On a recent visit to New York I tried to plan a night out to go see and hear live music. As an avid iphone application user, I inferred that I should easily be able to find a New York music calendar app that would help us pick a show. After searching both the iphone app store and my mobile browser for “Live Music Calendar New York,” “New York Concert Calendar”, and “Concerts,” I came upon many sources that gave the location, name of bands, and general information such as hours and musical genre. Unfortunately, none provided audio samples of the bands and all of the necessary information in an easily navigable interface. All the listings required some knowledge about the location and band which made it necessary to check multiple sources. My fictitious mobile site, application, and website would be created to fill this void in a scalable manner.
(Mockup of user interface of MMM website)
The media involved…
MMM would be accessible via the web, a mobile version of the site, and an iphone and android application. It would tie in sms and mms through marketing or ticketing initiatives, but the primary focus would be the interactive map that would require viewing on a desktop or web enabled “smart phone.” MMM would use Google Maps as the platform for development (see mockup above) just as other sites use the mapping technology coupled with gps to display relevant location-based content. Initially, the focus would be on developing the desktop version and iphone application because these have the quickest and most substantial impact amongst its target demographic of 16 to 35 year old urban concert goers. It will be catered to urban areas as these are where MMM’s audio could provide relevant content currently lacking in the marketplace. These major metropolitan areas have the highest concentration of live music, which increases the likelihood the concert goer has never heard what the listed band sounds like. The age demographic is the vast majority of concert-goers.
The Website and iphone app would be its initial focuses. According to the 2008 US Census, over 74% of the population has access to the internet, and admob’s Q4 2009 report indicated the iphone has over 54% of the mobile operating system share. The android app would be the 3rd initiative as it has 27% mobile operating system share, giving us potential exposure to 71% of web enabled phones.
MMM would start with venue data from an existing data feed partner. This would involve initial outreach and the negotiation of fees paid to a data feed (such as infoUSA), or the development of a tool for venues to feed their content and calendars into its back end.
In order to bring MMM to market as fast as possible, it would make sense to strike a partnership with an existing media company with an online catalog of music, rather than developing all of the relationships and licensing with bands and labels from scratch. Much of the music collection wouldn’t require heavy negotiation as it would be from bands that aren’t on heavily-promoted big labels, as the general point is to let users hear bands they don’t know. There are two potential partners who fit the music feed requirements, both at very different levels of development and popularity. Pandora Internet Radio is the largest online music service and is one of the most popular iphone applications. With 37 million registered users, it has a huge audience that use it to listen to music from their phone or online. They do not provide ticketing for concerts, nor do they have a calendar. MMM could be developed with a plug-in capability for Pandora’s content that would include (as incentive) a potential revenue stream for Pandora in ticketing. Pandora’s only current revenue source is advertising, and they may be amenable to the idea of another stream. If a partnership was struck, Pandora would have a vested interest in making their 37 million registered users aware of MMM.
Tourvolume is a newer web and mobile site (with a purported mobile application on the way) that already incorporates a calendar and music player with concert data for over 115,000 cities around the world, music from over 46,000 artists, and stock information for over 33,000 venues. The music player technology itself is not as crucial as the rights and compiled music files. Its web traffic is very small with around 1,000 monthly unique visitors, and there is no measurable data for the mobile site. For a frame of reference, many small venues in each city have over 1k monthly unique visitors. The fact that Pandora has over 37 million registered users and such a large mobile audience through the iphone and other “smart phones” would make striking a partnership with them significantly more difficult than working with Tourvolume. Partnering with Tourvolume would not have the marketing advantages of Pandora, but would cost significantly less in terms of revenue sharing.
Concert ticketing would be the revenue source for MMM and developing the ticketing technology marketplace and agreements with venues would not be part of the initial rollout. Ticketmaster/Live Nation sells over 45 million tickets a year to high profile music concerts, and there are many online ticketing companies that provide for smaller venues and concerts. MMM would strike affiliate deals when it is rolled out to each new market, to be paid per ticket purchased through MMM.
While the web version of MMM has the most current potential for building an audience based on total number of potential users, the mobile application has the most opportunity for impact. MMM’s scalability would allow for it to be replicated in every major metropolitan market, and the mobile piece is what would make the most sense for tourists orientating themselves with the local geography and music scene and locals who use their phones to plan entertainment. The gps locator will give users the ability to plan based on their current location and in relation to the venue’s location. More and more people use their phone to plan entertainment around them, and MMM will capitalize on the increasing demand. Many people also use their phone to listen to music, so not only is that a recognized vehicle for consuming music, but it’s generally easier for the user than through desktop website. One of the major differentiating factors between MMM and the current major players in the mobile music calendar ecosystem, is giving the user the ability to hear what an unfamiliar band sounds like.
Why spend the money to build it?
Two things justify development costs associated with MMM:
- The current void in the marketplace.
- The revenue potential.
Currently there is no universal online/mobile concert calendar in every major market. There are different players in different markets. Metromix has event guides in many urban areas and provides data to newspaper websites such as LaTimes.com that both optimize well on search engines and have significant traffic. There are also regional concert promoters who have online calendars and (to a lesser degree) mobile sites and apps. The combined company of Ticketmaster (the world’s largest ticket seller both online and off) and LiveNation (the largest concert promoter) have extensive calendar directories, but they only offer information on shows for which they are selling tickets. These are for well known acts at larger venues, and the majority of concerts and venues do not work with these companies. None of these directory and ticketing sites and apps combine the functionality proposed for MMM with a one-stop site for tickets.
According to Billboard Magazine, the concert business was up worldwide in 2009, with total revenue of $4.4 billion, up nearly 12% over 2008. Total concert attendance was 73 million, which was similarly up nearly 13% from the previous year. MMM would have affiliate deals with Ticketmaster/LiveNation, which pays up to $5 per ticket sold as well as negotiated rates with other vendors for smaller shows. There are sites that provide online ticketing for smaller venues such as brownpapertickets and MMM would negotiate deals with these entities as well.
Who are the key players in the mobile ecosystem?
For MMM’s mobile apps and site, it would be reliant on Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s) such as HTC to provide the gps chips in the phones it would use to geo-locate its users. It would be required to follow Apple’s itunes guidelines in order to offer an app to iphone users, and eventually do the same with android. The rest of the mobile ecosystem would be made up of the content partners I have referenced above for the audio (Pandora or Tourvolume) and ticketing (Ticketmaster/LiveNation, brownpaper, etc…). Map functionality is the core component of its app, and MMM would be reliant on Google maps in the same way that Yelp’s “monocle” and Urbanspoon’s “scope” functionality is plotted. MMM would develop pinpoint technology (see screenshot on page one) that utilized Google maps. It may want to use an aggregator or other operating systems (Windows Mobile, Symbian) after it has developed its iphone and android apps. The mobile ecosystem is changing so rapidly that it seems reasonable for MMM to focus initially on the 2 most widely used mobile operating systems and marketplaces in the US only.
Again, there is currently no dominant player in the mobile concert calendar ecosystem. Local mobile versions of the sites referenced above (Metromix Mobile, Village Voice Media’s “Seattle Weekly Mobile” and others), as well as concert apps (Seattle Stranger App) exist, but have not gained critical mass and lack the functionality outlined herewith.
What are the main challenges?
The biggest challenge in creating MMM is striking content partnerships in a timely manner. That is why it might be advantageous to work with a provider such as Tourvolume, who has sufficient data, but not the traffic that would demand higher fees and a longer time table to get MMM to market. Another large challenge is in reaching those potential users who are without “smart phones”. Although non web-enabled phones still make up the majority of the populous, MMM is targeted more specifically to the younger urban person who is more likely to have a web-enabled phone. Its desktop version will allow users to text the concert info to themselves, and potentially can have the ticketing be delivered to the phone so the user would not have to print a copy. There could be a unique bar code for each ticket, and the venues could either register the person via bar code scanner (which is currently available on a web enabled ipod touch or iphone).
How will the program gain exposure?
Depending on the partners in place, there would be differing avenues to promote MMM to the concert-going public. If MMM were able to secure a content sharing agreement with an existing entity with significant music-related-traffic, it would leverage that traffic and partnership to reach an initial audience. MMM would definitely run a Google adwords campaign for both web and mobile search. MMM would focus its search spend on long-tail keywords such as “Seattle Reggae Concert,” instead of “Seattle Concert,” which tend to be significantly more expensive. While most people do not click on sponsored results, they are very visible and would drive relevant traffic to both the web and mobile versions of MMM.
The concert venues, promoters, and bands all have a vested interest in selling more tickets and MMM would focus on incentives to these parties to promote MMM to their own audiences. One way could be to give dedicated links back to the bands to include on their social networking initiatives and giving its affiliate commission back to the party that drove the sale. MMM could also “power” the calendars of venues and bands who don’t want to spend the money to develop their own infrastructure. Terrestrial Radio would be the one non-web or mobile advertising channel MMM would consider, as it is where many people listen to music and hear about concerts.
First partnerships for MMM…
There are numerous ways MMM could go about becoming the dominant player in online and mobile concert calendaring. If Tourvolume was interested in the idea of integrating data with MMM’s functionality, the development costs could be quite small and the enterprise could be funded by a small group of founders and investors. However, if it makes sense to develop the sites first before seeking strategic alliances, then major venture funding might be necessary. With the void in the marketplace and revenue potential; the keys to success would be expediency to market and key partnerships with ticket sellers. Regardless of how it was implemented, MMM could incorporate mapping functionality with a concert calendar, audio catalog, and ticketing into one web and mobile source that empowers concert-goers.
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