Crowdfunding concerts: How fans can get their heroes to play in their hometowns
New online methods are putting the fans - rather than corporate promoters and ticket sellers - back in charge.
Wednesday 27 February 2013
At the climax of the film Wayne's World 2, Wayne and Garth manage to book their dream roster of bands and bring them to their home town – Aurora, Illinois. It sounded like a far-fetched fantasy at the time. But 20 years later, this kind of dream could soon become reality for superfans.
New online methods of crowdfunding concerts are allowing fans to club together, buy tickets, and get the acts of their dreams to come and play in their own hometowns – whether it's in Illinois, Ipanema or Ipswich.
Crowdfunding has revolutionised recorded music, with Amanda Palmer raising a staggering £750,000 last year through Kickstarter. A nd now a crowdfunding model is being applied to touring – putting the fans rather than corporate promoters and ticket sellers – back in charge. Essentially, fans campaign to get a band they adore to book a date nearby – then "pledge" to buy a ticket for it. The band agrees that if enough pledges are made, the show will go ahead.
"Growing up in south London, obsessed with US hip-hop, I hoped the artists I loved would come and play," says Ian Hogarth – the man behind Songkick.com spin-off Detour, whose business model was profiled in The Independent ahead of a recent gig. "I was on MySpace, seeing hundreds of comments asking artists to come to other people's cities. Our belief is that fans will do more than just comment – they'll pledge to buy a ticket, to say to a band: 'If you come – I'm there'."
In 2011, Hogarth and his Songkick colleague Gideon Bullock took a punt on bringing San Francisco electronica artist Scott Hansen, aka Tycho, to London. It worked – fans snapped up tickets and a show at Shoreditch's XOYO was hastily scheduled. But Detour's biggest breakthrough came recently. Hogarth was in the pub with Sean Adams, of Drownedinsound.com, when the two friends hit on an idea.
"I'd read frustrated posts on our boards about Desaparecidos never having played Britain, and I was keen to see them, so they felt like the perfect band to try," says Adams. Before long 50 fans pledged to stump up for tickets – so the Nebraskan band booked air tickets and pencilled in the show. "I'm so excited we managed to turn an idea dreamt up over a few beers into a gig," adds Adams.
"The potential of this new model is to reverse the touring status quo – to bring the band to the town where the fan is," says the band's Conor Oberst. Desaparecidos guitarist Denver Dalley confirms: "We certainly wouldn't have played London without Detour."
Now rivals such as Gigfunder.com and Eventful.com's Demand It! are entering the fray. GigFunder.com founder Matt Pearson echoes Hogarth's sentiments, saying: "I'm obsessed with music and frequently into artists that don't seem to have the money to tour." But he points out: "We're different from Detour. We allow artists to have high-value awards you'd see on Kickstarter."
Fans have used crowdfunding to lure bands to unlikely places: like Andrew Bird to Brazilian surf resort Florianopolis. "It's especially needed in unfamiliar territories – it takes some of the gambling out of touring," says Bird, who's using Detour on a South American tour. "It's a big deal to get a band to Lima – so it's fair to ask: 'How much do you want us to come?'"
Some might see these schemes as another example of the digital ecosystem taking offline companies to the cleaners – the way record shops and labels were shaken down by Apple and Amazon. "Crowdfunding concerts is an interesting innovation," says Anton Lockwood, promotions manager at DHP. "It's unlikely it will become a regular part of how concerts are planned, but it's good to see new, creative ways of promoting emerging."
The partners Detour have so far wooed include indie promoters All Tomorrow's Parties, blogs such as The 405, The Line Of Best Fit and Punktastic, and labels such as Moshi Moshi and Mute.
The services tap into a new level of fan devotion. "The same way that bands are looking to Kickstarter to fund their recordings, I think things like Detour will become more common for international tours," says Dalley. So if you and your friends can get an obscure artist to come to your town, one day everyone might be able to host their own Waynestock.
Ticket pledging: Where else could it work?
There's a growing trend for ticketed one-off dining experiences, such as Burger Monday (which invites top chefs to come and create a burger for one night only). Chefs could be persuaded to take their skills away from their own kitchen on-demand (Bring Heston to Preston!) or successful supper clubs, such as Kerstin Rodgers' MsMarmitelover, could plan tours and one-off events with a guaranteed crowd of diners.
Every year Premier League teams trail the globe promoting their brand in foreign markets which comprise around 70 per cent of the League's television audience. Most tours take in football-mad markets such as South-east Asia and North America, but teams could use their vast followings on social networks to promote and arrange games in high- demand cities they may have ignored.
England's teams play at venues around the country at county grounds desperate to have them. Counties with smaller grounds could prove their viability to pack their stadiums for, say, one-day international games, to the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Touring a play is obviously an expensive enterprise, even with a small cast and a sparse production. A pledge system which could guarantee sold-out nights at smaller regional theatres could alter hugely the scope of where companies take their shows.
Comics already hit more diverse markets than bands, but a comedy pledge network similar to Detour could make sure that the next time Louis CK (left), Stewart Lee or Josie Long go on tour, you wouldn't miss out.
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