Julien Mitelberg • Chief Executive Officer • Bandsintown
Years with Company: 2 • Web: http://bandsintown.com • Contact: @julienbit, http://linkedin.com/in/mitelberg • Clients: Skrillex, Tim McGraw, Fleetwood Mac, Justin Bieber, Beyone, Rihanna, Paramore
BACKGROUND: How often have you missed your favorite group because you didn’t know they were coming to town? That’s a problem solved by Bandsintown, a clever app that runs on mobile devices and integrates with Facebook and Twitter. The startup was purchased by Julien Mitelberg’s company, Cellfish, in September of 2011 and since the acquisition its user base has exploded from 15,000 artists to over 150,000 and more than 5 million fans. Mitelberg will appear at next year’s SXSW panel on Fan Experience.
We were a big mobile publisher, but we really wanted to add expertise in social. We knew this was big business and wanted to get this expertise in-house. The way we looked at it was, if we wanted to work with social [then] we wanted to work with fans, and where do you find those fans? Are there any social music applications we like? In the meantime, a board member heard about these guys in San Diego and we got connected. And we loved what they had done. They had built a solution for artists to better promote their tour dates on Facebook and it was working very well.
The uniqueness of the company was that they really knew Facebook. We liked them technically, as well as the way they think, and they could anticipate a number of things that Facebook actually did. They also had a unique approach to working with artists. A lot of applications have lots of users, but they aren’t connecting with artists. We thought that was a good niche to be in and that the growth of artists in the long run would help the business. And we were right.
We mostly develop applications for consumers, not for businesses. As soon as we acquired the company, we developed an app for consumers on Facebook, iOS and Android. We’ve launched what has now become the largest concert app in the world. So we have two apps. We have an artist app, which is the original business of Bandsintown, and then we have the fan app that you can have on your iPad, on your tablet for Google, on your Android or iOS phone or Facebook.
What we learned is that 40 percent of unsold tickets are because the fans don’t know the artist is in town. We wanted to change that and answer that problem. To do it, we had to know what kind of artists you like, so we built an application that was able to create a real music DNA. The application looks at what you have on your iTunes, what you listen to on your iOS device, what you like on Pandora, what you listen to on Spotify. Whatever music services you authorize we can look at everything and, based on that, create your music profile and track your favorite artists. Once you track an artist, we’ll make sure you know this artist is coming to town. We’ll notify you on Facebook, send you an email, notify you on your phone or tablet. You can also search for an artist and edit the list of artists you’re tracking.
You can also RSVP to concerts and invite your friends to join you. Recently, we added a social layer to the application where we can see which concerts your friends are going to. It gives you another incentive to discover new bands. We also have a feature where we recommend shows based on music you like.
When we work with ticketing companies, we get affiliation fees. That’s our first stream of revenue. Because we’ve reached critical mass, 30 million clicks a month on Facebook and close to 7 million downloads of the app, we have enough people to reach out to promoters. Promoters need to reach the fans based on location and, because we know where people live and what people like, we offer promotions in unique ways to reach fans and create campaigns to promote tours. Promoters are now the bulk of our revenue.
We are trying to make [purchasing tickets] easier. How can we make it easy for fans to buy tickets in the app? We launched with our first ticketing company, Wantickets. We work with them so you can by any Wantickets concerts within the application. You only have to put your credit card in once; if you want to buy another ticket, you don’t have to do that anymore. You can buy again with one click. When you receive a notification of a show you like, in one click you’ve bought your ticket. It’s done.
By using Bandsintown, artists usually increase their ticket sales by 50 percent. The fact that everybody’s using it is a sign it’s working. But first and foremost, it makes life easy for artists and that’s the reason they use the app. If they had to create a page and code all the links for tickets and listings, it would be time consuming. It saves a ton of time. And when artists are on tour, it’s very hard for them to think about all those things. They have other things to do.
Expanding the Concert Experience
We want Bandsintown to be the place where artists and fans tell their concert story before, during and after the show. We’re working on ways for fans to interact with artists during a concert. And we’re also working on features that will help fans continue the experience after the show. For instance, we’re releasing a feature where you go to a show and the next day you will get a notification saying, hey, how was the concert? Tell us about it. Upload your video and photos and share them with the community. We’re basically crowd-sourcing content created on smart phones.
We work with all the big agencies and reach out to artists through them. We also work with all the labels. Through those partners, we’ve reached a lot of artists. And then word of mouth has done a pretty good job. We have about 2,000 artists joining us every week and most of those artists don’t come from our biz connections. They just come by themselves.
The next step would probably be [building a version for] Windows mobile devices. We’re also thinking about consoles like PlayStation and Xbox, but I think PC and smartphones are our focus right now. We’re also developing a specific tablet version, so you’ll see a specific iPad version that has more content and a better UI than you have today.
Promising the World
Once you promise a fan they’ll never miss a show, the hardest part is when you break that promise. We’re working very hard to always have the biggest database of concerts ever updated. Every day we add new gigs and new ticketing companies around the world, because we’re not only for the US. We cover most territories around the world, so that’s a big chunk of our work.
The Human Touch
When Cellfish was created in 2004, our main business was selling ringtones. Basically, we were selling music over the phone. We had to work with labels, so we’ve been working with them for a long time now. Live music is a different animal. It’s about relationships. It’s about making the artists and people working with them feel confident that what you are offering will last. A lot of artists and managers have been burned by solutions that don’t last. It was all about convincing them that we were here to stay, that we listen to what they say, and over time we gained their confidence.
Fill a Need
You can have a great idea, but if no one knows about it then you’re not going to go far. I would encourage tech companies who want to create a product for consumers to really think about how they’re going to distribute it. If you create a product for artists and really answer a problem well, then you will find your clients. We came up with a solution [to a problem] and artists followed. We did a survey trying to understand the impact of Bandsintown and most of [our fan clients] have said they’re going to more concerts now than they had before. They’re actually complaining that they have less money now because they’re going out and listening to live music.
By Andy Kaufmann