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A Better Way To Book Live Music

Digital technology has revolutionized the way recorded music is created, discovered, distributed and sold. The market for live music, however, has yet to undergo a true revolution.


As Andy Malloy touched on in his Music Think Tank Open posts a few weeks ago, the Internet should enable fans to proactively drive the concert business. Rather than waiting for bands to come to them, audiences should be able to bring bands to their town with a few clicks of the mouse.


The way things are


Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet. Some of the tools have changed, but live gigs are still booked the way they were 15 years ago: The artist and the venue engage in a time-consuming, inefficient exchange of primarily historical information while potential concert-goers (fans) sit on the sidelines.


Venues rely on two types of information to make booking decisions:


1. A band’s track record – i.e., their past performance. What venues have they played before? How many tickets did they sell? And so on.


2. A band’s momentum indicators. This includes things like recent press coverage, new projects they’re working on, etc.


Venues evaluate a band’s track record and momentum indicators to essentially make an educated guess about how many tickets the band can sell this time around. This is a particularly challenging task with respect to up-and-coming bands, who have a limited performance history or who are trying to expand into new geographic markets for the first time. How does a venue determine how many tickets Band X can sell in Charlotte if they’ve never played in Charlotte before?


On the other side, bands face the challenge of convincing venues (via their press kits) that they can draw enough fans to make a show financially attractive. Again, without a strong performance history in the geographic market in question, this can be a tough sell.


The way things ought to be


In today’s world, concert booking should not be driven by backward-looking research. There should be no need to guess how many tickets will be sold. Bands and venues should know beforehand exactly how many people will show up at a concert. And fans should participate directly in determining who gets booked where and when.


Websites like Eventful, which lets fans “demand” a performance in their town by a particular artist, provide a partial solution towards this end. But ultimately, Eventful is just another momentum indicator (albeit a pretty good one) that promoters and bands can consider when making booking decisions. It does not empower fans to directly participate in the talent-buying process.


A new model


Fundable is a fundraising website with a brilliant twist: It lets a fundraiser and donors gauge demand before any money is actually collected. Anyone who wants to raise money for a project can create a “collection” on the site and specify the minimum amount of money they need to raise. People can then pledge money towards the cause using a credit card or PayPal. If enough people make pledges to reach the target amount by the funding deadline, all the pledges are collected. If the target is not met, the pledges are deleted and no money actually changes hands.


I would love to see someone apply a similar model to live music. I want to see a web service that 1) enables fans to vote with their wallets for the bands that they want to see, and 2) lets venues and artists see exactly how many people are willing to pay to see which performers at a given time, and make booking decisions accordingly.


More specifically, here’s the basic idea of what I’m imagining:


1. A promoter goes to the website/app and creates an “open event” for each date she wants to book. She specifies what type of bands she’s interested in, how many acts she needs for the show, the ticket price, the booking deadline, and other relevant details about the venue and performance.


2. Bands that are interested in playing the show submit their info for consideration and alert their fans about a potential concert.


3. Fans pledge (via credit card/PayPal) to buy a ticket for a particular band. For example, fans of Artist X pledge to buy a ticket for the show if and only if Artist X performs.


4. The promoter sees how many people have pledged tickets for each band – that is, she sees real-time, forward-looking demand for a give artist, at given venue, on a given date. She then selects which bands, if any, she wants to book for the show. The promoter doesn’t necessarily have to select the band(s) with the most pledges – she might base her decision on other factors as well, like genre, how much compensation the bands are asking for, etc. But among the bands that match the criteria that the promoter is seeking, she would certainly have a financial incentive to book those with the most ticket pledges.


5. The pledges for the bands selected by the promoter are converted into payments for tickets. The pledges for all the other bands are deleted.


That’s the general idea. Of course, there are a lot of details and some implementation issues that would have to be considered for something like this to work. But I can’t imagine it would be a very difficult system to create. And it could ultimately make the concert business – especially for small to mid-sized venues and up-and-coming artists – more efficient, transparent, and profitable for all parties.


What do you think? Are you aware of anyone working on something like this? I’m very curious to hear your thoughts.

Reader Comments (25)

Great idea! I've been banging my head into this wall for a while. Something has to be done with the current system.

How about a website that generates a calendar widget that clubs can install on their websites. This hub website would also have a section for bands to register, create a profile, and upload their audio/video/press/bio/etc.

Then when a band goes to book a date at a club that is utilizing the widget they can pick their desired show dates from the calendar widget. They could choose multiple dates and rate the dates by priority preference: Sat 9pm 1st choice, Thursday 9pm 2nd choice and so on. If a club has implemented certain criteria for the type of act they are seeking that doesn't match the band/act/etc then the widget wont allow the band to apply for the date.

So then when a potential audience member checks the calendar for the date they are planning to go to the club, they would see all of the bands that applied to be booked for the night. If there is a band they aren't familiar with then they can check out the bands mp3's/bio/press/etc (auto populated within the widget sent from the hub site) to determine whether they would want to see them or not. The option would be there to pledge for that band on that date or not.

The incentive is clearly there for all parties involved. It's there for the clubs in increased website traffic as well as streamlining their booking process. The bands will gain exposure to the clubs overall audience not just the folks who come out at 7pm on Tuesday night. And fans will get to discover new local music while deciding what they want to see at a given club.

Also the actual money generated could be tracked by both the band and the club so disputes over head counts would be a thing of the past. And if splits are decided up front then there is no temptation to cheat. In fact the money could just be directly dropped into the clubs and the bands Paypal accounts. Clean as a whistle...

A site like could generate the widget as part of their already awesome club database/rating service.

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterJoel Moore

Hi Laurence,
Good post, we are actually currently working on such a website.
It is not exactly as you say, but close.
Unfortunately I can't say more now, but soon we will open a beta and invite a couple of artists, venues and fans to test the system before it goes live. I'll post here some invitation.

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterEliot

Great idea!

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterJim Offerman

Like your thoughts. This way, it will be possible to see a famous band in a small venue because enough spectartors may bid for such an event.
On the other hand side I normally decide to go to a concert by chance.

Another quest.: What does your idea mean for festivals?
Beside the idea of the booking, you may find out how many peolple want to see a booked band, and they can be put on the best-sized venue - and you can avoid overlapping concerts.

Which festival does the best job in this way?

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterAndré Luce

SellaBand rolled out something similar in December 2008 in conjunction with ArenaFest, though that its seems to be for medium size concerts.

However I can imagine that bringing it to the masses is their next step including enabling more "pull" features.

At GigPay, we have capabilities in being able to process such payments as a form of micro-payment. Thus bringing down the processing cost. For whoever is interested in implementing this.

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Charakupa

This is a really important topic, and one that doesn't get discussed as much as it should. It involves bands and promoters, neither of whom are generally using bleeding-edge web technology. We need a system that's as easy to explain and use as Myspace, and we need to be able to sell the benefits to non-tech people easily.

Ever since I saw Jonathan Coulton's Eventful page all those years ago I've loved the idea of demand-driven gigs. But it's not so easy if your entire audience isn't made up of web geeks. However many times I've used Eventful, Facebook events, iCal downloads and the rest, nobody has ever used them. My internet fans don't because they don't live in Oxford (where I'm generally playing) and my real-life email list fans don't because they don't really use the internet (or even computers) much.

I'm keen to see what turns up, and I'll happily beta test any site. I have a group of Twitter users in Portugal who want me to fly over and play a gig, but haven't figured out how to cover the cost...

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterBen Walker

I'm a web developer-- I would love to work on something like this with someone-- perhaps it should be connected in some way to an existing music site like or iLike--

Anyone interested on working with me?

Jason Silver

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterJason Silver

That's a really great idea, I already thought of something like that as well, as I know it from my band how hard this booking business is, though there are demands from everywhere and there definitely should be a way to bundle them in a way that satisfies everyone. Would love to work on such a website, it's just a matter of time and partners...


January 23 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I agree that this has to appeal to the most un-techie people out there, so it definitely needs the "voting" or "bidding" widget embedded in something like facebook, which everyone uses. People could install the app, and it could display the artists that are trying to collect bids for your area and you could simply pledge on facebook.

January 23 | Unregistered Commenterdanny

Hi again,

I found this. It's not really putting booking in the hands of the fans but it is a thoroughly developed app for assisting clubs and artists in the booking process.

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterJoel Moore

Brilliant Laurence!,

In thinking through my previous posts of the size of the prize and a fan driven model you have gotten to the essence of a potential model to transform the way live music is accomplished. The beauty of your model is that the limits on it are not boxed into a particular 'venue', but starts with the fan's desire to see their favorite artists. Today's model starts with someone who is incented on the 'venue' as the business model and moves along the value chain to the artist.
MPTrax has 'enabled' an easy transaction of your model and I firmly believe that their current business model bolted on, and led, by a fan empowered model could just transform the entire live music space from living rooms to large arena's. The current model of touring to 'support a record' makes absolutely no real consumer sense as we should give fans, which Bruce Warilla's points out in his 'pull music pardigm', the 'ease' of going from today's million upon millions of songs to 'filter' to the one's they love and then build 'up' from there the desire to see the aritst live which would lead to a fan driven model. A parallel example in the consumer products industry is that we don't only have the 'option' to buy our favorite products when the company with the product 'wants' to put it out we, in fact, are researched every which way possible and then are 'offered' the product everywhere all the time and if it is 'pulled' by the consumer it not only stays but gets refreshed, updated and made better every few years. Putting together a model from consumer needs to final solution is desperately needed in every aspect of the industry to truly be a model that puts the consumer (fan) at the center. Either we all continue to work together to help to put the model together or future generations will continue to be force fed what 'makes money' rather then what people truly want.

Consumer> Song> Artist> Live music accessibility like water> Live Interaction> Viral explosion> Repeat...

I would love to get together on a conference call with anyone interested to continue to dialogue

Andy Malloy

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Malloy

Scratch that thoroughly developed bit in my last post as regards MPTrax. The more I futz with setting this up the more I realize how far they have to go to get up to speed. The interface is clunky(1990's-ish). They have little to no clubs on board yet. And very few musicians. Still in its infancy but has some promise.

They need to spend more time on site development than on introduction/tutorial videos. Give it a year more of steady development and it might be ready for prime time.

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterJoel Moore

I could certainly see some advantages of that. In some ways, though, I have to wonder if there would actually be less demand for up-and-comers and indie artists. The music business is ran by 12 year old girls. Who do they want to see? The same bands and pop artists over and over. As long as it created opportunities, it would be a good thing. But somehow I think it would be a logistical nightmare as well.

Responding to 'would the demand go down for up-and-comers and indie artists'. I think its a good point, however I believe it all comes down to 'truly' connecting with fans so as they fall in love with your music, or message, or the individual by playing live. Then you partner with those fans that want to be apart of your success and see themselves as part of a team or in the best case a 'movement' to be apart of something they perceive to be great, or something that they can latch onto that others haven't found yet. Once that behavioral journey happens, and more live shows (small is fine) happen it doesn't matter if they are up and coming or indie. Its ALL about putting a tight circle around yourself of true fans who touch others, and so on and starting the journey. I do agree that logistically it is a challenge but believe that thinking about a future that will look nothing like it does today do to the mass innovation that is happening in the music space someone will figure out a turnkey way to make it work. In 3-5 years there will be, I believe, a whole new business developed on the logistics of fan driven concerts by third parties. There is so much innovation happening in the online space and very little in the offline that eventually the intellectual property will figure out the online answer to discovery and connectivity which leaves the innovating in the offline world wide open.
The real challenge is not going to be about logistics but changing behavior of the potential and availability that fans will have to take control of the offline. The online solution for bringing fans and artists together will be the easy part and first mover advantage will be rewarded but need to be updated frequently to keep up with the mass innovation that will be coming. I also believe that the innovator who 'bonds' artists together to provide real 'value' to be 'together' will put a wall around there model and create a tribe like feeling that will not allow others to break in due to the loyalty and profit sharing that could happen from innovator to artist. If the model isn't grounded in 'serving' artists that in turn serve there fans we will always be in the same place we are today. Artists acting alone in the near future will fight a tough battle on every front in the offline. I also believe this to be the case with in genre. No longer will your competition be someone in your own genre but the open 'collaboration' with in that genre to drive scale, best practices, sponsors, equipment, etc, etc to be the power. With the access and speed to music being wide open fans can be 'true fans' of many more artists which will allow artists in like 'genre's' to come together in mini-tribes to establish their own 'brand' that delivers against that tribes 'brand promise' whatever it may be.

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Malloy

Andy Malloy nails it! Nothing to fear but fear itself. True community engagement. Open sharing of ideas and innovations for the purpose of rearranging the established order into a working model that sustains and benefits all involved.

Brave new world.

January 24 | Unregistered CommenterJoel Moore

this is one of my favorite posts!
I think the main problem with previous websites that have proposed similar solutions is that they do not make the connection with record labels, venues, and music media websites. secondly, like you said, it needs to socially, completely stupid. My grandma needs to be able to use it.
with that said, i would propose a three-fold solution to overcoming such difficulties.

1. Right from the planning stages, major labels and media websites need to be involved. Meaning there needs to be HIGH level contact between labels such as emi and warner bros and websites such as pitchfork and youtube. i think it would really count with smaller labels and venues, but there needs to be lots of interest in the company before its website launches.

2. This is going to be something that will require large capital. Remember, the way you propose it, ticketmaster is your competition. It might be best to get a company like amazon on board (who could possibly act as a parent company), who seems to want to take a larger bite out of itunes.

3. Like proposed earlier, it might need to have a wiget-like interface with other websites. you could be watching a video on youtube, or buying an album, but at the bottom of the screen there could be a sign allowing you to bring them to a venue thats possibly looking to having them play.

January 24 | Unregistered CommenterAustin


You make some good points. I think that ultimately having a "tribe" type feeling surrounding a particular artist would be a good thing. It would be awesome to see people take ownership over the music they love. This also answers the question, "is there any inherent value in music?"

I'm not a strong believer in any forecasts of the future, but I think it's safe to say that live music is changing. What direction it takes is another matter altogether.

Not to be a wet blanket, but I suspect it won't work for club musicians, because club owners/operators don't want transparency; some could be subject to legal action, were third parties allowed greater insight into their booking policies. Google "SonicBids" and "scam", if you need examples. Similar systems are already working well for festivals, however, but in that case no special tools are required. The fest simply sets up a MySpace and a messageboard and polls their fans. This points up another difficulty with the proposed model, it presumes a fan is going to a particular club on a particular date, but fans tend to follow bands, rather than clubs; you know you're going to Bonaroo and when you'll be going, and though you might like to choose whom you'll see there, you'll probably go, regardless. The Continental Club, on the other hand, may or may not get your business on a given weekend, depending on who else is in town that same night, know what I mean?

January 25 | Unregistered CommenterMojo Bone

Well I'm working on a project called "the gigger".

Well it sounds more like yet another concert database but it is more:

I call it:

for young-promoters: "i need to organizate a concert but i dont know how"-platform
or for professional promoters: "i need bands for my gig but Im tired to seek them so i prefer asking me for a gig!"

or for bands: "we need gigs in this and this and this region!" -->

the gigs which are in the planning process--> i call them "attending gigs"

a gig is closed when the promoter or the young promoter has his bands and has the date and so on!

well it goes to what you're talking about, doesnt it?

to your pledge strategy: I dont know if that would work! let me explain it:

it would work if everyone had got a paypal account.
it would work if all the fans are over 18!
it would work when most will participate.

so - would it work now? i'm not very sure about it. please teach me when I'm wrong

best regards - carl

January 26 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

I've found many useful information here, I am always interested to know more about music promoter business. I really don't have any idea how this business run.

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterEnjoyMusic

Check out this interview by Derek Sivers...Amber Rubarth gets it.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Malloy

@ Carl.

That sounds very much like what GigMaven (out of New York) have done. Are you going to do anything else different?

Check them out


February 18 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Charakupa

Brilliant idea. I did something sort of like that when I lived in Phoenix, but it was before the internet. I am a web developer and wordpress guy, so I would be interested in exploring the idea.


March 2 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Kehrer

@Joe Charakupa

Thanks for spreading the word!


October 5 | Unregistered CommenterChris Roblee

You should check out which let's fans book their favorite bands from their MySpace/Facebook/homepages. It does quite a bit of what you ask for in this post.

December 2 | Unregistered CommenterRefe Tuma

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