Philly Entrepreneur Wants to Change the Way You Watch Concerts

New app allows you to share photos and interact with artists like never before.

Decibly Co-Founder Brad Denenberg and two screen shots of the product.

Decibly Co-Founder Brad Denenberg and two screen shots of the product.

Playing on your phone while you’re at a concert? That’s fine by Brad Denenberg. In fact, he’s banking on it.

Denenberg just launched a new app called Decibly, a fan-engagement tool which allows users to share photos, communicate across multiple social media channels and buy merchandise — all while inside a concert venue. Perhaps its most important functionality is the ability for bands to push content directly to fans — leading to more media impressions, more downloads and more merchandise sold.

Think people don’t use their phones while at a concert? Think again. In fact, 31 percent of adults ages 18-34 use their phones during half of a concert or more, according to a Ticketfly study.

“Our goal is to give the fans an app to play along with during the concert,” said Denenberg, also the executive director of Seed Philly, a Center City incubator for startup companies. “As they have a better experience, they will stay more engaged and it will ultimately turn into more dollars for the artist.” That’s because the artist can get access to the fan’s email address and data points corresponding to how they behave. Did they stream music? Buy a concert ticket? Purchase a T-shirt?

Katy Perry may have 75 million Twitter followers and 26 million Instagram followers, but Denenberg argues that she doesn’t have valuable data needed to make the most out of her popularity.

“Yes Katy Perry has 75 million followers. That doesn’t mean she has 75 million fans,” said Denenberg. “And she doesn’t have an email address from a single one of them because Twitter doesn’t allow her to find that.”

It’s no secret that today’s music industry is much different than it was 20 years ago. Now, touring is where bands make the bulk of their profits — not album sales. Being able to engage with your fans is crucial, Denenberg argues.

“Today musicians have absolutely no clue who their audience is,” said Denenberg. “And since touring is where bands make their money these days, it’s more important than ever to know who your fans are.” He even argues that many fans don’t even realize that their favorite bands are in town because they don’t follow them closely on social media — leading to unsold tickets. (I can attest to that. I didn’t know the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were playing in Philly last year until I saw concert pics on Facebook. Ugh.)

Decibly is still in the preliminary stages of starting up. They’ve given the app to a few local bands to get feedback and work out any bugs. After bootstrapping for the past two-and-a-half years, Denenberg and his co-founders are meeting with investors to try securing capital.

“It’s either going to crash-and-burn or skyrocket,” said Deneberg.

The music business is about as volatile as it gets — and has the potential to scare away investors. But it could also fill a serious void in the industry.

Gary Bannett, CFO of Billboard, is serving in an advisory role for Decibly. He says the lack of a direct-to-consumer engagement tool is a pain point for many musicians.

“There’s no place for an artist to get credible, quality data to understand fan engagement,” said Bannett. “Once they do get it, it’s invaluable.”

Bannett said smart artists want to capitalize on the fact that many fans use their phones during concerts. “People don’t hold up lighters anymore, they hold up phones and take videos and pictures,” he said.

Decibly is not the only fan-engagement app on the market, but Bannett said it’s “uniquely positioned” to be a market leader.

“I think it has all the potential of working in the world,” he said. “It’s a really great app and given that touring is so important to artists’ survival, anything that’s going to help enhance fan experience is going to be a welcome addition.”

But this is the music biz, and Bannett knows Decibly “needs to get a break” to really make it. That break could come in the form of a major artist like Taylor Swift or Maroon 5 telling the audience to download the app so they can vote on the next song or get a free download. It’ll also need a groundswell of support from smaller artists.

Here’s some additional functionality that Decibly provides or hopes to provide in future versions of the app:

  • Pushing out live music streams.
  • Offering information on concerts across the country.
  • Allowing users to guess the exact set list and compare it with other audience members.
  • Push out song lyrics and album art.
  • Play an artist’s songs on Spotify and Rdio.

“Everyone wants to memorialize these shows,” said Denenberg. “Right now, people just tape the ticket stub to the mirror in their bedroom. Soon, they’ll be able to live it all over again with Decibly.”