Detour works like Kickstarter for bands. Fans place advance orders for tickets, and are only charged once a critical mass of tickets are bought to make the concert financially appealing for the band. Songkick has tested Detour with bands Tycho
, Holy Other
, and Hot Chip
. US singer/songwriter Andrew Bird
is planning the largest ever crowdfunded tour via Detour and will be playing across Latin America from Mexico to Brazil. Contagious spoke to Ian Hogarth, Songkick CEO and co-founder, about Detour and his vision for the platform.
How did the original idea of Detour come about?
I think at the heart it goes back to growing up in London, and being obsessed with live music. My friends and I were really into a lot of underground US hip hop back then and we'd always wait so long for the artists to finally come over. I'd spend all this time on MySpace and see hundreds of comments from fans asking artists to come to their city. I think we've just always had this instinct that real fans would do more than just leave a comment, they'd step up and pledge money to say to the band - If you come to my city, I'm in. The more I've learned about how the live music industry works, the more I see how that action on the part of the fan can be revolutionary for artists and promoters. We've seen that it can lead to things like Hot Chip playing in Folkestone, or Andrew Bird in Florianopolis. It is democratising the concert industry for artists and fans. You seemed to be having considerable success with the first iteration of Detour (Hot Chip / Andrew Bird etc), why have you opted to change the model rather than continue with that format?
I think the new version of Detour we're trying out in London, is an extension of the artist-lead Detours we did with Hot Chip and Andrew Bird. With both of those artist's campaigns the coolest attribute was the extent to which a few incredibly dedicated fans could put their city on the map. The real power of Detour is handing control over to true fans. I'll give you a couple of examples. With the Hot Chip Detour a couple of hardcore fans in Folkestone decided that they were going to make it happen in their town. 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 word of mouth. That was a story of self-organisation and the dedication of a few true fans. Similarly the coolest thing that happened with the Andrew Bird Detour in Latin America was that a small town in Southern Brazil beat out cities 10 times larger than themselves to make a show happen. So really all we're doing is helping those hardcore fans to get the ball rolling for their city earlier.
Did you conduct any specific research to evaluate whether there was a genuine need/desire for Detour London?
Yes absolutely. We had run a few campaigns in London beforehand for bands like Tycho, Holy Other, Tom Williams and the Boat etc and one of the most consistent pieces of feedback from fans was that they loved that sense of ownership and had other acts they wanted to Detour. So we started inviting fans over to the office to play with prototypes and to see what sort of product experience would enable them to create more concerts for the artists they love.
Did you take inspiration from any other crowd-funding services currently enjoying success (i.e. Kickstarter)?
I absolutely love what Kickstarter does, and am a big believer in the platform's potential to improve the lives of creative people everywhere. I think though what we're doing with Detour is quite different in that the coolest stuff we've seen is more lead by the fan, than by the creator so far. It also has a large offline logistical component because the fans that crowdfund a concert online, actually become the crowd standing in a venue together watching the band and drinking beer! So there are some unique design challenges we have to solve where we're figuring out the path as we go. In addition there is a strong local component to this marketplace. In some community marketplaces, for example Kickstarter, you need to find 100 people to back your project, but they can be from anywhere in the world. With Detour, those 100 people all need to live in the same place. So that's an additional difference. Is anyone else attempting to launch a similar concept to Detour London?
Not that we've seen. I think though we're in quite a unique position, because more live music fans interact with Songkick than any other concert focused site (outside of Ticketmaster, which is still the biggest). So we have spent years understanding what fans and artists want around concerts, and how we can better serve them. London already has a teeming music scene, with many emerging artists playing here, so isn't this concept more applicable to smaller towns/cities that aren't on the gig trail?
I think the nature of the traditional concert booking model is that promoters, unfortunately have to be more risk adverse than they might like, because one bad show wipes out all the profits from nine successful gigs. It's why you hear about great local promoters going bankrupt or crazily into debt. That means that in any city in the world, whether it's London, Jakarta or Folkestone, there is a class of artist that isn't brought over, despite enough support for them from fans. So I think Detour can work everywhere hopefully, but we thought that it would make sense to try this new concept in London first because we're based here ourselves and can be part of the system as fans. Once an artist reaches 50 votes, what logistical concerns do you need to overcome to ensure the gig happens? And is there a significant likelihood that the artist's management may turn the gig down?
We need to reach out to their artist, see if they are available, and then confirm a date and venue based on the volume of pledges. We also need to partner with a great local promoter, similar to how we have done in the past to actually put on the show and produce an amazing, unforgettable event. We're also working with some amazing brands like Drownedinsound and Mute Records, that will help co-promote the event when it happens if it's for one of the acts they've championed. As to whether the act might turn the gig down, we'll have to wait and see. Our hope is that if you hear that 50+ dedicated fans have committed to buy tickets if you come to London, that'll be incredibly exciting for an act, because it'll help them go to a new market sooner, and create a fantastic event. Not to mention, that this is new revenue that would not have been realised otherwise. But we'll see!
How can this service be of real benefit to artists (other than, say, a one-off gig)?
I think if the system starts to repeatedly work, then we can start to open it up in other markets, and use it to route more than just one new show for a band. In general our goal is to help artists to play more and better shows, and to help fans see all the bands they love.
What's the future vision for Detour London? Are there plans in the pipeline to extend this to other UK cities?
I hope so, it would be so cool to start bringing this model to places like Folkestone where we've already had such a great reaction to the Detour concept. Will you also be developing Detour (i.e. helping artists decide their tour locations) as well as Detour London?
Yes, they go hand in hand. I see this as kind of the same product ultimately, the question is just who kicks it off first - the fan, the artist or a brand like Drownedinsound. How many current members and artists do you have on Songkick?
Songkick is the second most trafficked concert site in the world, after Ticketmaster.com, with 7 million monthly unique visitors. We're the largest and most comprehensive database of concerts, everywhere from São Paulo to San Francisco. We have created the leading concert apps for iPhone, Android and Spotify, and are globally partnered with HypeMachine, MTV, SoundCloud, YouTube among others. detour.songkick.comThis story originally appeared on Contagious Feed. Contagious Feed is our bespoke trends, inspiration, insight and analysis service, providing daily innovative marketing intelligence across a comprehensive range of sectors to brands and agencies across the world. For more information about Contagious Feed contact email@example.com
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