Imagine if you could get your favourite act to perform in your front room or local pub. Sure, we know the world’s millionaire’s get that dream – just look at Amy Winehouse performing for Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovitch at the launch of his art gallery. That’s not how real life works though, is it?
Former music-industry executive Richard Davies disagrees. He’s launched OwnGig.com, a place music fans can bid for musicians to play intimate gigs. Part social, part musical, the idea is the service gathers people with similar tastes together into geographical areas. Then, as they bid, eventually there’s enough cash to book the act and the fans get to watch the band(s) where they want, a slice of life on millionaire’s row.
It’s an innovative approach that melds the connectivity of the internet with the power of music. Davies, who launched one of the earliest UK download services in the mid-’90’s, reflects on the changing relationship between labels and the internet. “Digital has become central to any music-related business strategy,” he explains. “There’s a long way to go but hopefully we’ve turned a corner.”
Declining music sales means there’s more of a need to focus on performance income as a musical future emerges that seems set to become a massive market of multiple niches. “I see OwnGig.com as servicing a multitude of audiences, where smaller, less-established acts are as important as the big names,” says Davies.
The network is becoming critical. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to market to disparate audiences who dissect any form of traditional advertising,” Davies explains, “if you can communicate your message to key (trusted) members of social networks, then the power of word of mouth is invaluable.”
It’s a shrewd notion: ask many promoters and they’ll tell you how they’re finding it harder to fill smaller venues: beer prices, the smoking ban and money woes are eroding audiences at non-mainstream live events. As file-sharing also continues to erode recorded music profits, bands are much more willing to consider off-the-wall events.
Does OwnGig.com threaten existing promoters and booking agencies? “I’m not sure it will transform the system – we strongly believe it will complement it,” he said. “I do hope it will generate better understanding of regional demand for artists, and help erode the need for secondary ticket markets (ticket touts).”
Will the artists be interested? Davies thinks they might, saying, “A wider range of artists are prepared to undertake bespoke shows, but we lacked a means of making them accessible to the hardcore fan.”
Spreading its word, OwnGig.com will soon introduce social network applications, beginning with MySpace. These will let users share gig experiences and attempt to get other people interested in joining them in a bid for a band, making that exclusive party more likely to happen.
The first UK OwnGig events should take place across the next few months – and if you love comedy, “we’re soon to add a comedy database,” Davies explains.