We were busy at SxSW, but this didn’t go unrecognized that week. Congrats, Ian and Songkick team!
Sequoia Capital Invests $10 Million in Songkick
Songkick, an online service that alerts fans about local concerts by their favorite artists, has been growing fast since it started in London in 2007.
The site is dedicated to the idea of making the concert-going process as easy as looking up a restaurant on Yelp, and its links for concert dates and tickets now pop up on YouTube, Vevo, MTV and various other sites around the Web. Five million people visit its Web site every month, and last fall it became the first live music app on Spotify.
Now, Songkick has something else to brag about: it has gotten a $10 million investment from Sequoia Capital, the venerable venture capital firm that over the years has invested in Google, Apple, Yahoo and LinkedIn.
Ian Hogarth, Songkick’s chief executive, spoke with Media Decoder on Thursday about the investment, the concert business and about being a startup in a market dominated by Ticketmaster. Here are excerpts from that conversation:
What does the Sequoia investment allow you to do that you’re not already doing?
First, I think the news here is an opportunity to tell the story of what we have done so far, and what we are trying to do. The heart of it is making concerts for everyone, and the idea that if you make it as easy as possible to find out about shows, buy tickets and find friends to go to shows with, behavior can change. We know that once people start using Songkick they go to roughly twice as many concerts, based on our own internal data.
The investment will allow us to keep doing what we’re doing, but faster. We created this idea of a historical concert archive with gigographies for every single artist. We released the most highly regarded concert app on iOS, which scans the music on your phone. We were the first concert-related service to launch on Spotify. And we launched this partner network. Those are sort of the Round 1 innovations. We’ve got a slew of cool new things coming out that I’m very excited about. We’re investing in product, in world class talent. It’s a cost for start-ups.
Your service started out mainly with e-mail notifications. Now you have all these other platforms, and partner sites. What have those done for the service?
One of the first big things for us was releasing our own iPhone app. We had 100,000 downloads in the first 10 days. We’ve got an Android version coming soon. And in the app world, if you offer a compelling, simple application, you get more word of mouth, more virality than on the Web, where distribution is very dominated by Google and more conventional marketing. What this has allowed us to do is have more peer-to-peer growth — we’ve grown to scale without any marketing expense.
Any marketing expense?
We don’t buy search terms, we don’t buy Facebook ads or print ads. We just rely on users to spread the word to their friends.
About partnerships, from the fan perspective it just means there are more places to discover music online. That ecosystem is flourishing with the growth of SoundCloud, Spotify, Vevo, YouTube. By integrating concert data into all of those services, we’re taking people who don’t go to concerts and getting them into the funnel of thinking about going to more shows.
The artist angle is also interesting. I’ve been spending time with artists and their managers and agents, and it’s become apparent just how much time an artist will spend managing data — basically data entry, just typing tour dates in again and again across multiple sites. So the partnerships have been saving artists time. And in the long term we see Songkick as mediating the interaction between artists and fans.
What about your competition? Live Nation recently bought Setlist.fm, which has a service similar to your gigographies. Bandsintown recently announced that they have three million monthly users.
There’s a number of people who have been working in this space for a while, but haven’t really gotten to mainstream scale yet. And a lot of these guys are being picked up by other companies. Bandsintown was sold, Setlist.fm was sold, SuperGlued was sold. What you’re seeing is some degree of consolidation.
When I think about competition, I don’t think about any specific player. I think apathy is what we’re competing against. There are so many people out there who have tuned out of live music. We meet them every day in our office. The overwhelming message we hear is, “Yeah, I went to a great concert two years ago, but man, it’s such a pain in the neck.” That’s what we’re fighting against more than any one competitor.
Live Nation/Ticketmaster is the gorilla in the live music business. If they start trying to do what you do, are you in trouble?
Ticketmaster are a partner of ours. We try to help them make more sales at the venues they represent. But at the same time they have increasingly been building things that look a lot like Songkick. We’ll see how that relationship evolves over time. We’re keen to remain a neutral partner for everybody in the ticketing landscape.
I think the history of the Web is that small, focused companies can be very successful. Look, we’re 27 employees, they’ve got thousands. If they do decide to aggressively compete with us, I’m not saying that won’t be a challenge. I’m just saying that I believe in the power of focus.