Brooklyn Bowl owner Peter Shapiro is a jam band connoisseur, and he’s looking to find others who are just as hardcore into Phish and the Grateful Dead as he is.
That’s why he founded Fans, which launches today with a website and an iPhone app. On the social network, which is headquartered in Manhattan, where Shapiro lives, music fans can list concerts they’ve attended, tag events they’d like to check out and share photos, videos, news, and reviews of artists.
Mmm, social network fatigue. (We’re reminded of how venture capitalist Charlie O’Donnell expressed skepticism about tired startup models at his most recent #notapitch event.) But according to Shapiro, who previously spoke with the New York Times about his new venture, social networks like Facebook and Twitter aren’t very good places for serious music fans to obsess over their favorite artists. In a letter on Fans.com, he wrote about the moment when he realized that void.
“The morning after Robert Plant played at Brooklyn Bowl on Oct. 9, 2014, I woke up at 6AM and grabbed my phone to search for photos and reviews of the show, but couldn’t find anything,” Shapiro’s letter reads. “Facebook, Instagram and other platforms are great, but they weren’t developed specifically for us as fans.”
A handful of investors agree. Shapiro said Fans has raised “several million dollars” but declined to give a specific number. Investors include music-marketing company Wonderful Union, which has worked with Drake and Miley Cyrus, and Roger McNamee, cofounder of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Elevation Partners, who is a musician himself. Facebook is among McNamee’s past investments. Shapiro’s company Dayglo Ventures, a holding company for Shapiro’s ventures, has also invested money.
Shapiro’s experience operating several music venues and festivals gives him particular insight into the marketing needs of event promoters and venue owners. In addition to Brooklyn Bowl, he owns the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, N.Y., and the Lockn’ festival in Arrington, Va., which features jam bands. (Investor McNamee will actually be playing at the Lockn’ festival on Sunday as half of the Doobie Decimal System.)
His cofounder, Seth Schiesel, is a former New York Times reporter and critic, plus a fellow jam band fan.
Shapiro told Technical.ly via email that one of his goals is to make Fans a place for festival goers to exchange information before and after the event, in order to sustain buzz throughout the year. The site is launching, in fact, with a livestream of the Lockn’ lineup, which includes Phish and My Morning Jacket. Shapiro expects that festivals will make up a significant portion of activity on Fans’ platform.
“These days, people are attending three to four big festivals a year to see live music, which is much more than when I first came onto the scene,” he wrote.
There are other companies geared toward connecting music fans to live events, like Dumbo-based Songkick and Manhattan-based Bandsintown, and none of them are quite household names (at least just yet). Shapiro told Technical.ly via email that Fans is different from those sites, because it focuses on more than finding new concerts and events. In general, according to Shapiro, sites geared to music fans tend to be narrow in their approach, either focusing on one artist or genre, or one aspect of fandom, like events. Fans, by contrast, has more than a million artists in its database.
“Going wide AND deep in our offering was important to us from the beginning, and is why we put so much time and energy into the product,” Shapiro wrote.
Shapiro doesn’t yet have a revenue model in place for Fans. But, he told Technical.ly, he believes the community of music lovers Fans is building, as well as the data it will capture on their music preferences and habits, will be valuable to others in the industry. Indeed, data analytics is a growing field of interest within the music industry, as artists, labels and event promoters seek to identify their most loyal fans. Other companies, such as Pandora, have begun selling services along these lines. Pandora also owns Manhattan-based Next Big Sound, which tracks streaming music and social media activity to identity emerging artists.
Although Fans is based in Manhattan, Shapiro told Technical.ly his experience in the Brooklyn music scene has shaped his approach to the service.
“Brooklyn is home to every type of music and has fans across all genres,” he wrote. “You can see an ALO gig in Williamsburg at Brooklyn Bowl then head straight to Barclays for a massive punk show with All Time Low. No matter what type of fan, they’re all looking for the same thing: a sense of community and a place to call home.”