Staying on top of all the new music that’s coming out these days is like trying to drink a big bowl of soup through a stirring straw. There’s just too much out there. You have to come up with some sort of system, but establishing one is easier said than done. Do you blindly trust Pitchfork? Find and follow your own subset of tastemakers? Keep track of what your friends are listening to via Rdio or Spotify? The multitude of tools and services and sites designed to get music discovery under control are a little out of control themselves. But a clever new site called Gigfi pares that embarrassment of musical riches down to one manageable, useful subcategory: The bands that are playing shows in your city in coming weeks.
The site couldn’t be easier to use. Just type in your city or a specific venue, and Gigfi scrapes the relevant Last.fm concert listings and creates a playlist of the bands that are headed your way. The streaming happens through Spotify, so you’ve got to have that installed for it all to work, but when you’re set up, you can listen directly on the Gigfi site. To the right of the playlist, you get a nicely arranged grid of album covers showing the bands you can be expecting and where and when they’ll be playing. For now, it’s limited to Last.fm’s listings and Spotify’s library, but it’s a start, and it’s pretty brilliant.
Admittedly, it is sort of predicated on ruining the excitement of going to a concert blind–eliminating those instances when you agree to tag along to a show with a friend and walk out a convert. But in fact, it was one of those very situations that lead to Gigfi’s creation.
A year or so back, a friend invited Lawrie Cape, a programmer from Leeds, England, to go to a show at their local joint, the Brudenell Social Club (“one of the best small venues in the country,” Cape contends). The show was for the indie act St. Vincent, and even though he hadn’t heard any of her music, he decided to go on a whim. It turned out to be one of those great serendipitous discoveries. “I was hooked before the end of the first song,” he says, “and it ended up being one of my all-time favorite shows.”
But the episode made him think. What if he’d stayed home? “As I’d checked the listings for Leeds earlier that month,” Cape explains, “I’d skipped over St. Vincent, as the name didn’t ring any bells. It was just one event in a page of hundreds. I wondered what else I’d been missing out on, and how I could avoid it in the future.” And so, chiefly as a way for Cape and his friends to stay on top of the local scene in Leeds, Gigfi was born.
While the usefulness is obvious, the site itself is a bit radical, in terms of how it changes the way we typically relate to new music and live shows. Usually, we hear about a band, listen to their music, and maybe become big enough fans to go to a show when the act comes to town. Aside from the occasional blind-attend, concerts are typically the province of the established fan. But Gigfi rearranges that process a bit, giving curious listeners a preliminary audition of all the upcoming acts. If one clicks, then there’s a concert guaranteed on the horizon, and that show becomes more like a second date than another encounter in an already committed relationship.
The artists themselves probably won’t mind seeing that sort of shift, either. Bands aren’t getting rich selling records, and licensing agreements with companies like Spotify are paltry for indie acts. Gigs are where they make their money (until they get offered to play in a Smirnoff commercial, or whatever), and I’d imagine anything that gets people to those shows will be welcome. “Our thoughts are that we are trying to make use of Spotify as a tool for promoting these artists and their live shows, as opposed to using it to replace physical sales,” Cape says.
He hopes to add support for services like Bandcamp and SoundCloud in the future, expanding the site’s playlists beyond Spotify’s offerings. But it’s probably a good thing that Gigfi’s not totally comprehensive. You need to leave a little room for those serendipitous blind dates.