The Internet has long been a place for fans to gather and discuss the pop culture they love. In recent years, however, the internet has begun to take that love to the next level, allowing fans to actively contribute to projects they find intriguing. The most prominent website in this newly emerging market is obviously Kickstarter, yet more sites are beginning to adopt its model and diversify its applications. Perhaps the newest development comes from Songkick, which is attempting to apply the Kickstarter ethos to live music.
Since its founding in 2007, Songkick has been devoted to providing its users with alerts about upcoming shows by their favorite acts in any given area. The site aims to provide a forum for live music lovers to gather, and a way for them to keep up to date on when they may have the chance to see their favorite bands again. The site began by addressing fans’ frustration at missing out on a great show, but it has now evolved to begin dealing with a similar frustration: finding out a band you love isn’t coming to a venue near you.
Detour, the site’s ever-growing solution to that problem, allows fans to place advance orders for tickets to a theoretical concert in their area, which they will only be charged for if the concert takes place. The process, called crowdfunding, allows fans raise money to bring their favorite bands to town and mitigates the risk artists take when traveling to new places. The system lets fans to convince their favorite bands (and those artists’ booking agents) that there is not only a fan base in an area, but a base that is willing to buy tickets if the artist comes to town. After testing the system with smaller artists, like Hot Chip and Tycho, booking single venues through Detour, the site is now preparing to take the next step, by working with Andrew Bird to plan his entire tour of South America.
Bird plans to do a six-city tour of the continent in February, and Detour is facilitating. Twelve cities have been chosen as contenders, among them large metropolitan areas like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and smaller outlets like Santo Domingo and Caracas, and the first six cities to sell 250 provisional tickets will get the dates. If successful, the tour will be the largest fan-funded music tour in history.
Co-founder and CEO Ian Hogarth insists the site aims to work within the existing framework, alongside bands, managers, promoters, and booking agents, yet he points out that “”If you think about recorded music over the last 20 years, we’ve seen MP3s and Napster; iTunes and the iPod; YouTube making Gangnam style an overnight hit and services like Spotify and Soundcloud — there has been an incredible amount of disruption. Meanwhile very little has changed in live music.”
With every technological progression, legal questions inevitably follow. It is too early yet to accurately predict the problems that Detour may run into, though challenging the status quo of the music business, especially when it comes to the live music booking framework, tends to be met with resistance from those the current system benefits. If Detour is successful, it may be the beginning of a new world order for live music, where fans have greater control over who they see and where concerts take place. By seizing the possibilities of modern technology, Detour may be forging a new path for the planning and execution of concert tours.