Michael Anton

Reviewing Live Music: Crowd Sourced Opinions via ShowScoop

Awful gigs, good gigs, great gigs, we’ve all been to some. I’ve always found that part of the thrill of seeing a band take to the stage and perform is the anticipation or whether or not they’re going to be any good. Now a new music focused internet start-up is trying to changing this, for better or worse.

Showscoop promises to be the Yelp, TripAdvisor, or, er, Last.fm for live music – giving gig-goers an online space to share their experiences of bands and check up on whether an artist they like the sound of has what it takes to entertain a live crowd. As with any fledgling digital community you’ll have to cut it a fairly large amount of slack as it takes off – right now there are only around 400 reviews online.

The predictable San Francisco bias also means you’re currently unlikely to find reviews of bands that aren’t touring the west coast of America, and even those that are only have a scattering of reviews attached to them. These existing reviews vary from useful, though spoiler-filled descriptions accounts of the gigs, to the utterly inane.

Of course this could all change, and it’s promising to see that Showscoop already has a vested interested in encouraging prolific and conscientious posters via its RoadCrew program. But the real issue is the definition of the problem that it’s trying to solve….

Before Songkick appeared, my inbox was filled with dozens of emails from various ticketing sites, which I would plough through to find the gigs I wanted to attend (problem), after I signed up to Songkick I now only get personalised telling me when bands I listen to will play (solution).

Before I signed up to Showscoop I would only go to gigs by bands I liked, or that were recommended to me by a close friends, after signing to Showscoop…well nothing’s changed because there was nothing to get fixed.

If you’re incredibly fussy about who you see live, you’ll only go see bands you like, if you love to head to gigs all the time, you’ll see whoever’s on. The middle ground of users, those who would be swayed by anonymous unskilled reviewers, may not even exist. Of course what does exist is music fans wanting to express their adoration of band’s gig, or the abhorrence at a poor performance or technical glitches – and for an academic with a genuine interest in the reception of performances this is fascinating stuff.

But as a punter, you have to take these reviews (and of course all reviews) with large pinches of salt, they’re going to be a skewed selection of opinions from a minority of those who attended, and even the averaged scores out of five aren’t going illuminate too much, as recently summed up by the ever wonderful XKCD.com.

So that leaves ShowScoop in a bit of a pickle, the main thing going for it is that  people like telling people about bands they like (or hate) seeing live – and so far there aren’t even really that many people doing that on ShowScoop.  Even after getting people on board with their roadcrew, and making sure there are  reviews flowing in, quite how they’re going to get readers is another question entirely…

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Michael Anton is a geography PhD graduate in London who has just finished a thesis on the cultural construction of space within places of live music. He's also a runner, writer and digital media obsessive.
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