Do you have a wish list of artists you’d like to see playing your town? Well, soon Songkick’s crowd-funding service, Detour, could make those wishes come true. And, assist artists to build smarter tours that are better connected to fans and lower the risk of scalping.
Having launched in private beta back in November 2012, Detour London is now available to all Londoners, giving them the opportunity to pledge for gigs. That’s just the first city, with plans to expand into other cities and countries in the future.
What makes this service extra special is that, unlike a crowd-funding service such as Kickstarter, it’s the fans that take the initiative. They make the suggestions and “put their money where their mouth is” in order to bring their favourite artists to town. Once the pledges reach a certain point, Songkick reaches out to promoters and agents to make the gig happen.
Songkick is a global concert database that’s been around for quite a few years, where fans of live music can get alerted when certain artists are touring their area. And, post mementos from the gig and communicate with other fans.
When Detour London was first launched, 100 of the city’s “biggest music fans” were invited to vote with their credit cards. By now, the number has swelled to 1,000 fans – and they’ve made 10 concerts happen so far. That includes Braid, which was brought over on the back of 114 fans’ pledges; and Desaparecidos, with 80 pledges.
“You can’t pledge towards mega acts,” says Songkick founder Ian Hogarth, though he adds that even bigger acts could benefit. “[Bigger artists] can get quite disconnected. The only way you find out if you should go on tour is by promoters coming to you with a big check.”
He recounts how one artist was almost moved to tears, exclaiming: “You mean all these people got together, unprompted, to try to get me to come and play?”
Songkick has its own ticketing system. Paying attention to fans’ complaints about how ticket prices never end up being what their advertised as, after all sorts of fees are added, there are no added fees on the site. Detour’s 10% commission (which is its only source of income, at the moment) and credit card charges are all baked into the price.
For years the myth that artists make more of their money from touring has been circulating, often used as an excuse for forcing artist to give their music away for free. The fact is that going on tour is not cheap. Even if a band tries to keep the cost down, the cost of hotels and travel can easily spiral.
Even if bands and promoters can use social media analytics to gage how many fans they have in certain areas, such analytics don’t guarantee that those fans will put their hands in their pockets for a gig. Detour takes much of the risk away. It also enables promoters to more accurately determine what size of venue is required. A bonus advantage is that, as demand is accurately captured, it also makes a secondary market a lot less likely to emerge.
“Because it’s so driven by the fans, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Hogarth. “For example, it turned out fans started pledging for comedians, so we went with that, as well.”
He adds that the atmosphere at these gigs is really unique, perhaps because fans feel more involved with the event than the traditional gig.
Songkick plans to expand into other UK cities in the coming months, and eventually into other countries. Who would you pledge for?