Arts / Startups

Fifth Harmony and Taking Back Sunday took this Philly-built app on tour

Booksmart cofounder Ben Melman is no stranger to the music business. But there are things he wants to see fixed in the tour management process.

Fifth Harmony on tour. (GIF via Giphy)

Turns out one of the Philly companies that scored some cash at WeWork’s Creator Awards makes an app with some pretty famous users.

Booksmart, the makers of the namesake app that helps bands organize their logistics on the road, got the tour managers behind pop act Fifth Harmony and emo alt-rock band Taking Back Sunday to try out their platform during the bands’ U.S. tour.

Look up the app on the App Store, and you’ll find a raving review from Jack Funk, Dashboard Confessional’s tour manager, who also gave the app a test run.

“My crew and band are very happy and the app is awesome,” Funk wrote. “Take some time [to] learn the app and start using it, makes life on the road so much better all around.”

For cofounder Ben Melman, who’s also a booking manager at Center City performance space Coda and has been involved with the music business for 10 years, the app is trying to break past old paradigms of tour management while helping managers find the most efficient ways to organize logistics on the road.

“I’ve been in the music business since 15,” said Melman, 25. “Through my experience I recognized how unorganized a lot of the processes involved with live music are. We’ve been building an organizational tool to help them make better decisions on: buses, vans, hotels, travel accommodations.”

The $36,000 scored via WeWork will let Melman, along with cofounders Josh Weinstein and Mark Koh, hire some Drexel co-ops and get to work on improving the software behind the app ahead of the more official launch in the fall of 2017. The crew also won $8,000 from Drexel’s business plan competition in 2013. The platform is currently live and free to use for smaller bands and their tour managers to try out. (The aforementioned bigger customers got free trials of the app. The company’s business model intails a subscription fee based on the size of the tour and the features used, Melman said.)

Logistics is just the start. Melman says data will come into play in order to help bands not only find how to get to a place and play, but where to go first and why.

“We want to put an end to ineffective tour routes, taking data like social media and music streaming numbers into consideration,” said Melman. “It helps bands on a smaller level to find where they should go to maximize their earnings.”

For Booksmart to succeed there are two big questions. Can it wean off tour managers from using paper “day sheets” to plan their tours? And can the technology scale to meet the massive, international needs of acts like, say, Metallica? Melman said the company’s happy to take on that challenge.

“Absolutely we think that it can scale,” said Melman. “The hurdle is converging people out of their current ways of thinking and, once we can tap into those more established tour mangers, it’s a matter of time to get them to use it. It’s a tough industry to break into but we’re fueled by our passion and excitement.”

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