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Sunday, December 17

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Feature Thu Feb 21 2008

Tickets, Tickets, Who Needs Tickets?

You'd think that with all of the tour date and concert tracking sites that have popped up the last couple of years that Americans are having a hard time deciding between the Cat Power show at The Vic and the Cat Martino show at Schubas. What is it that these sites hope to achieve and how does Chicago play into their grand strategy? And why has it become so hard for residents of NYC, Chicago and LA to pick up their local arts weekly (or their local online webzine for that matter) and just check the concert listings in that?

The online ticketing business in all its various forms is a $9 billion business with music ticket sales accounting for a good chunk of that. The space is getting crowded though with companies like Eventful, Upcoming and Tourfilter all battling for market share. Still a small slice of revenue from such a large pie could start to add up. The business model for all these companies is primarily based around commissions from the ticketing company, although advertising and sponsorships could play a part as well.

I know it seems I'm painting this out to be an area of the internet run by Ticketmaster accounting interns and Live Nation flunkies, but for the two companies profiled below that is not the case. The founders of both Songkick and Oh My Rockness began their sites due to a love of live music and a need to organize their upcoming concert calendars so they wouldn't miss a show. And it's these two sites, which have chosen Chicago as one of their incubator cities, which are doing some of the most interesting things.

The two sites I chose to profile both have Chicago at the center (or at least on one of the inner rings) of their solar system. Songkick is based in the UK while Oh My Rockness is based in NYC. While they are ostensibly in the same business, they look at solving the problem of filtering tour info and concert listings slightly differently. One uses any number of bots and algorithms at their disposal to secure the most complete listings and the other hand selects each and every date they add to their database. Let's look at Songkick first.

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Songkick was founded by Ian Hogarth, Pete Smith, and Michelle You. In their travels around the globe they realized there had to be a better way to get all their favorite concert listings together rather than using band sites, email lists, rss feeds and alt-weeklies. They go about solving this problem by aggregating all the listings from the 17 major ticketing agencies and then putting it into all into a readable format for the user. You can get email updates, send listings to friend, or even download a program called Songkicker which will scan your iTunes and email you when any band you like is on tour (except for The Beatles and Mozart too, I guess).

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They've also devised a better way of ranking bands than simply tallying CD sales and radio play. Instead they look at blog mentions, compile MySpace data and Amazon sales figures to get a better picture of which bands are on the move. Using Songkick Rankings is a fun way to see which bands are hot and when they're coming to town. Songkick launched in 2007, but is already in the middle of re-design that promises to bring added features including the holy grail of interactivity.

When you order tickets through Songkick you won't pay any extra according to founder Michelle You, "I want to make clear that if you buy a concert ticket discovered on Songkick, you don't pay any more than if you buy a ticket from Ticketmaster directly."

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Oh My Rockness is not going for comprehensive. You won't find any listings for Celine Dion, The Eagles or Bon Jovi, instead what you will find are the editors' hand selected choice picks.

Oh My Rockness also isn't in every market, if you live in Rockford, Duluth or Cleveland you can forget it, but if you live near the metro hub cities of Chicago, L.A. or NYC then this site might be for you.

Patrick and Claire McNamara founded Oh My Rockness in 2003 to try to get a handle on concert listings for their favorite bands coming to the city. In 2004 they launched Chicago's site and in 2007 L.A. (Ha! Take that L.A.). They also do an annual SXSW site.

In response to a question about the need for such a site Claire said, "There was no central resource for indie rock shows in New York City and we had grown frustrated visiting all the different venue sites each week to find out what was going on. We were constantly missing shows that sold out before we even knew about them. So we decided to create a website that would list select upcoming shows and profile the bands playing them."

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Oh My Founders! — Claire and Patrick McNamara

Claire also said the need for a Chicago version was clear, "Chicago's music scene is thriving. We have been really excited by the number of amazing bands coming out of Chicago - bands like Chin Up Chin Up, Pelican, Maps and Atlases, The Narrator, Russian Circles, Bound Stems... we could go on and on."

Oh My Rockness has all the features that are now expected from a concert listing site. They call their email updates "My Rockness". By signing up you are able to add your favorite bands to your saved online profile and receive e-alerts when your favorite bands are coming to town. An additional feature allows readers to synch their favorite upcoming shows with either ICal or Outlook. Oh My Rockness is constantly tweaking the site and in 2008 plans to allow readers "to interact and utilize the show listings". Plus they add a bit of personality and curatorial aspect to the site by having a "Recommended Show", a feature called "Band We Like" and something called "Random Rockness". All three change weekly on all three city sites.

We all know Chicago has a tremendous music scene, but now anyone, anywhere in the world, can use sites like these to plan their upcoming visit, map out a weeks worth of rock shows, buy tickets, and get all types of info about venues, bands and recommended shows.

About the Author:

Craig is a transplanted Bostonian who chased a dream (and a girl) to come to Chicago over 10 years ago. He's done it all in Chicago including working at a neighborhood bar, as a valet parker, a hotel employee, a Chicago high school teacher as well as a life altering stint at two of the finest roots labels Chicago has to offer. Now he's a father of two boys and is attempting to make a life out of music. Of course he writes a blog or two.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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