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Why the live industry is missing out

Marcus Russel, Berlin-based CEO of gigmit, questions whether a reluctance to embrace groundbreaking technologies is hindering the live music business

19 Jul 2019

Marcus Russel, Gigmit

Having worked in the live music industry for nearly 20 years now, I can see we are on the brink of change.

During the early years, I discovered that many artists struggled with getting gigs or even a response from promoters. Through these observations, I became immersed in the start-up world, exploring new technology to improve the live market.

The start-up culture feels so vibrant. Everybody wants to help each other. Everybody is coming up with new and revolutionary ideas, and some of them have huge potential.

I see it like this: there are a bunch of people that aspire to improve our world, either the environment or workflows and processes. It became apparent that a new way of communication between promoters and artists could help, that there was a missing link, and this is how the idea for Gigmit was initially conceived: a fast-growing, online platform for music booking that connects artists to promoters, and therefore helps to make live better.

While attending many conferences through our EU-funded INES project, I realised that there is very much a one-track mind in the live music industry, and maybe beyond live.

What has happened? Two years ago, I met up with a German concert promoter who stated that their margin is usually only about 5–10% profit. If they want to expand their business, they just need to do more and more concerts, and, of course, grow by running after bigger and bigger acts. In comparison, within the same industry, Gigmit has been running for six years now, and fortunately we have an average annual growth of 80%, and based on the registered artist-user amount, the biggest online live music booking platform in Europe. So it’s clear that fresh ideas can take off.

During last year’s Reeperbahn Festival, I noticed that there is an increasing sense among the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the concert promoters, that the biggest music companies are taking over. They feel that these big companies come into markets and take control. This is because they have the money, they can. It can prevent the SMEs from starting out or flourishing, as often financially they cannot compete with the big fish.

Recently, something unusual has come to my attention, which could be a contributor to the shortcomings within the market. I have met so many great entrepreneurs with fantastic technology and teams but all of them seem to be struggling to find somebody in the live music industry to partner up with who is prepared to take a small risk and try something new, something that hasn’t happened before. These SMEs are unable to find the right partners.

What would have happened if DHP Family and SoundCloud had been connected in the early days? Or Spotify and FKP Scorpio?

Eventually, the big players agree to invest in or buy the successful projects because they can, but only because there’s nobody else. I got the same impression when Sony Music invested in our company. There wasn’t a long queue of SME concert promoters approaching me beforehand, and it’s not that I didn’t chase them…

Nowadays, 40% of tickets to live gigs go unsold, concert promotion is a big issue, and traditional publishing companies in the music space struggle a lot. So isn’t now the perfect time to embrace the uncertain, the technology, the maybe unconventional ideas of young start-ups within the industry?

The music industry needs to embrace this fresh outlook, these innovative methods. People are not usually in it just for the money – it’s their passion.

We started out because we wanted to help artists and promoters to get more gigs with less effort. In our team, we have the mentality that we will never, ever give up. While we work on the use of our large database to predict ticket sales for gigs, and help with the perfect match between artists and promoters – think of it like Tinder for gigs! – I still hope that we will find some brave music companies to partner with on the way, and for other start-ups too.

One thing is for sure: there are still so many things in the music sector that can be improved or even revolutionised through technology, and there is enough money in the sector (not just with the biggest players) to take risks and get it started.

Imagine what would happen if concert promoters met the innovative tech people. What would have happened if DHP Family and SoundCloud had been connected in the early days? Or Spotify and FKP Scorpio? Perhaps the music world might look a bit different, and quite possibly work a bit better.

What we need are more alliances between these SMEs, on both ends, technology and music, in order to create unique projects, and the kind of value that no money in the world can buy.


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