Fans Spend HOW MUCH Time On Their Phones At Concerts?!

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We all assumed it.  But now there’s data to back up our hunches.  Ticketfly commissioned Harris Poll to survey concert-going adults to find out how much they use their phones at shows.

Some of the biggest findings show that 31% of adults ages 18-34 use their phones during half of the show or more.  Yikes.  No amount of pyrotechnics can pull these hipster eyes away from the tiny screen.  Dudes!  There are performers literally feet from you pouring their hearts out for your entertainment for which you paid money to see… and you’re diffusing this experience by starring at it through a mini piece of glass?  Ah well, I’m a purist who ain’t going to change this trend.  So what can we do?  What are the actual numbers?

40% of female Millennials use their phones to take pictures compared to 24% of males.  And Females are more likely to share the event to social media.  But only single people.  Only 9% of married adults share their experiences over social media.  Everything we do in this world is just some complicated mating ritual, clearly.

More interesting stats from the study reveal that 23% use their phones to look up information about the artists.  More than 60% are interested in getting mobile notifications about merch offers, food, beverage and VIP access during an event and over 71% of males and 61% of females are interested in using their phone to purchase these things.  Not to mention most want to use their phone as their ticket to get in (70%).

We’re failing as an industry.

How have we not figured out how to capitalize on this yet?  Okay, the data is now out.  There doesn’t need to be any more guessing.  Millennials WANT to buy with their phones.  And would definitely buy MORE if it was easier to do so.

BandPage, WeDemand, BandsInTown, SongKick, AtVenu, Shazam, Spotify, well, and Ticketfly I suppose if you want to get into this space.  I’m looking at you.  On your app, for everyone who bought tickets to an event, send out a push notification when they’re inside the venue (GPS tagging) for discounts on merch and VIP access.  Maybe the first 500 people who enter the venue get thrown into a raffle to win VIP meet and greet passes pre-show.  And all notifications for the contest happen on the phone!  Give the tour manager access to these notifications to be able to send out creative ways for fans to interact with the band during the show:  “Ryan is about to climb the speakers.  Take a photo and hashtag #MonkeyRyan” then the TM could throw up the photos in real time onto the screen.  Or before the show send a notification “Guess the first song we’re playing. Everyone who gets this right will get a free signed poster at the merch booth after the show.”

Or better yet, send out a push notification that enables fans to buy merch and meet-and-greets while inside the venue!  Say, you’re with a group of 9 new best friends who you just met.  A push notification gets sent out by the TM that says “Hang out with the band in the green room before the show, get signed screen prints, a beer, and hear a new song they want to test out.  Grab this offer for $50.  Only 10 spots available!”  Allow fans to buy any number up to 10.  And allow some Uber-style price-sharing with friends.  You could rally your 9 new friends to go in on this with you, or, if you’re loaded, be their new best friend by treating everyone to some serious VIP access.  Boom, the band just made a quick $500 and the fans just got an experience of a lifetime for acting quick.  Of course word would spread about this and the app’s numbers would skyrocket.  The artists should get this data (all fans who bought tickets to the show, actually showed up, participated in the venue contests, bought merch and shared to social media).  Give the artists the data!  Don’t pull a Facebook.

BandPage just teamed up with StubHub to offer these kinds of VIP meet and greets, and merch when purchasing the ticket, but the buzz is INSIDE the venue.

+Artists Can Now Sell VIP Meet And Greets On StubHub Via BandPage

And especially after the show.  It’s been proven that people are much more likely to buy after a concert than anywhere or anytime else.  It’s the euphoria.  The heightened collective energy of everyone in the room.  People want this feeling to continue and are much more willing to part ways with their cash inside the venue than when they get home.  If you don’t get your sale inside the venue, you won’t get that sale.

+10 Ways To Sell More Merch At Your Shows

The moment the concert finishes everyone should get a 20% off merch coupon sent via push notification. And fans should be able to browse and buy right from their phones and then waltz on up to the “Phone Orders Only” line to quickly pick up their merch.  Boom!  You need a ninja of a merch master to keep the inventory updated in real time. AtVenu and Merch Cat do this.  So maybe they need to integrate with BandsInTown.  BandPage already has merch, experiences, VIP offers for sale with inventory tracking, but they don’t have a responsive app to integrate this kind of live functionality.

Somebody get on this!

The fact that in 2015 the merch buying experience is virtually unchanged from the 1975 experience is pathetic.  Oh, we can now swipe credit cards?  Sweeet.

AtVenu and Merch Cat are going to lead the way in the merch table front, but who is going to lead the way with this enhanced concert going experience?

How many times have you been to a show and wanted to buy some merch but the line was too long?  Or no one was manning the table when you needed to leave?  Missed sales!

The Nielsen 2013 study revealed that music fans would spend up to $2.6 BILLION more a year if they had opportunities to buy exclusives and behind-the-scenes content.

We’re failing as an industry.  Us musicians can only do so much on this front.  We need to work WITH tech on these opportunities and possibilities.  Yes, streaming royalties for artists (not labels) need to increase.  Yes, the laws need to change to properly compensate songwriters.  Yes the consent decrees need to be updated.  Blah blah blah.  But, that’s such a tiny part of the bigger picture.  When we’re looking at the modern artist’s career, we need to look at all revenue streams and all possibilities.  Recorded music is one avenue.  Ticket sales is another.  But let’s explore all these new revenue (and engagement) possibilities in the mobile space.  We haven’t even scratched the surface.

Photo by Don Debold from Flickr And used with the Creative Commons License 

27 Responses

  1. Sam

    Better yet, someone get on banning those fucking things at shows. I rarely even go to concerts anymore because the only show you can see is hundreds of people’s tiny little facebook pages. At my shows, I try to be semi-nice about it, but I let people know 3 to 4 times through the show that they’re ruining everyone else’s show experience fucking with their phone the whole show. I even offer to personally refund their cover if they kindly get the fuck out.

    • FarePlay

      Big yes to that Sam. I understand Ari’s being a realist, because the industry and artists have allowed this to happen. Adapt baby. Innovate. Disrupt. For what? A disconnect with actually having an experience so you can impress your posse?

    • Sarah

      I agree with you, personally. But you can’t force someone to value an experience the way that you want them to – they get to decide for themselves what type of experience they prefer, no matter how “bad” their preferences are.

      So for the artists with fans who somehow seem to value a live experience that’s littered with tiny glowing phone screens, I’m with you when you ask “what the hell is wrong with you people?!?” – but then you have to take your fans as they are. It’s like any other business: you’ve got to give your customers what they want, or they’ll stop being your customers. Figure out what they want, and then use your imagination to get them what they want in a way that works for you.

      For example: How about a feature where people check in to the app when they arrive, then get rewards at the end for NOT using their phone during the show? (like “Airplane” mode; some cinemas have done this)

      This way you aren’t attempting to force them to refrain from doing something that they want to do (use the phone) but you are giving them a reason to voluntarily change their behavior.

      p.s. I do like your approach of offering to refund their cover if they leave. Does anyone ever take you up on it?

      • Sam

        The trick is to use the perfect blend of humor, shame, and seriousness to get them to put the damn thing in their pocket, or at least go to the back. I’ve been doing this a long-ass time. I know how to handle the more obnoxious fans without actually losing any.

        I’ve had to have a few people removed over the years, but never for cellphone use…yet…I’m getting there though…

        • Sam

          Hell, a few years ago I had a drunk chick run up on stage and start kicking me because I wouldn’t play her request (we’re not a cover band). Even THAT was less obnoxious than zombies taking space up front updating their very important statuses.

          I always wonder what the statuses say… “Hey homies! Standing around at a show being a dick – just blocking everyone.” Or, “Cool, I managed to sneak for free into this show of a cool band who I listen to for free on Spotify! I’m gonna stand here in the way dicking with my phone for a while, then I’m gonna steal a t-shirt on my way out!”

    • bob

      Curmudgeon, if I went to your show and you said that to me, I would tell everyone not to ever go to your shows.

  2. Nick

    What kind of concerts were these? Because at some bigger ones, it takes a while to set up the stage between the different artists. Maybe time spent on the phone would be during these breaks?

  3. Peter @

    I agree. Concerts and tech are very out of sync with each other. A lot of the features you mentioned are things we’ve thrown around for future versions of our Sonorous app. Thanks for the data!

  4. Phantom X

    The worst thing that can happen to an independent artist in the music industry is to be on Apple iTunes between , Michael Jackson , and Stevie Wonder spiting poetry going platinum and not even on payroll ! And they did me the eXact same way inside the first Motorola AT&T music store between K-Ci & Jo Jo and Ja Rule before they sold me like a slave inside that 41 billion USD merger and acquisition of cocaine and eXXon oil paid copyrights. They don’t want the biography of my digital breach of contracts !

  5. J Sider

    Well said Ari, you are thinking about this in all the right ways. As a music tech company we love to work with forward thinking musicians like yourself.

  6. Versus

    Why not just implement mobile-phone blocking technology at all venues, and ban photography?
    That would make a more pleasant concert experience for all.

  7. FarePlay

    “More interesting stats from the study reveal that 23% use their phones to look up information about the artists. More than 60% are interested in getting mobile notifications about merch offers, food, beverage and VIP access during an event and over 71% of males and 61% of females are interested in using their phone to purchase these things. Not to mention most want to use their phone as their ticket to get in (70%)”

    Yeah let’s get an App so Budweiser can run adds directing fans during the show to buy 2 for one 1 beers when the data tells them it’s the slow time for beer sales. Or fans can find out about who plays in the band after listening to their digital downloads of the group daily for a year.

    After all who really cares about the music anyway. Let’s drive it further into being a side show to monetize other stuff. Nothing more distracting or annoying than being surrounding with people videoing the show right in front of your site lines.

    Oh, BTW you left out the number one money drain. Internet piracy or perhaps you feel uncomfortable talking about that. Not to mention that Spotify wouldn’t exist without it.

    • GGG

      “Not to mention that Spotify wouldn’t exist without it.”

      Not trying to start our usual back and forth yelling match, but do you truly believe that about streaming, not necessarily literally Spotify, just anything?

      You think video streaming services would exist and nobody would bring that to music? OR if you, fairly, want to argue Netflix (as it exists now) also only exists because of piracy, you think people would just stagnate tech at iTunes downloads? OR if you want to argue iTunes wouldn’t exist with Napster, you think CDs would have been the end all of music consumption?

      The one fundamental difference between us is I don’t get at what point you think things would have ceased to evolve (or devolve, if you want to think of it that way). Really, the fact that you even do think there’d be such a point is something I can’t get behind.

      • FarePlay

        GGG, the devils in the detail. Streaming was inevitable, but the interactive music streaming model which offers every title, theoretically at release date, drives too much revenue away from the industry. Netflix, which has its’ own drawbacks, is far from having everything, yet is a highly successful business.

        Let’s be honest, these two guys from uTorrent had no knowledge or understanding of the music business, they simply came up with a distribution model based on Napster and the pirate model in general, by having everything for free they knew they could lock down the market. This is exactly what Napster wanted the labels to do.

        Take a look at what the authors did recently with Amazon. They weathered a fire-storm when they outright refused signing a contract that would make more books available at lower e-book pricing and have new releases by legacy authors available at time of release as e-books as well. Unlike the music labels, who don’t ask their artists for input on their dealings or have any transparency, the authors actually banded together in support of their publisher, Hachette, and Amazon eventually capitulated. Search Authors United, if you’re interested in seeing how it can work.

        The Spotify deal happened for two reasons. The labels were bought off with equity in Spotify and threw up their hands in their inability to deal with internet piracy. Look no further than one of Spotify’s main claims, they reduce piracy. While I think there’s truth in that statement, their alternative sucks.

        This crazy notion that the consumer dictates price for creative work is non-sense. Creators determine the value of their work. If people choose not to buy it fine. But putting a gun to somebody’s head by stealing their property and using it to create a for-profit business and destroying the value of their work is a serious crime. Don’t punish the consumer, imprison the distributor.

          • GGG

            Sorry, was traveling a bunch over the weekend.

            I don’t necessarily disagree with anything you said anyway, though. I just feel like the debate (across everyone, not just you) seems to focus too much on essentially getting rid of streaming instead of figuring out how to fix the model. Because I agree, it’s not the best by any means. I think the majors finally banding together to pressure Spotify out of the free tier is a good start.

          • FarePlay

            GGG, it’s true, I actually agree with a lot of what you have to say as well. I know it is going to be hard if not impossible to save physical product, but it will be around for awhile because the over 35 or 40 crowd still want it. What’s really going to happen with vinyl is unclear, but it’s going to be a niche sector, perhaps a large one.

            Paid downloads will survive as long as windowing happens and if I were an artist and could sell product, no question I’d delay my full release from streaming.

            Apple / Beats is the wild card. I’m very much encouraged by their hiring of djs / programmers and journalists. They see everyone else failing, I mean Spotify’s doomed unless they diversify. Which will actually make me despise them more, because it will just be an extension of using music to build a different business.

            Tidal may turn into a successful niche streamer that focusses on Hip hop and R & B and is the go to for those listeners.

            Streaming is not going away, but unless they get much more creative with pricing, the spotify model is DOA. The streaming cost per person, per play is impossible, it doesn’t work for them and it certainly doesn’t work for artists. i hate to keep harping, but they had no business getting into the business, they should have developed a poker App.

            Amazing they were able to raise more cash really, they have a moderately successful IPO and those suckers will be around losing money forever, bleeding artists dry.

  8. Ben Brannen

    Hey Ari, Ben from atVenu. Great post – we agree! We’ve actually just built a version of atVenu for fans that does everything you suggest above as related to merch. We’re currently out on trial tours and it’s going incredibly well for both the artists and fans – delivering increased merch sales/revenue, data, faster & shorter lines, and a great fan experience! It was always part of our vision to better connect fans to tour merch, but to do that right we first had to lay the foundation at the merch table. Look forward to sharing more with you soon…stay tuned!

  9. Sutro

    Spot on! We were just discussing how to capture digital sales at the venue while people are in the moment. An app to connect with the audience for all of the above mentioned would be amazing!

  10. Shaun Cavanaugh

    Great article. I am the founder of a mobile startup here in Nashville called MyFansDemand. We’re the “second screen” for live performance. A one stop shop for GPS, real-time based exclusive content for fans before, during and after a show. Fans can purchase merch through our app as well and even demand songs (artist controlled) at their show. Meet and greets, prizes, giveaways, etc. can call be done through our app based on how fans engage with brands, their sponsors and other content.

    We’re doing great and our data also shows the fans are ready to buy when presented with a quicker purchase option (and no one is quicker than us) and other types of engagement when they have one platform to do all of the above from.

    Our “data” is always available to those who actively participated in certain things. Someone buys something, you get their e-mail. See hotspots of user activity during points of the show, you can so you can make smarter decisions (and push content/sales if you want) at future shows.

    So Ari, rest assured your ideas/questions call to actions are in at least one pair very good hands. We’ve been on tours from UK to CA and growing!


    I love it. “Artists” can’t even get their own audience’s attention, so they want an app for that.