The number of service apps for music fans is a little overwhelming. SongKick is the big one. Backed by $16.5 million in venture capital, the company aggregates and tracks concert info.
There’s also Thrillcall, which offers concert listings and ticket links for shows in your area that night. GigBeat similarly scans your music library and serves up show listings. JamBase is a database of shows. GigLocator, a live music aggregator created by one of Peter Thiel’s fellows, sold its assets to the owner of the music venue Brooklyn Bowl. And I’m sure I’ll be flooded with a pile of the classic “you covered my competitors, now write about us” emails in 5…4…3…
So a newer entrant to the market needs a few differentiators. Vybe is one such app. The company focuses on regionally-targeted concert news, but also includes updates on new jams and videos as they’re released.
It quietly launched six months ago, growing by word of mouth (until now). Around half of those users return two to three times a week thanks to the app’s push notifications.
That’s Vybe’s differentiator: Users get push notifications when their bands announce nearby concerts, new music, and new videos. Within the app, they can watch, listen, buy mp3′s or buy tickets. Like many of the apps I mentioned, your follow list is populated by your iTunes Library, but the artists are provided as suggestions so users can filter and customize their notifications. Inside the app is a feed of artist updates; the app currently has 3000 bands and is expanding the library as fast as it’s small team can. It’s sent out more than 5 million push notifications.
Co-founder David Staley is from the Midwest and hated the way most existing offerings in the market are limited to major metropolitan areas. So he built in a function that allows users to list how many hours they’d be willing to drive for a show, which means concert-starved music lovers in the middle of nowhere will actually get notifications, too. As a Midwesterner who spent many teenage hours road-tripping to shows, I appreciate the inclusion. Many of Vybe’s users are outside of metropolitan areas, Staley says.
He and his co-founders got the idea for the app when they, being musician-coders, were on tour with their somewhat successful band The Readiness. The tools they used to reach their fans in were limited to emails, Tweets and MySpace event pages, which combined felt like an inefficient and noisy way to stay in touch with, target and sell to their fans, particularly in different regions.
Right now Vybe monetizes with some ads, an option to buy an ad-free version and iTunes mp3 sales, but the long-term vision is to provide information on markets to artists, bands and venues. Many of the competitors I mentioned above want to eventually sell some version of data, a dashboard, or a ticketing tool to the thousands of small venues across the country. That’s a tall order, evidenced by the struggles Groupon, Patch and other hyper-local sales forces to sell their tools to our country’s mom and pop operators. It’s not very scalable.
But one area that is in need of some better data is mid-level touring agencies. I asked a few friends who work as booking agents for some fairly big indie artists what tools they use to pick the cities they send their bands to. It’s not an exact science, as it turns out. “We just use our brains,” one said. “And our hearts.” Surely some fan geography data would be massively helpful. Whether small indie agencies would pay for that information is another question, though.
The next updates on tap for Vybe include expanding internationally, improving the app’s ticketing experience, and adding a social layer so users can see which bands their friends follow. The bootstrapped company will raise a round of seed funding in the coming months.