For independent musicians, cash flow depends largely on gigs. Book ’em regularly, and you’re living large.
Now there’s GigTown, a mobile app that enables anyone—from casual fans to event planners and managers at music venues—to discover and book local acts in four cities: San Diego, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Austin. It also affords musicians an alternative path to market themselves on a broader stage—for free.
Since the app launched earlier this year, more than 500 musicians have signed up, ranging from solo performers to the San Diego State University marching band. Investors have also rallied behind the San Diego-based company, including Ralph Whitworth, former chairman of Hewlett-Packard, and NFL quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.
GigTown is the brainchild of Steve Altman, former president and vice chairman of tech giant Qualcomm, and his son Andy. The two hatched the idea when planning an annual fundraiser for diabetes research. While lamenting the challenges of finding local bands to hire, the Altmans realized there was an opportunity to build technology that could solve the problem on a broad scale.
“The real power of GigTown lies in connecting fans, musicians and, ultimately, venues in an intelligent and meaningful way,” says Steve Altman, who invested $2 million of his own money to get the company off the ground. “We’re establishing connections where previously there weren’t many outside of the established world of music promotion.”
The app centers on searchable musician profiles—Facebook-style homepages where musicians can upload audio tracks, biographical information and video footage of performances—sorted by genre, geographic area and other parameters. To book a band for a private party, users simply click a button. GigTown takes a 13 percent cut of each booking.
Musicians say they love GigTown because it provides an easy way to promote themselves on their own terms. They set their hourly rates (ranging from $25 to $4,000) and can accept as many or as few gigs as they wish. San Diego singer-songwriter Ryan Hiller performs up to 20 shows per month and says GigTown saves him as much as 10 hours per week—time he used to spend chasing down gigs on his own.
“In this business, as with any freelance business, it takes a substantial amount of work just to get more work,” Hiller says. “Anything that can help me manage these efforts in one location is going to make my life easier.”
Investors like the app’s scalability and the ease with which it can be set up in new markets. Brees, a self-described music fanatic, played a critical role in bringing GigTown to New Orleans, even using the service to book bands at his most recent fundraiser for The Brees Dream Foundation.
Over the next few months, the Altmans will work to add more cities and roll out a geolocation function that pushes recommendations to users based on their musical preferences. They’ve already incorporated a feature that enables venues to push sales and promotions directly to GigTown users when it notices that those users are in the neighborhood or on-site.
It’s all part of the Altmans’ plan to make booking and paying a band as easy as hailing a car through Uber. As Andy Altman explains, “We’re all about artists making money.”