Mobile concerts apps vie for your credit card love and attention — what's next? And why should we care?
TIPPING THE SCALE
WillCall's newest offerings seem the techy approach to the concert industry. Why can't we just go to DIY house shows, get sweaty, meet the bands, buy a shirt off the table, and reminisce about it all in person, anymore? That still happens, but for a different demographic than would typically use these apps.
The kind of standard, everyperson concert-goer in a major city would likely discover new music on Spotify or Rdio, then buy tickets on a website. So the industry is becoming more tech-oriented anyway.
But concepts like "band-tipping" seem wayward, depending on the show — there's a reason you usually tip a bartender, valet, or stripper and not the musicians. Remember that cover to get in to the show? The ticket you were sold? Some of that was for the band, and it will get a cut.
Dinch says he sees the new features as "like an extra, a 'thank you,' a 'you deserve this,'" if someone is particularly enjoying a set and wants to give a little more, directly to the artist.
See, bands can no longer make money from albums sales thanks to file-sharing, low-paying online music streaming services, and a whole host of infected music industry problems, so these shows really are their biggest source of income, and a little extra here and there couldn't hurt. Most bands don't get $1.2 million in venture capital infusions like start-ups do.
Dinch says the idea came about during a casual staff conversation in the office's "cozy room," which is exactly what it sounds like.
The first time they tried it was at a Tanlines pop-up at the Rickshaw Stop with Aaron Axelsen, who runs weekly 18+ dance party Popscene. "We did it at first in a real hacky way...during the show we sent everyone a one-time thing that said like, 'If you're having fun, swipe to tip the artist' and if they didn't swipe, it was gone forever." Nearly 50 percent of the crowd tipped $5 each. And it was money that went directly to the artist.
"Right around the time we did that we heard Amanda Palmer's TED talk," Dinch says, referring to the alt-rocker's impassioned plea suggesting artists be directly supported by fans. "And I think people really do underestimate the generosity of the crowd. Or, at the very least, underestimate the guilt the crowd feels for not paying for music properly. But I think if people thought there was an easy way to give money directly to the artist, they would do it a lot more."
Right now, the buying-merch function of the app is limited. If you buy something using your phone at the show, the item gets shipped directly to your home — that way you can, "still get sloshed and not worry about carrying a shirt or poster around." Or if you don't have cash, or don't want to wait in line, all of these things are removed from the equation. However, can you still claim you "got it at the show," when you actually ordered it online while at the show? Should that even matter?
"If it's easy for me to buy some shit, I'm probably going to buy it," Dinch says. "That sounds weird but if it's like, three taps and I have a t-shirt...I probably wouldn't wait in line for a long time, but I'd happily do this in five seconds."
Both WillCall and Thrillcall have those oft-repeated origin stories, as tech companies are expected to push these days.