Industry Profile: Ian Hogarth
By Larry LeBlanc (CelebrityAccess MediaWire)
This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Ian Hogarth, CEO and co-founder of Songkick.
Songkick, In essence, places info on 100,000 concerts, and a personalized local concert calendar for your favorite artists and bands, in your pocket.
The site aggregates artist, concert, festival, venue, and ticket information from across 30 countries. Music fans receive personalized alerts for upcoming shows in their cities, and they can find the cheapest tickets for shows, using data collected from Songkick's database of 100,000 concert listings worldwide.
Songkick indexes 139 different ticket vendors, venue websites and local newspapers to create its database.
The site generates revenue from a cut of ticket sales through its platform that enables users to purchase tickets for artists they are tracking through alerts and links to ticketing platforms. Songkick reportedly takes a 2%-10% cut from each sale with the larger fees generally coming from secondary vendors.
Fans can use Songkick to share concerts on other social networks, and add photos, set lists, and reviews of a show. Songkick information is distributed across a network of partners including YouTube, Vevo, and The Hype Machine through their API.
For example, YouTube integrates Songkick's concert listings into its music page, and Yahoo! adds them to its search results.
Songkick recently launched its iPhone app that scans the music stored on any iPhone to which it has been downloaded; and then creates a custom calendar of nearby upcoming concerts by any artist represented. Users can scroll through the artists stored in their iPhone to check out the ones who are touring, or just track their favorite artists.
The app also supports the ability to search for concerts in any given city, and sets up alerts for when new dates are added, or for when friends book plans to attend a concert.
In May, London, UK-based Songkick concluded a deal with Warner Music Group to integrate its live event and ticketing platform into the company’s artist websites. Rather than each band manager or label marketing representative updating information about tour dates, venue information or links to buy tickets on a case-by-case basis, Songkick now does it across-the-board, including with websites, mobile sites, and mobile apps.
Ian Hogarth, CEO and co-founder of Songkick, studied engineering at Cambridge University while being employed as a club DJ. After graduating with a Masters degree in machine learning in 2005, he worked with the consulting firm Bain & Co. in Singapore, and Silicon Valley, specializing in technology strategy. He left Bain & Co. to co-found Songkick in 2007 with friends, Michelle You and Pete Smith.
In May 2011, The New York Times profiled Songkick as, "the go-to web site for live music."
According to comScore, Songkick’s monthly traffic has surpassed all live music sites, excepting Ticketmaster and Live Nation.
Has the mass rioting this week in London affected your business operations there at all?
Yes, the police came to our office this afternoon, and asked us to send everyone home early. I’m not sure how much longer it will last but there is a disruption for most people working in any industry in London right now.
How many employees does Songkick have?
We have 22.
How many markets does Songkick cover?
Off the top of my head, about 30 plus.
What are the responsibilities of the three partners?
Well, it has evolved over time. In the early days, we all did a bit of everything. Then, as the company has grown, we have tried to have a cleaner division of responsibility. I tend to take care of the overall strategy for the business, and most of our outward facing stuff: hiring, raising money, partnerships or industry interactions, press etc. Michelle (You) is responsible (as chief product manager) for the product which is, ultimately, the most important piece of the business. We live or die on the quality of our product. Peter (Smith) is responsible for the operational side of the business (as COO).
You were friends with Peter in university, and you met Michelle in Beijing?
That’s right. I have been going to China since I was 18. I spent quite a time learning Mandarin (Chinese). I speak Mandarin. Michelle and I met studying Mandarin in Beijing. In general, we have a very international outlook with our staff. Most of our team is based in London, and we have a satellite office in San Francisco. A third of our team are from outside of the U.K.--everywhere from Brazil to South Africa to New Zealand to Germany.
What revenue will Songkick generate in ticket sales and related business in 2011?
We don’t disclose that. As a small private company, we get to stay under the radar in certain cases.
Well, Songkick’s traffic grew by five fold in 2010. What do you expect for this year? Pretty explosive growth due to the introduction of your iPhone app?
Yeah, really explosive. Last year’s (growth) was very exciting. I think that we improved the product to a point where (our business) just started exploding. We had something like 8X growth between Q1 2010, and Q1 2011. What was particularly exciting was that we started to get to a level of scale where we could feel that we were reaching a significant percentage of live music fans. We became, essentially, the second most trafficked concert service after Ticketmaster.com.
Last year was really about getting to a level of scale where we were a bit more significant. We had proven that the product was desirable to a large number of music fans. This year, my hope is that we can blow the doors off that record. There is a bunch of new stuff that we are investing in, and this year we’ve also started to integrate a lot more with mobile platforms.
The iPhone app really opens doors for you.
It does. We rolled that out in June (2011), and it has exploded since we launched. In the first two weeks, we had 100,000 downloads. We have had some fantastic inbound interest from all sorts of partners in the music industry as a result of it. The thing that I am most proud about is the level of word-of-mouth uptake from fans. In every single market that we have launched it in, it has been hovering between 4 1/2 and five stars in the apps reviews which are really high for a music app. I am very proud of that. I am also very excited about all the new things that we are going to be bringing out over the next few months.
What will you be adding to the service? One thing I know pending is alerting consumers to when tickets go on sale. There are other things as well?
There are. We are going to do whatever we think will improve the experience of going to a concert as much as possible from the fan’s perspective. On-sale alerts are definitely a part of that; and supporting other mobile platforms like Android is clearly part of that. We have some pretty big ideas and plans on the social side of things in terms of making it easier to go to concerts with your friends.
When will you roll out the Android app?
Later this year.
Why did it take so long to launch your iPhone app?
Part of it was about trying to get the product right. A lot of people have released iPhone apps for concert going over the past couple of years. There has probably been 200 applications released around concerts. None of them have really exploded—from applications developed by ticket vendors to start-ups. Most of those applications have languished in the one to three star range in (Apple’s) App Store. We were really focused on figuring out exactly what we had to do to create a product that would be compelling to consumers and would satisfy what they were looking for in a mobile context.
Of course, the smart phone market has opened things up, and is creating a new type of user experience, and new types of revenue opportunities.
The reason that we waited was that we wanted to make something fantastic. I think it is all about re-thinking your proposition for a mobile context with a different form factor, with a different set of use cases, and doing enough user research to understand what a compelling product will look like.
You come from an academic and technology background. What do you think about this live music business you are now part of?
It has been largely ignored by entrepreneurs. There are a lot of challenges in scaling a business in this space because you are essentially dealing with data--a lot of it. So having an academic background in computer science and machine learning--and building a team that has real strength in those areas--has been a great asset to us because we are dealing with hundreds of thousands of concerts in all the different markets around the world. Essentially, it’s a large data business. We are helping consumers make sense of all that data.
What you are seeking to do really is to centralize concert data for varied usage.
Centralization we have in many ways done. Centralizing, personalizing and distributing that concert data (are goals). Centralizing it in one place so that the fan only has one place to worry about to find this stuff; personalizing it by only showing them the concerts that are interesting to them; and then distributing it by tying concerts into every other musical experience on the web---whether it’s a video on YouTube or a track on SoundCloud or an artist with a personal web page so that concert information has maximum visibility in the fans’ eyes and more people go to shows.
That is how we will judge our success in the long run. Do we get more fans and more shows? The thing that I have been so excited about is that the first piece of research that we’ve done into the behavior of our user base showed that fans go to 70% more concerts after using Songkick. That’s not because we changed their appetite for live music, but because we make it so much easier (for them) to go, and so they go to more shows.
[Live Nation Entertainment made a profit in the second quarter of 2011, reversing a loss from a year ago, as concert attendance went up in North America.
The results announced Aug. 8, 2011 beat analyst expectations for a break-even quarter.
Live Nation put on 4,243 shows in North America during the quarter---16% more than a year earlier. Attendance grew 13% to 8.9 million. Spending on ancillary items, including food and parking, grew 3% to $19.21 per concertgoer.
Outside North America, Live Nation held 16% fewer shows at 1,591, and attendance fell 6% to 4.2 million.
Overall, attendance grew 6% to 13 million.
"We are seeing the global ticketing business stabilize and concert business grow year-over-year," said Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino in a statement.]
With Songkick, fans don’t have to hunt through the internet or various media for concert information.
Exactly. We try to make it as easy (for them) to go to a concert as it is to go to a movie on a Friday night. It should be that easy but, historically, this industry hasn’t been focused on using technology to help the fan.
Really, what we’ve done is stepped back and said, “We believe that if you made it easier to go to concerts, more people would go.” It might (result in) twice as many concert tickets sold; it might be three times; it might be more than that. We don’t know. But we are going to systematically solve every problem that the fan has in going to concerts, and get to the point where the experience of finding out about, and going to a concert, is as delightful as it can be. That is when we will feel that we have really made an impact.
Ralph Simon (CEO, Mobilium) and I recently spoke about how mobile is enabling consumers to use music in a cultural way. As a social activity, and as identifier with their friends.
Certainly. Ralph is one of the smartest thinkers on the intersection of mobile, computing, and the music industry. He’s given me some great advice over the past couple of years.
The iPhone is one of the most disruptive pieces of technology for music. It gives you access to either a huge amount of music catalog or a huge amount of data in your pocket. It has enabled us to take 100,000 pieces of information from our concerts, and just put them in your pocket. So wherever you are in the world, you can pull out your iPhone, and you will have every local concert at your fingertips which--to me--is an incredibly exciting thing. Traveling, and having people on holidays experiencing live music outside of the typical context that they find themselves in.
I agree with you that the social pieces are very exciting, especially with concerts because the average fan goes to concerts with their friends. It’s very rare to go to concerts by yourself. The average number of tickets for Songkick over two tickets per transaction is something like 2 1/2 to three tickets per transaction. (Concert going) is an inherently social experience to start out with. We’re working hard on tighter integration with Facebook.
If a fan likes a band, they want to tell all their friends.
Absolutely. But even more to the point—‘cuz there are bands that I discover that I don’t share with my friends--but it is incredibly rare that I go to a concert by myself. So concert going is almost more social than listening to music.
With Spotify, SoundCloud, and Songkick, Europe seems to be a center for music-related technology companies. That’s interesting.
I think it is. There are a few reasons for that. The first is that the most natural place to base a technology company focused on the music industry is in a market that is very much a cultural capital, somewhere like New York--London, Berlin Tokyo or Austin (Texas) even. The kind of place where there is also an incredibly rich music scene.
Why pick London for your headquarters?
London has more concerts per year than any other city in the world. It is a very natural place for us to be based. Berlin has one of the most innovative audio scenes, so it’s a very natural place for SoundCloud to be based. Part of the reason that you are seeing a wave of music companies being built in Europe is because there are some incredible cultural capitals that are very aligned with the proposition of the product. That certainly does not mean a lack of engagement with Silicon Valley or indeed the U.S. in general.
You launched Songkick in the U.S.
We founded the company in the United States, and we raised our first capital in the United States. I spend most of my time on airplanes flying between San Francisco, London, L.A., New York and Nashville. To me, the challenge (was) to be based in a cultural capital, somewhere like New York or London or Berlin, but to be close enough to the core technology platforms, like Facebook, Apple and Google that exist in Silicon Valley.
You have done well in acquiring investment capital for Songkick. Are investors now coming back into the music business?
My view is that the investment that you are seeing flowing into the music industry is a function of the investment flowing into the technology industry, in general. I don’t think that the appetite to invest in music companies has grown faster than the appetite for investment in other forms of technology companies. There is a big up-swell in the past six months of capital flowing into technology start-ups.
[Songkick has been funded by “angels” and VCs from the technology and music industries. Published reports indicate that Songkick raised $5 million to launch. It first landed a $15,000 investment from Y Combinator, and later received investments from SoftTech VC, The Accelerator Group, Index Ventures, and Betaworks (and has support of such high-fliers as Alex Zubillaga, Jeff Clavier, Stefan Glaenzer, Peter Read, and Dan Porter). In Feb. 2011, Songkick raised $1.9 million of a $2 million funding round.]
The new link between mobile, and music distribution might interest some investors.
I’m not sure that (rights) challenges have fundamentally gone away. If you are building a company that requires access to recorded music, you still have significant logistical challenges in working with the content owners to find a product definition that matches both sides’ expectations. Just look at Spotify. It took two years for them to get deals in place to let them launch in the States. That kind of (rights) challenge still exists. That personally is what I find so impressive about entrepreneurs like Daniel (Ek) and Martin (Lorentzon) at Spotify--that they are still trying, despite all of the challenges. In many ways, they invested more time and energy on the legal side of things than typically a technology company would.
In many ways, you’ve taken on a sector of the music industry that has traditionally tried to do little more with than sell tickets. Certainly, it has done very little to retain its customers until recently.
Yeah, I think that’s a very elegant way of putting it. If you look at the evolution of technology and concerts, there were some pretty massive innovations back in the day---with amplification that enabled a band to go from playing to 20 people in a room to 100,000 people at a festival. That is an example where technology really benefited the fan. You could argue that the airplane benefited the fan because it meant that they could see their favorite bands even if they didn’t live in the same geography. But, in terms of the past 20 years, all of the innovation has been focused on the venue. Ticketmaster, essentially, has entirely been focused on the venue from when Fred Rosen built it (30 years ago) all the way through to now, really.
[In a New York Times profile of Fred Rosen published June 11, 2011, Janet Morrissey wrote, “Mr. Rosen shook up the ticketing industry by allying himself with venues and promoters. They were his customers — not the fans, and not the performers. He rolled out a centralized distribution system that let people buy tickets over the phone, through retail outlets and later, online, saving them the trouble of having to line up at a box office.
He bet that arena owners and promoters would sign up in droves if they were offered a percentage of every ticket that was sold using a “convenience” or “service” charge, and he was right.”]
Fred Rosen secured exclusive contracts that made Ticketmaster the only game in town for tickets at many venues. Meanwhile, there was little research into how to sell tickets, or even where to sell tickets. Today, ticketing companies and concert promoters know that they are in need of data.
Yes. The problem with focusing so hard on the venues, and optimizing around the venue’s interests was that the fan was ignored for many years. What Songkick is trying to do is champion the fan in concert going, and make it so easy for fans to go to concerts, and discover great shows so that they go to more shows.
Songkick wasn’t welcomed by many in the concert business. AEG Live’s Rob Hallett (president of international touring) said he wouldn’t support a service referring consumers to ticket resellers. He told Andre Paine in Billboard.biz (March 13, 2010), "The last thing our industry needs is another third party trying to make money on the back of our risk.”
Yeah. Well, that was a good while ago, right? There was a degree of misunderstanding about what we were doing when we first launched. Some of the parties saw us as being another middleman. What we are actually doing is solving a problem that all of these guys complain about--that is that tickets are going unsold. They will tell you that if you ask fans why they didn’t go to a show that it is not that it was priced too much or because they couldn’t get a babysitter. It is because they didn’t know the show was happening in the first place.
Have attitudes toward Songkick changed?
Once people realized that the fundamental thing that we are doing is increasing attendance at shows, we have had a universal positive reaction from the industry, whether it’s with ticket vendors like Ticketmaster, and AEG--with the new stuff that they are doing with Access—and with Ticketfly and smaller players or agencies, venues, managers, and promoters. It’s been pretty much universal that we have been welcomed once people realized what we were actually doing.
Primary ticket vendors and some promoters were furious about Songkick referring consumers to ticket re-sellers.
In general, middlemen are not very keen middlemen. If you are a middleman like a ticket vendor (working) between bands, artists and venues, then you tend to view new middlemen as a negative thing until you understand if they are positive or negative for your business. We have sort of proven to these guys that we are driving incremental ticket sales. As a result, they seem very excited about that.
Songkick still generates sales for ticket re-sellers.
We try to make sure that the fans buy the cheapest, and the best ticket. Our view is that we want to be a neutral aggregator of everything available. So if there are fans who want to know what the availability is in secondary (ticket) markets, we will show them. We list everything from pre-selling of inventory to on-sale prime inventory to secondary inventory to distressed inventory.
We try to make sure that every time we rank (a ticket that it is) in order of the attractiveness to the fan. So pre-sale comes first, then primary, and then secondary. We also clearly display the brand so that (fans) will know who they are linking out to; and we display the price of the ticket. So we just make (everything) very transparent to the fan. They know what they are getting into when they go out to a particular vendor.
The ticket market itself is fragmenting with the emergence of ticketing companies like Ticketfly, and Eventbrite, as well as Crowdsurge, Bandcamp, and Topspin that are also servicing the sector with social marketing platforms.
I think that’s right. What’s interesting is that it is fragmenting on multiple dimensions. Historically, you had an incredibly monopolized market that was very much focused around ticketing, and that was optimized for the venue’s experience in ticketing--the Ticketmaster model that Fred Rosen built. Ticketmaster was, obviously, very much a monopoly in the U.S. Outside, of the U.S. has always been more fragmented because there have been less exclusive deals.
Now, in the U.S., there are multiple dimensions of fragmentation. The first dimension is on long tail ticketing. Companies like Eventbrite have been growing explosively, bringing a market of ticketing that has historically been offline, online. Secondly, you have the players that are competing directly with TicketMaster for their core business--venue-centric ticketing people like Ticketfly. Thirdly, there is a new dimension of artist-centric ticketing where the ticketing experience is very much optimized around what the artist needs rather than what the venue needs. There you have companies like CloudSearch, Crowdsurge and Topspin which have been growing like gangbusters as well.
There’s a fourth category of disruption which is the model that Fred Rosen is sort of introducing with his new Outbox Enterprises product that is a lot less focused on the ticketing company being its own consumer brand and more focused on the ticketing company being a facilitator for all the different players in the eco-system.
[Outbox Enterprises is comprised of Rosen, AEG, Outbox Technology, and Cirque Du Soleil. Outbox's white label ticketing solution has presented itself as a rival to Ticketmaster's centralized system, and an increased white label approach is what Rosen sees as the industry's not-too-distant future. "There's no room for a third party anymore, for a middle man," Rosen said in his July 15th (2011) keynote speech at Ticket Summit in Las Vegas. "The building is a brand, every team is a brand...so ideally what they want is a direct relationship with the consumer."]
Is Songkick now sharing data with bands so they don’t have to update tour information on a case-by-case basis? So Songkick can do it for bands across-the-board.
It is actually. That was a new development for us last year when bands (reps) started to approach us saying, “I manage five to 10 public profiles on the web--from Facebook to MySpace to Twitter to YouTube to SoundCloud, and Bandcamp; all of these different places. I have to type in our 40 tour dates six times. It’s a lot of manual work. Keeping those dates updated is a lot of work. You guys already have all this data. Could you automate that process?”
So over the past year, we have spent a bunch of time doing partnerships with the leading artist services companies, like SoundCloud, Bandcamp, Topspin, FanBridge, and Root Music. In the process of doing that, and with YouTube, we made it possible to automatically have their tour dates syndicated across all their various profiles, on all of these different sites. So they only have to enter the date once with Songkick, and we will manage the syndication for them.
We are working closer and closer with bands, their management companies, and with their labels and agencies to stream and to simplify that process. So the band can spend more time making music and less time doing data entry.
[Songkick has partnerships with Bandcamp, Crowdsurge, FanBridge, Topspin, SoundCloud and Ning. By allowing these companies to use Songkick's API, artists can use Songkick to propagate concert listings and ticket links at the partner services without any additional manual data entry.
Also, once installed, Songkick’s Facebook app pulls an artist's concert info from Songkick and places it on the artist's Facebook page under a concert tab that is marked by the Songkick logo.]
In May, Songkick landed a deal to integrate its live event and ticketing platform into Warner Music Group’s artist websites.
Warner Music Group is an example of an entire label embracing that approach. They said, “Look, we’re managing tour dates for hundreds of acts at a given point in time. It doesn’t make sense for us to be doing this huge volume of manual data entry. Let’s partner with the leading concert aggregator,” which was us.
[The deal to integrate Songkick’s live event and ticketing platform into Warner Music Group’s artist websites is specific to Atlantic Records, and Warner Bros. Records.]
Does Songkick trawl through info from music blog aggregators for concert information?
We actually don’t. We have a partnership with The Hype Machine where we syndicate our concert data to them. So if you are listening to songs by White Denim on The Hype Machine, alongside that experience, it will show you that White Denim is playing a concert near you. This basically increases exposure of that band’s tour dates.
Many fans will champion a band until they become big. People often prefer bands below the radar. With music-based sites like Songkick, it’s becoming harder for a band to stay below the radar.
Yeah. That’s a really good point. I sort of wonder if we may see a subgenre of bands emerge that deliberately will keep themselves off the internet because they don’t want that exposure in the early days. They don’t want to grow up as fast. But the mainstream of bands are very keen to find as many new fans as possible. They embrace the internet as a great distribution platform for their music, and as a great way of attracting a larger audience.
The internet has certainly overturned that traditional cycle of a band taking two or three albums to break. That cycle is down to 60 to 90 days in some cases.
I agree with you, and I don’t think that cycle is just for bands. That is for any form of content that can be distributed on the web. Historically, it wasn’t possible to grow services as rapidly as it is now. It is crazy that our app went from zero users to 100,000 users in two weeks with no marketing. That was not possible a few years ago. You can say the same thing about other product launches, and other things that have occurred on the web. That is just a general trend of the web accelerating adoption of high quality content. However, there is another side to the point that you are making which is that if your stuff isn’t good, it is even harder to find an audience because you don’t have any highly concentrated media channels that you can pump it through. So, although good things are blowing up faster, I think that it is much harder for something that is not that good to get to a large audience.
There is something to be said for a band spending 18 months or more touring clubs and building an audience. Today, an act can be well known but not have the live experience to back them up.
Everything that you are saying resonates with me. The big challenge is that if you make something really extraordinary that stands out, that consumers are very excited about, then it will spread faster than it has ever spread before. There is a real challenge in (a band) managing that growth, and developing their proficiency in playing live, and their ability at making records alongside that. That’s the new reality. It is as much of a challenge for technology companies growing up fast to musicians growing up fast. The only way to break that cycle is to try to throttle the amount of distribution you seek from the web.
Were you a music fan growing up?
Yeah, always. It’s been one of my biggest passions since I was a kid. I used to sing in a choir, and I played a bunch of instruments. I was DJing when I was in school. I have been DJing ever since---mainly hip hop and funk. Some of my best memories have been at concerts, and at festivals. I have always been a huge music fan. it’s always been part of my core interests.
You were raised in London?
South East London. The place I grew is about 15 minutes south-east of Brixton. That was a great thing for me growing up. There were amazing venues nearby because I was so close to Brixton. I could go to the Brixton Academy, and I could go to (such clubs as) The Fridge and The Dogstar there. I had some fantastic live music on my doorstep growing up. As a result, I got into music early.
You attended Cambridge University, home to the amateur theatrical club Footlights, famed for having such members as Hugh Laurie, Peter Cooke, Stephen Fry, Sacha Baron Cohen, and members of Monty Python.
I was a member of Footlights at Cambridge. I did quite a bit of improvisational comedy when I was at university. That was one of my passions when I was at school. I don’t think Cambridge has been that famous for DJs, but I tried.
After university, you went to Beijing, and later worked for Bain & Company in Singapore.
I had this huge passion for China, and I wanted to get my Mandarin to a level where it was better than it was. I spent awhile in Beijing. I was studying Mandarin Chinese and I was DJing hip hop. The reason I worked for Bain was that I felt that it would be a useful introduction to business--that it would help give me a rapid education in some of the mechanics of running a business successfully. Also because they were going to give me the opportunity to work in both Asia and Silicon Valley, two places that are dear to my heart. So I worked for Bain in Singapore--which is their Asian hub--and then I worked for them in Silicon Valley as well.
When you started Songkick, was it difficult recruiting staff? One of your first hirings was Phil Cowans, who was then working at Microsoft Research. Persuading him to quit his job to join your new company must have been challenging.
You are right. That is always going to be one of the biggest challenges for starting a business, especially if it’s your first business because you don’t have any credibility. You don’t have that much traction. Phil was a friend of a friend of a friend. We reached out to him, and said, “We are starting this company, we want you to be our first hire on the technology side.” He said he wasn’t that interested. He had a good thing going on (at Microsoft Research).
I just said, “Can you spare half an hour for coffee?” Over that coffee, Phil went from being luke-warm on the idea to being really excited by the idea. We sort of took it from there. Most of our key hires have had some element of that experience. Every time you hire someone, you sort of are punching above your weight. You are trying to bring in people who are more experienced than you are, and that can help you scale the vision for the business. So you are always in the process of punching above your weight, and getting people to take a risk.
Songkick recently hired some senior management.
We brought in (technologist) Dan Crow who was formerly at Apple, and Google--a very senior hire. We hired Mike Harkey who ran music (and books) at eBay, and was general manager of Imageshack (the mobile photo sharing service) that does about 50 million unique (visitors) a month, as our U.S. general manager. We hired Sheryl Seitz (as VP Communications) who used to run communications for Apple in Europe.
So we have been making fairly senior experienced hires. And, every time there’s been that, “let’s get a coffee moment.”
[Dan Crow, a former Tech Lead/Manager at Google for search and mobile, has a particularly impressive CV. He’s a PhD in Machine Learning, worked at Apple, and was a co-founder of three start-ups in Silicon Valley, including Blurb. He then did six years at Google in New York and London.
Crow worked on Google Mobile Apps, developing Google’s search applications for Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7, as well as Google Ads Professionals, and Rich Media Dynamic Ads. He founded and launched the Google Squared project.
Mike Harkey joined Songkick from ImageShack, where he was GM for sites totaling over 60 million monthly visitors. Previously, he worked at start-ups and led the music and books businesses for eBay. He’s authored over 20 academic case studies for Stanford University, where he received his MBA.]
You are looking to hire someone in L.A. to work with the music industry?
We are going to be hiring one person on the ground in Los Angeles to work on industry and artist relations. They will be working with all of the key artist management companies, all of the key (booking) agencies, and all the labels to make sure that we are doing everything we can to help those guys; and making sure that they are aware of all of the technology that we have built that can potentially help them sell more tickets on the next tour.
You don’t allow your employees to receive free tickets from venues or promoters.
The reason that I made that rule is that I observed a lot of the guys that worked at labels and ticket vendors--they don’t buy tickets. So they forget about the pain of the on-sale. They forget about the pain of being at their desk at 9 A.M., and sitting in this queue, and having their browser crash. All sorts of stuff. We could be on the list for every show we want to be on now given the reach we have, and the amount of fans that we drive to the industry. But I feel that if we start to do that, we will lose sense of what it means to be an average fan who is queuing up at 9 A.M. for the on-sale. I was watching my CTO (Dan Crow) and Michelle buy tickets for a Pulp concert the other day. Both of them got into the office at 9 A.M. for the on-sale. Both of them were cursing when they were trying to get a ticket. I know that (type of) experience will continue to improve our product.
You do give employees an allowance to go to concerts.
Yeah, we do. We give everybody a £25 stipend for buying concert tickets. So we aren’t completely heartless in helping our employees benefit from being a bit closer to the live music industry. There is a group of people here who are fantastic programmers, and who are passionate about music--who are really excited to combine those two passions. That is very much my background. I am a massive music fan, but I am also a huge fan of technology as well. I am particularly passionate about going to see live shows. We built a team in London that is, arguably, one the strongest development teams of any start-up in the U.K. We will continue to do that because we believe that the user experience and quality of technology is a huge part of our success.
How many concerts a year do you go to?
Well, it kind of varies. I travel a lot so I am typically on the road all of the time. When I am in another city, it is a bit harder to (go to concerts) because I wouldn’t have been able to get tickets to the show that I want to go to. Often, I will book tickets in London, and then I will have to be in New York or in San Francisco. So I will end up missing out on the show. I will go to 10 to 30 concerts, depending on the year.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide.”