Thanks to the decline of physical record sales and the concurrent gutting of the industry, we are now living in the golden age of live music. Indie shows in particular are abundant and affordable, provided you live somewhere near a bar with a halfway decent soundsystem. It just so happens that, even for the most scholastic Stereogummy hipsters, it’s almost impossible to recognize every band name on a bill.
Charles Worthington, a Washington DC-based music fan and part-time developer, wanted to fix that, so he built Preamp, a simple website that provides a playlist of YouTube videos for bands that are visiting your city.
Well, actually, for now, it’s just relevant to San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington DC. But you can request your city to be added to the list.
Worthington, who is a business strategy consultant by day, built the Preamp prototype at a weekend hackathon earlier this year, and after receiving positive feedback he decided to turn it into a real product. Aside from the fact that it runs in the browser, there is no mobile version. He anticipates that people will use it on their PCs or tablets once or twice a week when they’re interested in what’s on around them. Some people also just use it as a Pandora-like radio experience.
It’s all very straightforward. You just select your city and click “play.” The YouTube playlist will then commence, and if you don’t like a particular band, you can hit the “next” button. Each band’s video is linked to the gig details and a button that lets you buy tickets to the show. The referral fees generated from those ticket sales are Preamp’s main source of revenue. The site also has venue pages – so far just for Washington’s 930 Club and LA’s The Satelitte – which could be another source of revenue in the future.
Preamp uses an algorithm to match the bands to the best videos, but it’s not always perfectly accurate, says Worthington. So either he or one of his friends hand-select some videos. The idea is to show what a band is like live, and how they sound. That way, new or obscure bands have an opportunity to reach fans who might otherwise have not given them the time of day. “Helping people go to more of those shows that they wouldn’t have to otherwise is the primary goal,” says Worthington.
Preamp’s nearest equivalent is Timbre, a mobile app that shows you which bands are coming to your town and lets you listen to their music. However, Timbre doesn’t show videos, and it often doesn’t have the audio clips for some of the more obscure bands.
Timbre does have a strong advantage over Preamp, however, and that it is that it is fully mobile. If Worthington is going to get serious about his product, he’ll have to find a way to make it work well on mobile. If people can’t check out upcoming gigs while they’re waiting at the bus stop, then Preamp is missing a large chunk of its potential market.
Preamp’s other problem will revolve around scale. While much of the system is automated, there is a lot of legwork involved in expanding to new cities, including the necessity to aggregate data from the many venues not covered by major ticketing outlets. At that point, too, Worthington might realize that a project like this can’t just be a thing on the side.