GigMaven’s DIY Strategy

News about the Internet’s impact on the concert industry usually features the major players in the biz. Hardly a week goes by when mainstream media doesn’t cover what Ticketmaster is doing, how StubHub has revolutionized secondary ticketing or the latest artist conducting a charity auction on eBay.

GigMaven is a small company on the East Coast helping artists and venues do it themselves by facilitating the booking process and removing the tedium of missed phone calls and misunderstood intentions.

“Ultimately we just want to make it easier for artists to get direct access to gigs,” GigMaven President Howard Han told Pollstar. “And we just want to make it easier for venues to book musicians.”

To accomplish this, Han’s company came up with a small calendar application for venues where talent buyers can describe what they’re looking for in performers for a particular night. Artists can then search through the calendar for gigs falling within their location and genre requirements.

“Musicians can list everything needed for venues to make booking decisions, including photos, videos, their music, gigs they’ve played in the past,” said Han. “We also aggregate MySpace profile views, to make it easier for venues. On the venue side, a lot of them add information on their backline and their stage. Of course, that is available for all gigs.”

What makes GigMaven special? While many concert business sites are all about the big picture – arenas, stars and million-dollar deals – GigMaven caters to small artists and venues. Artists that don’t have booking agents, managers, labels and publicists behind them, and venues where the owner is also the talent buyer, stage manager and chief bottle washer.

“We’re really focused on the small independent artist that’s totally DIY,” Han said. “They want to start booking dates for themselves. They’re not necessarily working with managers or booking agents. Or, a lot of smaller independent managers and independent labels always can get a little more help trying to manage their careers.

“We see ourselves being a tool for musicians to expand their existing career and get more gigs. And we see ourselves as a tool for venues to aggregate, sort and filter gig applications.”

Don’t get the wrong impression. GigMaven does not act as a talent buyer, nor does it perform as a booking agent. By automating the booking process for artists and venues alike, it’s trying to streamline the entire DIY experience for artists and venues.

“On the venue side, we’re not trying to replicate what talent buyers and promoters do,” Han said. “We’re trying to build a tool to automate a lot of things they do manually. On the artist side, we’re really trying to help the guy who doesn’t have a booking agent. We stay away from the negotiation specifics, but we want to build a platform for them to negotiate through us. We’re not looking to do what a booking agent does, and we’re not looking to do what a talent buyer does.”

Han’s background before establishing GigMaven isn’t the usual music industry resume filled with internships, mentors and junior exec positions. A Yale graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Han was at UBS Investment Bank working in the Tech, Media and Telecoms group, and worked as an adviser for media companies and major music labels, including Warner Music Group and EMI.

What led to Han establishing GigMaven? Although he has plenty of corporate experience, both in financial circles as well as the music biz, a stint managing a local band planted the seeds that would eventually grow into GigMaven.

“They got signed to an independent label. They were doing very well. Unfortunately, they got into this position where a lot of indie bands get to. They couldn’t expand outside of New York, and they were also running out of money,” Han said. “The band broke up, and we just saw this overwhelming need, for musicians and venues, to have an online platform to be able to plot your gigs.”

While based in the New York City area, GigMaven is branching out. The company recently threw its first gig in Los Angeles at The Roxy, where it booked four bands.

GigMaven is also presenting the Columbia vs. New York University Battle of the Bands, where bands including at least one student from either college will compete at New York City’s La Poisson Rouge, an 800-capacity venue, April 23. Bands wanting to battle can apply on GigMaven’s home page.

Fans then vote on which bands they want to see at the event by using the company’s Facebook app located at

“A lot of these bands would not get an opportunity to play at La Poisson Rouge. It’s a much larger venue than most of these bands could play,” Han said. “That’s the big win – to play in a venue of this scope and size, and to play in front of their friends. We see this as kind of a starting point. We’d like to build off of this.”

Building on something, whether it’s a night at an exclusive West Village venue or a few bands playing at the Roxy in Los Angeles, seems to be GigMaven’s method of operation, as the company starts small and then builds upon the experience to reach for greatness. A lot of NYC-area artists and venues have benefitted from GigMaven facilitating the booking process. That’s something everybody can build on.

eBay To Disconnect Skype

Online auction house eBay says it will spin off Internet phone service Skype in an IPO next year.

More than a few eyebrows were raised when eBay purchased Skype for $2.6 billion in 2005. After all, what would an auction service want with a company that provides phone services on the cheap?

Guess that was on eBay chief exec John Donahoe’s mind as well. When Donahoe took over that position in April 2008, eBay said it would re-evaluate Skype’s position within the auction site’s universe.

Fast forward one year and eBay is now talking about spinning off the phone service. Guess there just isn’t room for Skype in the world of online auctions.

Although eBay is planning to hang up on Skype, that doesn’t mean Skype itself is floundering. The service had 405 million registered users at the end of 2008, up 47 percent from the previous year. It also chalked up $551 million in revenue in 2008, up 44 percent from 2007. Furthermore, eBay expects Skype will post more than $1 billion in revenue by 2011.

So, while Skype definitely has a future, it’s not with eBay if only because the phone service doesn’t fit within the company’s broader vision regarding the world of online commerce.

But an IPO? In these times?

It’s probably not the best of times for an IPO. In fact, Renaissance Capital’s reports there were only 43 IPOs in 2008 compared with 272 in the previous year. Furthermore, 2009 is hardly shaping up to be a big year for IPOs. Only two such stock offerings occurred during the first quarter.

Some are also speculating if eBay might spin off some of its other holdings, specifically secondary ticketing leader StubHub. The auction company acquired Stubhub in 2007, but competition from ticketing heavyweight Ticketmaster, which owns the secondary ticketing site TicketsNow, might have eBay execs wondering if StubHub will continue to ring up the cash register in the years to come.