ents 24 offer click-through ticketing, with many having achieved large audiences (20K-900K) and direct translation from views to sales. Some of these ticket-funded event sites may start losing integrity however, as secondary ticketing sites have discovered the model as a means of boosting traffic to their platforms.
Sites like 5gig.co.uk and Brit Events heavily recommend clicking-through to secondary sites and Eventful, founded by an Ebay veteran, seems to exclusively list Stubhub’s (Ebay’s secondary ticketing service) events.
For a band or promoter trying to spread the word, the sheer number of sites can be daunting. As a result, services such as Event.ly and Evvnt.com have popped up offering easy distribution to a range aforementioned listings for a fee, promising up to 50 or more listings per gig. Whilst this looks good in a report, it’s practically the equivalent of pasting 50 posters down a dark alley – yes, they’re up but who’ll actually see them?
One must of course concede that it all adds to an internet presence and gig visibility in Google rankings, but if the fan doesn’t know about the gig then why would they search for it?
Newsletters and music publications have a successful formula for listing events that continues to this day. The 405, Line of Best Fit, Pitchfork or Stereoboard all have loyal followers of avid music fans that trust the writers on both reviews and recommendations. Newsletters (Le Cool, Londonist, Urban Junkies, Time Out) also have ardent readers who part with their prized email address in exchange for a curated guide from those ‘in the know’, whose tastes they trust. Getting into these publications is a coup for any promoter, but it often requires extensive amounts of work, contacts or a PR company.
11 years ago, Last.fm sparked a refreshing change in thinking as it drew music fans into its radio-style music service. A captive audience (30m) and detailed analytics on bands’ fan bases meant they could recommend gigs in their locality. Whilst not the only service trying to do this, Last.fm perhaps did it best; unfortunately the site’s subsequent sale and redesign meant that popularity started to wain.
In my mind however, one of the biggest developments to the live music scene is Songkick. The platform’s model isn’t particularly complicated, simply telling registered users what bands are playing in their towns. The site knows what acts its customers like, by user-tagging favourite bands (as well as Facebook and Spotify data) and sending an email when a band announces a gig in their area.
It effectively takes the baton from Last.fm and pushes it forwards, providing a comprehensive manageable platform that Songkick claims makes a fan twice as likely attend to a gig.
Songkick have also introduced a service called Detour, whereby fans register their interest and money for a potential gig that doesn’t yet exist. Eventful has got in on the idea with their own version of Detour and if the ‘pledge-gig’ is where the live sector is going then promoters’ roles might change dramatically.
Whilst Songkick isn’t faultless – information sometimes goes out after tickets have gone on sale, or indeed sold out – it is a very good example of a creative approach and change of thinking from that of a promoter-sourced blast into the public consciousness, to listening to what the customer actually wants.
So as the noise reaches fever pitch and more bands have more channels to seed gig-goers with more information, it seems that those quietly responding to consumer needs may well prove to have the power. The gauntlet has now been thrown to the rest to ‘up’ their game.
Be creative and listen to the fan, who definitely prefers music over noise.
Editorial by Hugo Mintz