Software Is Eating Live Music. Will Local Shows Survive?

The creators of an app called Jukely believe they can still get people to show up to see local acts, even as virtual live shows become more popular.

There’s huge potential for San Diego to be a hotbed of live music--if we southern Californians weren’t so laid back. Venues here cater to small and independent artists who rarely stick around too long before disappearing. Nearby Los Angeles guarantees there will always be some activity, but like a lot of other small cities, the San Diego music scene’s biggest problem is just getting people to regularly attend shows. Can apps help?

When you break it down, low concert attendance is a data problem. If venues knew precisely the listening habits of their customers, they’d be better equipped to book relevant artists, even matching complementary acts on the same night. Back in the original MySpace days, Eventful had a popular widget that let users “demand” an artist, showing there was interest for them in a particular location. And in Brazil, a crowdsourcing platform called Queremos lets fans lobby to bring bands to their cities.

Here in the United States, a new app called Jukely works like a virtual concert promoter, aggregating local venues’ calendars to present their users with a targeted, curated list of shows in their city.

“We don't automatically feed shows into Jukely through various listings--we identify venues and promoters in each city who are putting on good shows and follow their calendars,” explains cofounder Bora Celik. “We then curate. We don't put everything in the app, only shows that have a good match with our member base in that city. We also don't put shows from artists that are too popular, you wouldn't see Rihanna in Jukely. We still try to be focused on discovery mostly so we have a top and bottom threshold for artist popularity.”

As a former concert promoter himself, Celik also recognizes the social aspect is a huge factor for most people. “Over time, the success of my shows mostly came from the ability to get groups of people excited about a having a good time with friends, as opposed to the popularity of the artist,” says Celik. No one wants to go to a show alone. So while discovery is important, cities like San Diego would benefit the most from people using these apps to find friends, even acquaintances, with similar musical tastes.

As far as Jukely is concerned, it wins if the venues are successful. “We believe our monetization is closely tied to the way we work with our promoter partners," says Celik. “Their success is our success, and the more traffic we send their way, we share the profits of that, engineered in various ways. We grow city by city with a model like this and we're looking at a world map with 250 pins on it.”

There are some cities where awareness is the only thing that matters. People only need access to when their favorite bands will be coming into town. For a lot of other places around the country, however, it takes more, whether it’s a social connection to make concerts more meaningful, or apps that do a better job at highlighting new and undiscovered acts. It’s not an insurmountable problem, but one that might eventually be taken over by virtual concerts if it’s not addressed soon.

[Image: Flickr user Kjetil Aavik]