Sarah Jones loves reside music a lot, she even bought engaged at a gig.
As Prince returned for the encore throughout his legendary 2007 O2 residency and struck up the opening chords to Purple Rain, excessive up in one of many packing containers, Jones – an enormous fan of the Purple One – rotated to seek out her then-boyfriend, now-husband down on one knee.
“I simply couldn’t converse,” she laughs. “I used to be like, ‘How did you get that previous me?’”
Even today, she’s nonetheless an avid gig-goer, and Jones – who was born in Wales however grew up in Essex – has no scarcity of tales about how reside music has been a key part in a few of her life’s biggest moments.
She fizzes with enthusiasm for the expertise, whether or not speaking about her first ever gig (U2 on the outdated Cardiff Arms Park) or the latest present she noticed (Self Esteem on the O2 Discussion board Kentish City); the basic rock gigs she’s taken her mother and father to as a way to repay them for uplifting her love of music within the first place, or the time she held Eddie Vedder’s hand as he reached into the gang at a Pearl Jam present.
“He had a bottle of crimson in a single hand and my hand within the different,” she laughs. “Did he say something to me? I believe he was similar to, ‘Let go of my hand!’”
And now, as Normal Supervisor of Songkick, the Warner Music Group-owned live performance discovery service, she sees it as her mission to ensure the platform’s customers by no means miss out on their very own alternative to get pleasure from equally mind-blowing reside
“I do assume reside music modifications lives,” she grins. “I don’t assume there’s something that may match standing on that sticky ground with a heat pint in a plastic glass, sharing [the experience] along with your mates.”
Fittingly for a former BBC govt – she spent 14 years on the company, most not too long ago as Head of Digital & Operations, Enterprise Growth, having began her profession as a media analyst with Ebiquity – she sees Songkick very a lot as a “public service”, serving to to make sure punters don’t miss out on the gigs they wish to see, whereas artists, venues and promoters get to achieve everybody that may doubtlessly get pleasure from what they do on stage.
And it’s a service that the general public appear to be embracing. Jones says Songkick now has over 20 million customers world wide and studies a post-pandemic “vital surge in world customers”, significantly in rising markets, as demand for reside leisure spiked as quickly as lockdowns lifted.
It has, nevertheless, taken some time for everybody to understand Songkick’s worth. Launched in 2007 as a start-up live performance discovery platform/social community by Ian Hogarth, Michelle You and Pete Smith, in its early years it typically appeared to be a good suggestion seeking a viable enterprise mannequin.
It later merged with CrowdSurge and moved into direct-to-fan ticketing, pioneering anti-scalping know-how. In 2016, it reportedly offered practically 500,000 tickets for Adele’s tour however, the next 12 months, it turned embroiled in an antitrust authorized dispute with Ticketmaster.
That carried on individually after WMG purchased the live performance discovery a part of the enterprise in 2017 (Warner guardian Entry Industries had been an investor within the firm). Stay Nation/Ticketmaster finally settled the case out of court docket, paying $110m and buying Songkick’s ticketing belongings as a part of the method.
After all, that was all earlier than Jones’ time (she joined Songkick as Business Director in 2018 earlier than graduating to the highest job final 12 months) and she or he is understandably cautious of the topic, eager to emphasize that Songkick works harmoniously in partnership with all main ticketing firms, Ticketmaster included.
Equally, whereas Songkick could also be owned by Warner, Jones highlights that it’s a part of its WMX companies division, faraway from the recorded music and music publishing elements of the enterprise, and works with artists signed to all document firms.
Jones has large plans to construct on Songkick’s present place. She is proud to preside over an inclusive office tradition, with a 50/50 gender employees cut up – virtually unprecedented for a corporation with know-how at its core.
An workplace refurb (Songkick continues to be primarily based out in Shoreditch’s Silicon Roundabout enclave, though she’s travelled west to Warner Music HQ for at present’s chat with MBW) and rebrand are on the best way, and she or he guarantees a relaunch of “our entire business product set within the subsequent 12 months”, to capitalise on the success of Songkick’s Tourbox instrument, which helps artists, managers and brokers handle and market their
With the pandemic (hopefully) receding within the rear-view mirror, Jones believes Songkick has gone full circle to return to one thing near a beefed-up model of its unique idea.
“Three individuals needed to unravel an issue for followers [so they’d] by no means miss one other present, so that they began scraping the web and created this product,” she says. “We’re actually near that DNA now. We’re attending to the hearts of audiences’ points, actually going again to that utility, however on a a lot larger scale.”
Warner doesn’t get away separate figures for Songkick, however Jones insists the platform is now “a extremely secure, revenue-generating enterprise”.
She stays just a little cagey on the small print of precisely how Songkick makes that cash (basically a mixture of promoting, monetisation of its B2B merchandise and fee on ticket gross sales by third celebration distributors). However, luckily, given every thing happening proper now within the reside music market Songkick serves, Sarah Jones has loads to say on virtually every thing else…
Being at a live performance discovery service should have been difficult through the pandemic, when there have been no concert events to be found?
The pandemic taught us loads about enterprise inside reside music, however it’s been nice to get again to regular. We did numerous pivoting, ran a number of livestreams, checked out worldwide commerce and did numerous localisation, so we had been nonetheless very busy.
Did you ever fear it was throughout for reside music?
No. I’ve been across the block a number of instances. It was clearly unprecedented, however the pandemic taught us how necessary reside music is. In 2022, the market simply went nuts and got here again so robust. Stay music is such a vital a part of individuals’s lives. We’ve seen the entire experiential financial system increase for the reason that pandemic.
Though now there’s a cost-of-living disaster. What impact will which have on reside music?
Stay music is discretionary spend for customers. It’s very a lot within the reasonably priced luxurious class. However individuals nonetheless wish to be collectively. That sense of connection and group is basically necessary, as a result of we didn’t have it for thus lengthy.
I imply, have a look at what’s taking place in the mean time: [tours from] Madonna, Beyoncé, Taylor [Swift]… I don’t assume we’ve ever seen a 12 months prefer it. You’ll nonetheless see gigs be a powerful a part of that discretionary spend.
Lots of people within the business are nonetheless involved in regards to the future although. If there are too many gigs and never sufficient cash to go spherical, certainly somebody’s going to lose out?
Saturation could possibly be a problem within the subsequent 12 months. What Songkick focuses on is connecting artists with customers who actually wish to go to a present. And our business instruments are there for artists to actually assist them, whether or not it’s a saturated market or a dry market.
What if you happen to’re a grassroots venue and you’ll’t afford such issues?
Nicely, numerous our companies are completely free on the level of use. It’s actually robust on the market. We’re engaged on some initiatives with grassroots venues and it’s one thing that we actually do care about.
Are you able to give us any details about these initiatives?
Not at current, no.
How does Songkick match with the remainder of the Warner Music empire?
Songkick is common. It’s label agnostic, DSP agnostic, ticketing firm agnostic…
So agnostic that you simply simply used the phrase ‘Common’ to explain it…
[Laughs] Yeah! We work with everybody and that’s actually on the coronary heart of what we do. Sure, it’s nice being a part of a document label, as a result of it offers us actual perception into how one can assist artists, however it’s all about us having our personal autonomy.
Are another music firms ever suspicious due to who owns Songkick?
No, I’ve really by no means skilled that. We’d by no means wish to be perceived as a propaganda instrument. I’ve taken care of the industrial aspect of the enterprise for 4 years now and I undoubtedly place it inside that impartial area.
What did you make of the current Taylor Swift ticket sale furore?
It’s an actual problem when you may have alternatives which can be that large. And it’s actually gutting if you happen to’re a fan and you actually wish to get to a present. I’m positive there are numerous classes which have been discovered across the scale of demand.
I don’t assume we’re seeing that play out with Beyoncé, for instance. It’s an entry problem. How do you create that equitable entry to having the ability to get Taylor Swift tickets? Everybody’s strong know-how and techniques and the way you tempo a sale. There are numerous issues that could possibly be completed otherwise, but additionally, it’s an enormous artist.
What’s the typical Songkick person like?
There’s not a median Songkick person. We’ve got everybody, from [age] three to 66. I care simply as a lot about mother and father having the ability to purchase a gig ticket transparently as [I do] Gen Z.
It should be a problem catering for everybody from hardcore music followers to individuals who solely go to 1 gig a 12 months?
I do assume the utility that we’re providing is efficacious for each eventualities. And if you happen to’re going to 1 gig, you’re going to seek out out about 10 extra. Possibly you’ll flip right into a two or three or 4 gigs a 12 months particular person.
If you happen to might change one factor about at present’s music business, proper right here and now, what wouldn’t it be and why?
I really feel actually passionately in regards to the evolution of the reside music business within the transparency area. That’s a extremely necessary transfer for everybody.
It’s been a very long time coming, however look how shortly we went to cell tickets. So many companies have globalised and develop into digitised in a single day by necessity [during the pandemic].
There may be numerous thriller and complexity round reside music and I see our position as demystifying all of that.
We’re right here to make issues easy. It actually shouldn’t be that tough to have the ability to get a ticket to a present. And it shouldn’t be that tough to learn about that present coming in.
And what’s going to success appear like for the brand new Songkick just a little additional down the road?
We have to guarantee that our model and identification actually speaks to who we’re. We will probably be globally increasing and launching in a number of languages.
I name it being ‘glocal’ – being a world model at scale, however being regionally related. Songkick has an actual alternative to be the house for reside music, an actual in-house client model that’s there as a instrument to assist individuals get to gigs.
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