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Using data to plan a tour

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Blue toy car on a map

Every step on the internet leaves a trace. The better you are at reading those traces, the quicker you’ll arrive at your destination. When your fans stream and download your songs, or buy a ticket to your concert, they reveal something about them. The same is true if they like your Facebook page. Location data in particular is priceless when it comes to planning a tour. Spotify Fan Insights, Facebook Insights, Soundcloud Stats, YouTube Analytics: they all tell you where your fans are from.

Fans, where are you?

We spoke with Nikoo Sadr of MusicAlly to give you some practical examples. Sadr is a social media expert and advises artists as part of her work for MusicAlly. One of the acts she mentored is Dutch DJ duo Firebeatz, who found out that they had a lot of fans in Mexico through their social media stats. US country darling Hunter Hayes routed his tour according to the origin of his Spotify streams. Even veterans like Iron Maiden bank on data. The band found out that a lot of fans in Brazil downloaded their songs illegally. So they went on tour in Brazil and turned fans that didn’t pay for their music into fans that did pay for a concert ticket. Rolling Stone reported that the 2013 concert in Sao Paolo alone generated $2.5 million.

While Iron Maiden play in another league to the average working musician, the principle stays the same: if you know where your fans are you can target them directly. Spotify Insights is a great tool to find out about the cities you’re streamed in the most. However, you may not be well-known enough to gain traction on the major streaming services. Thankfully, Bandcamp and Bandpage offer newcomers insight into their fanbase, and the same holds true for Soundcloud and YouTube.

Stats from streaming services are more reliable than the ones Facebook has to offer, because they show you in print that your fans listened to your music. A Facebook like does not permit any such conclusions. Still, likes can offer some orientation at least (which is why paid-for likes are pretty easy to spot; they often come from the most exotic places).

This is good music

Now that you know where your fans are, it’s time to find an appropriate venue that fits your needs. Not too big, and not too shabby. Wouldn’t it be great to have access to a database that lists all clubs and concert halls that are worth playing at? Tom Hodgson and Oli Steadman – whom you might know as bassist of Stornoway – thought exactly the same, so they founded Tigmus (which stands for ‘this is good music’).

“We describe it as a kind of dating service for venues and artists,” Hodgson explains. More than 900 venues across Europe, most of them in the UK, are currently registered on the website, with more joining all the time. Artists can search for the perfect venue on Tigmus and promoters and bookers working at the registered venues can look for artists.

Tigmus uses data as well, and is currently developing some handy algorithms. Hodgson explains: “When an artist registers with Tigmus, we get them to integrate their Facebook page and use that data to work out where their fan base is. That then gets mapped to our database of venues. So if you’re an artist and you want to put a gig on in, say, Manchester, the backend of Tigmus will crunch all the data and match it up with the right-sized venue in the right kind of area, so you’re not knocking on the door of the Manchester Ritz if you’ve got a relatively small fan base.”

Tigmus not only makes sure artists play at the right-sized venues, it also takes some burden off the shoulders of the venue’s operators, who don’t have to grapple with a myriad of emails from artists asking to play on the same stage as their idols. Most of them simply haven’t got the appeal yet to attract a crowd that fills the Brixton Academies of this world.

The more venues and artists that register with Tigmus, the more data the app can analyze. According to Hodgson and Steadman, Tigmus will soon be able to automatically select artists from one region that also match musically. In theory, this will suggest an entire lineup to promoters working at a venue. Says Steadman: “A lot of these venues around the country have got second rooms. They have a big venue space and a medium venue space of about 150 to 400 capacity. And those second rooms are usually massively under-utilized. We’ll help venues fill those spaces more frequently, which will boost their revenues. And because we’re managing all of this through Tigmus, it’s going to save them time.”

Tigmus, like a classic agent, takes a commission on the artist’s fee, 10% to be exact. That’s cheaper than what agents usually charge (between 15 and 20%). The other source of income for Tigmus is ticket sales. However, an offering like Gigstarter, where artists sell tickets first and book the gig once enough tickets have been sold, is out of the question for Hodgson and Steadman.

It’s on you

Do you remember Gigstarter? The app allowed artists, managers, agents and labels to sell tickets first and route an entire tour after. In theory, this would have reduced the overall risk, since users knew in which cities they’d sell out a venue. Donal Scannell, founder of Gigstarter, whom we interviewed about his start-up two years ago, has come to realize that the industry does not need a such a tool. Today he says “we created a solution for a problem that wasn’t there.”

The industry is happy with its imperfect situation. The current model is inefficient, wasteful, and in the end the artist pays the price for it. But most artists just want to play on the same stages as their heroes. They aren’t interested in the latest technological solution, even if that solution guarantees them a higher income.

In any case, the industry doesn’t want to be bothered with revolutionary stuff that has the potential of disrupting its business. The relationships between promoters and agents have been forged over decades. Of course they aren’t going to help change a business if it means being substituted by technology. Gigstarter was a promising tool, especially for up and coming artists. But once they reach a certain size, the industry is brought to the scene and produces its checkbook.

“Everybody is selfish. Some acts sell out quicker than others, but ultimately everybody takes the check,” says Scannell. It’s only when artists resist the check and remain idealistic enough to support an idea like Gigstarter, that the momentum could shift towards new technologies and artists that want to take another route besides the traditional one. That’s true for Tigmus as well. It’s on you.

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