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Do you know someone who always manages to get last-minute tickets to sold-out gigs? Or regularly gets “invited” to secret acoustic sets? “How do they do it?” you mutter as they tell you about seeing Father John Misty in a six-man teepee in Shoreditch with their new best friends Radiohead (again).
There’s a simple answer, and it doesn’t involve being “in-the-know”, “plugged into the scene” or clairvoyant. It’s down to the apps on their smartphone. Nowadays, there is a host of Android and iOS apps aimed at concert-goers and we’ve picked out six of the best.
Whether you’re into bubblegum pop, hardcore punk, classical, R&B or Bavarian yodelling, these tools will make sure you never miss a gig, as well as sell unwanted tickets, discover new bands and smooth out the potentially stressful purchasing process.
At first glance, many of the apps may seem as similar as Coldplay’s singles, just with a different mix of primary colours and icons, but each has a distinctive feature that earns it a place on your smartphone. See you in the circle pit!
Bandsintown has been around since 2007 and, while the temptation might have been to make the app increasingly complicated, it’s still refreshingly simple: you receive a notification when a band you like is playing nearby and buy tickets. It’s not rocket science.
When you first download Bandsintown, you’ll be given the option to link it to Spotify. We thoroughly recommend doing this as it will automatically glean artists from your library, saving the hassle of browsing through endless lists of Ed Sheeran gigs. Many of the other apps have this function and it’s worth doing every time.
Once you’re in, the app gives you the option to browse popular shows, ones that friends are attending (once you’ve found them via your contacts and Facebook), recently announced concerts and recommendations based on your likes and dislikes. The latter is an excellent way of discovering new, albeit already well-established, artists.
After you’ve settled on some live music, it’s time to actually buy the tickets. In the olden-days, this would have been a laborious, nerve-wracking ordeal, but Bandsintown makes it as easy as a tap on the green “Get tickets” button. This will take you out of the app to either an affiliate ticket website or the band’s own site, where you can splash out £61 on Weezer tickets. “It’s worth it”, you’ll tell yourself.
StubHub, eBay’s ticket exchange site, is even more venerable than Bandsintown, having been founded way back in 2000 (making it the internet equivalent of Mick Jagger). Since then, the app has grown into a behemoth with, its website boasts, “tickets available for over 10 million live sports, music and theatre events in more than 40 countries”. In fact, it is now the go-to place to safely and securely buy or sell tickets.
HOWEVER, and you can tell by the capitals that it’s a big one, StubHub basically provides a platform for scalpers. This means that, as with other sites such as Viagogo and the desperate-sounding GetMeIn!, you can pay vastly inflated prices that far exceed the original cost of the ticket. Not only does this price fans out of concerts, but it also means StubHub can earn more than the artists playing. This really got comedian Stewart Lee’s goat.
For example, Blink 182’s show at London’s O2 Arena next Wednesday isn’t sold out. Yet, standing tickets with a face value of £47.75 (excluding transaction fees) are already being sold on StubHub for up to £70. To quote Blink’s immortal All The Small Things, “say it ain’t so, I will not go”.
If that’s hunky-dory with you (we’re not judging), StubHub is incredibly easy to use. As with Bandsintown, you can scan your Spotify playlist to shorten the slog of finding your favourite bands and, once you’ve chosen a gig, it’s just a case of picking a ticket and paying directly through the app.
I’ll not be shy: Songkick is by far my favourite app on this list. Why? It combines the best elements from Bandsintown and StubHub, wraps them in a user-friendly interface and, quite simply, does them better.
For instance, Songkick arranges the data taken from Spotify into a simple list in order of date (see the left-hand screenshot above) and, even better, only includes gigs within a certain radius of your house. It’s a simple tool that means no band passes by unnoticed – and without leaving a dent on your bank balance. Moreover, just like Bandsintown, you can track selected artists and get a notification when they’re on your doorstep.
In stark contrast to StubHub, once you’ve plumped for a gig, Songkick will give you a list of official retailers (such as See Tickets or Ticketmaster) to buy from, meaning that always you get the ticket at face value. No funny business. Naturally, the app’s website celebrates this fact: “We’ve always put fans and artists first. That means no spam, no hidden fees and no scalpers. Our cutting edge technology ensures the tickets we sell end up in the hands of real fans, clear of secondary markets and inflated prices.”
If you download only one app from this feature, make it Songkick.
Time for a change of pace. If you have penchant for classical music and dodgy puns, My Bachtrack will appeal – it’s an invaluable collection of classical music, opera and ballet listings.
To start, you have to create an account on the website (bachtrack.com), which takes no more than 30 seconds. The subscription to the Android or iOS app is free for one month, followed by an astronomical cost of £5 per year, or a pint in London.
So why should you pay? Well, alongside the detailed listings showing information such as the conductor and soloists, you can buy tickets for selected concerts (you’re directed to the official retailers’ websites) and then keep track of your future bookings.
But, to me, My Bachtrack’s best feature is its reviews section. This is a long list of up-to-date reviews of concerts, operas and ballets by writers who really know what they’re taking about – think of it as a symphony of opinions (I’ll get my coat), or a caprice of judgement (I’ll leave the building). Having such a one-stop shop of expertise means you don’t need to turn to the cacophony that is Google to get a sense of how good your evening out will be.
My Bachtrack might not be the most glam of apps (it’s clad in a very sober, serious black and white), but it’s essential if you know your JS from your JC Bach.
If this list was counting down the hippest (that’s what the kids are saying, right?) apps, DICE would win without breaking a sweat: it looks great, with responsive images, pastel colours and quirky handwritten fonts. But is it a case of style over substance?
“DICE is all about bringing you closer to the artists you love, and the nights out you’ll remember,” promises its website. And, to be fair, it’s delivered on this goal every time I’ve used it. DICE doesn’t have the extra tools other apps offer, but its strength lies in seeing up-and-coming or more low-key acts – for a fair price. In fact, to quote its website again, “f*** touts”.
To begin, filter a list of gigs by location, venue (normal gig, club or festival) and genre of music. Once that’s done you’ll, usefully, be told how far the concert is from your home via public transport and be given an option to buy tickets – at face value – directly through DICE. Perhaps its neatest tool, though, is the play button by the artist’s photo: simply tap on it to hear an excerpt of their music.
And, because this is 2017, once you’ve paid you will be given a digital in-app ticket to show at the door. The future is now.