The Craziest Thing We’ve Ever Tried: Detour London

Being a music fan in 2012 is pretty amazing. The barrier to finding artists you might fall in love with is amazingly low. Yesterday I woke up after a dinner with friends and found an email I’d sent myself as a reminder to check out a new band someone had recommended me: Merchandise. Within a minute I was listening to Become What You Are on YouTube. And everything slowed down a little. In the middle of a busy day at work, that song just blew me away. I’ve been listening to it all day since. I’ve now read more about them and the Tampa music scene in general. I loved this quote from a Pitchfork piece about playing in storage containers:

“The two “established” spaces are Unit 19 and Heinrich’s Workshop, which are both storage units in the same plaza. Unit 19 is definitely punk’s stronghold. It’s the last place for real underground hardcore in Tampa Bay. And Heinrich’s is the stronghold for all the freakout shit; all the noise shows. Anytime I played anywhere else in the city, I never got paid, and that was literally the only incentive. There was also a place called Sound Idea that was the place to learn to play punk. It’s why the hardcore scene is still going, because the guy who ran that, Bob Suren, was doing it out of the passion of his own heart for 13 years. He’s definitely the grandfather of all Florida punk.  There’s a new warehouse space called Cyborg City, where we just played an amazing show. There were a ton of fucking people there. There were like 70 fucking people.”

And now I’m watching a video of them playing live in that warehouse, and all I want to do is see them live. Their integrity just burns through. We started Songkick to help with that hunger, and every day fans like me will start tracking new bands on Songkick, anxious and excited to see them play live.

With our Detour project we’ve been proving to ourselves that real fans will do more than just leave a comment or track a band. They’ll step up and pledge money to say to the band – If you come to my city, I’m in. And that simple action is revolutionary for artists. It meant that Hot Chip were able to break away from the traditional tour circuit and play to fans in a smaller town. It enabled Tycho, Holy Other and others to play their first ever shows in London, before promoter support had emerged. And it enabled Andrew Bird, via the largest ever crowdfunded tour, to finally travel down to Latin America and play to his fans there; everywhere from Mexico City to Florianopolis. And when bands make the majority of their income from playing live, that’s a big deal for their livelihoods. It leads to an incredible atmosphere at shows because collectively we – the fans, and the band, made it happen. It’s DIY accelerated.

Today we’re trying an even crazier idea with Detour. So far all the campaigns we’ve done have been started by the artist, for example Andrew Bird’s desire to go to Latin America even if traditional industry support wasn’t there yet. But during that process some of the coolest stuff we’ve seen has been lead by fans.

When we launched the Andrew Bird Detour in Latin America we started with 10 cities that we thought might have potential to crowdfund a show. Very quickly we got feedback from fans in other cities saying they wanted to participate too, so we added 5 more cities to the list. One of those was Florianopolis. Florianopolis is a city in Southern Brazil over 20 times smaller than the larger cities like Mexico City and Sao Paulo. To be honest, when we added them I was unsure if they’d have a chance. But we did anyway, because the whole point of Detour is to make touring a democratic and open system powered by artists and fans. What happened next was just incredible. Devoted fans of Andrew Bird in Floripa started mobilising, starting groups on Facebook and petitioning local blogs. By the end of the campaign they created a show, through sheer word of mouth and dedication. I bet that show is going to have the most incredible atmosphere because of the sincerity and enthusiasm that made it happen, against the odds. That’s a show that would never have happened without Detour.

Seeing what true fans have done with Detour has been really mindblowing and has lead us to try something even crazier today. We’re launching a version of Detour in London where fans can start their own campaigns. If you’ve just fallen in love with a band like Merchandise, you can step up and say I’m in, come to London. You can spread the word about your discovery to other real fans and together we can make a show happen. Within hours the band could know they’ve got 50 people who are committed to seeing them in London and that changes everything. I’m just so excited about this, I’ve got a wishlist of over 15 artists I’ve committed to now and I can’t wait to see if other people want to help me make them happen. As soon as campaigns hit 50 pledges we’ll reach out to the artist management and try and make it happen.

We’re also really excited that a few of the online brands we trust to help us find great new artists are joining us for the launch. Our friends Black Cab Sessions, Drownedinsound, Mixcloud, Mute RecordsThe 405, and The Line of Best Fit have all built wishlists of the bands they have recently championed and want to help bring to London. There are some amazing new artists in there. All of our partners will be handing out invites tonight and tomorrow.

We’re launching this in private beta right now so we can gradually roll it out, but if you’re as excited about this as we are, let us know and we’ll get you an invite. Let’s make some concerts happen!



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