Transforming live music with data, choice, and opportunity
GigPig is putting years of music industry experience to good use
Last Thursday, media and tech publication Prolific North announced its new Tech Companies to Watch list and I went along to the event. I knew some of the early-stage startups on the list (because I contributed to it!) but some were brand new to me - maybe they will be to you, too. It’s worth a look at the list in full.
One I definitely knew on there was GigPig, because I’d just interviewed them for today’s edition. Scroll down to read more about this startup looking to transform the live music industry, straight after our latest Member Spotlight.
A few weeks back I mentioned a seemingly baffling UK Government move that could see some of Tech Nation’s work transferred to Barclays. Now tech policy body Coadec has published an Open Letter to the British Government in response, and on the broader topic of support for the tech sector. I’ve signed it; you might want to as well.
💡 Member spotlight
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James Taylor is the founder and managing director of Roaring Mouse Public Relations, a specialist PR agency for early-stage technology businesses, primarily B2B startups in fields like data, A.I., IoT, SaaS, fintech, cleantech, and medtech.
I always like it when PR companies are selective about who they work with, and James says Roaring Mouse is a purpose-driven consultancy that only works with companies that “make the world smarter, fairer, and greener”.
He says startups that succeed tend to inspire three levels of belief: in their company, their product, and the size and significance of the problems they solve. They also evolve their message to the different needs of their early adopter and mainstream market buyers.
James encourages early-stage founders to think about how they might inspire those three levels of belief and establish the kind of proof that potential customers, investors and employees will want to see.
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GigPig wants to transform live music with a lot more choice, opportunity, and data
The pandemic threatened to kill nightlife. But while times are tough, punters still want live music, and venues still need artists to provide it. Looking to apply a fresh approach to matching musicians and venues is Manchester-based GigPig.
An online marketplace, it helps artists find venues, and venues find artists, while replacing traditional agents, and putting sources of data to smart use. GigPig co-founder and CEO Michael Forster says that it’s about opening up opportunities for artists and helping them avoid high agency fees, while making life easier and providing more choice for venues.
“We want to democratise the market and give [artists] much broader access to venues which they wouldn't normally get to play in because they don't have access to an agent or booker who is booking that venue. And the flip of that is the venues will get a much broader access to the market because they're not using a booker or an agent who has limited access to that market.”
Transforming the live music market
GigPig targets everything from large multi-venue chains, to small pubs, to holiday camps and beyond. The way it wants to switch things up in the market is through its business model and the ways it can use data to help venues make better choices. Before we get to that, it makes sense to understand how things generally work in the market today:
“At the moment, the way it works is a venue will pay a third-party agent or booker, probably per gig,” says Forster. “Quite often, those bookers and agents will also take a commission from the artist as well, or [only] from the artist.”
Conversely, GigPig only charges venues, while letting artists use the marketplace for free and non-exclusively. Pricing-wise, it offers a choice of pay-per-gig for small venues that only need to book performers for occasional slots, and a tiered subscription for venues that need to fill many slots per month. Venues that subscribe also get access to analytics that help them track things like the status of their gig slots, their monthly spend on artists.
But GigPig’s offering goes beyond merely booking gigs. Integrations with WiFi providers and EPOS (electronic point of sale) systems can cross-reference customer demographic and sales data with information about the kind of music being played on a particular night, making it easy to market particular nights to the kinds of people who are likely to enjoy them.
And because a venue can see what was selling well at the bar on a particular night, it opens up opportunities to approach drinks companies about targeted sponsorship opportunities for future events.
“Hospitality is facing its toughest times. In the past, a lot of people would say ‘where do we cut costs?’ And the entertainment offering might be one of those areas that got cut because there wasn't a concrete understanding of what its benefit was,” says Forster. “Now with this data, and all the analytics in our system, they can then re-market those nights out and get an ROI on their entertainment.”
Forster says GigPig saves venues between 66% and 90% on what they pay to access the market through agents and bookers, and gives them access to a broader selection of artists. And because it's going for a high-volume play on both sides of the market (venues and artists), it can charge lower prices than established agents, who need to maximise returns from the limited roster of artists they represent.
Scaling in the UK and beyond
Since Gigpig launched three months ago, Forster says has signed up almost 2,000 artists and 200 venues. After an initial pilot in North East and North West England, the startup’s footprint has expanded to venues in cities across the UK. And he says that’s just the start, with a deal in the works that will see it up and running in Berlin, Lisbon, Barcelona, Ibiza, and Dublin.
So how have they managed to grow so quickly? Forster says a key strategy has been targeting ‘honeypot’ venues that artists want to play at and who have a roster of artists who can be invited to try the platform. Early partnerships with venues in the North that have additional sites around the UK has helped, too.
GigPig was established just six months ago, but Forster says he’s lived his life in this world. His father was an agent and a singer, and Forster himself was a singer who went into artist management before launching an artist agency with fellow GigPig co-founder Andrew Garner.
With an approach of not charging artists and using its own in-house software, the agency formed the foundations of what became GigPig.
“We built an agency which was very much artist friendly. And in the middle of the pandemic, our biggest client decided to take bookings in house using our bespoke booking system, which we'd already built, and then licence it from us. So that was how GigPig was born,” says Forster.
Forster and Garner are joined by two more co-founders Kit Muir-Rogers and Ed Francis. Muir-Rogers was working on scaling a booking business, but Forster says he was so impressed by GigPig that he joined as head of sales. And Francis was involved in the development of the software that GigPig was based upon.
“The Spotify of the gigging artist”: ambition, competition, funding
With a national and international footprint already forming, where does Forster want GigPig to be in five years’ time?
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