Saturday 13 June 2009

Songkick - A User's report

Let’s have a look at Songkick

This is a new website/application that aims to do for live gigs what IMDB does for films and Last fm does for music. It's been running a beta version, but is now properly up in all its glory.

The premise is simple, if daunting. Users create a shared database of gigs that they have been to in the past and the site collates these to issue alerts of when a user’s favourite band is touring (including the opportunity to buy tickets).

Does it work? It’s early days yet, but the signs are promising. It does help if a user is already operating a Last FM account, as information about preferences can be easily transferred from one to the other. For the rest of us, there is an initial, rather laborious stage of loading information into an account. Actually, it’s only onerous if you want to load in details of past events that you have been to and you live in clubs as much as I do.

The task that Songkick has set itself is to be an index of live performance. This is always going to be tough as, unlike records and singles, gigs are fleeting in nature and once they have occurred they are gone forever. Recollection of past events can be hazy, even for the performers involved, let alone any punters who happened to be in the vicinity.

As an experiment I tried to update my account with details of those gigs that I have attended this year and last. As perhaps was to be expected, given the somewhat specialist nature of these shows and the relative obscurity of a lot of the acts, in most cases the Songkick database had no record of either the concert or the participants.

To rectify this I had to put the gig on their database and then indicate that “I was there”. This rapidly became a bit of a pain.

It was also the case that the coverage of some ‘bigger’ acts was patchy. The Magazine gigs at the Forum earlier in the year were present and correct, Buzzcocks high profile Shepherds Bush Empire show was absent, although other Buzzcocks dates were listed as options. Even stranger was The Fall’s 1st April show at Koko which appeared to be missing, and the computer message that came up saying “You cannot add a date for The Fall.”

I appreciate that the database can only reflect the information that is added to it, and that it will gradually become more populated, but at the moment it is frustratingly arbitrary. It’s a Catch-22, the site will become better the more people use it, but until more people sign up, it is slightly limited at the moment.

There are nice interactive touches. Users can approve a particular concert via a five-star rating, or post their own reviews. There is the inevitable social networking element that will enable fans of a particular band to flock together. I suspect that in time it will more fully integrate with Last FM.

The ‘Tracker’ feature is hugely impressive. As the site scrobbles the contents of your iPod (other music players are available), it matches the acts with its own database of forthcoming gigs and lets you know who is coming to your area. This feature will get ever better as bands and promoters notify Song Kick of their activities as a matter of course.

If you know of a gig that is not on the database, you can add it yourself ( I have just added Suzerain’s forthcoming headline slot at Brixton Fridge on 19 June).

A feature that I would like to see (unless it is already on there and I haven’t worked it out yet) is a ‘newly added’ feature that notifies you of freshly announced gigs from acts that you may be interested in, in addition to the current calendar. In an age where attendance at a gig can depend upon being speedy with an internet booking, this would be very useful. [UPDATE: Such a feature does exist. You can arrange for an email to be sent to you notifying you of changes. I now know that Pere Ubu are playing the ICA in September]

However, as I say above, it’s early days. At the moment, I’m very impressed with this site and would commend it to you. Incidentally, it is international, so it’s not just UK users who may benefit.

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