When Michelle You returned to New York City in 2006 after a year studying Mandarin in China, she found that the live music scene that was once so familiar to her was suddenly impossible to navigate. “I had lost my bearings, didn’t know where to look, and found the process very frustrating,” she says.
Around the same time, Ian Hogarth, a Brit she had befriended in China who is also a live music fan, was looking to launch a music-related business with Pete Smith, a friend with whom he had gone to school. The trio decided to build an online platform that would allow music fans to easily search for, and track, concert dates of their favorite bands, purchase tickets to those shows, and share concert photos and reviews.
The concept, which they named Songkick, piqued the interest of start-up incubator Y Combinator, which provided seed funding and counsel during the summer of 2007. Hogarth, the CEO, and Smith, COO, spent the summer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Y Combinator was then based, while You commuted from New York City on the Chinatown bus. She soon quit her job at Theme, a lifestyle magazine, to join Songkick full time as co-founder and chief of product. The company raised $1 million in an angel round led by former Skype VP of Marketing-turned-investor Saul Klein that winter, when it moved to London, and landed another $4 million in a Series A round led by Index Ventures last year.
Songkick has compiled more than 1 million concert listings to date, which it alerts its one million monthly visitors to via e-mail messages that they sign up to receive. The company's immediate focus is on expanding its listings database. Songkick also recommends new bands for users based on ones they are already tracking and the artists in their iTunes music libraries, which they can sync up with Songkick. The company makes money by providing links to ticket vendors and taking a cut of between 2 percent and 10 percent per accompanying transaction based on ticket price. In the future, Songkick plans to add advertising to the site and sell concert memorabilia.
“In talking to people, the brand that they see as equivalent to live music is Ticketmaster and is LiveNation,” You says. “That’s where we want to be a year or two down the line.”