When Andy Altman came home from Coachella this year, he had a revelation.
“I’d been relying on Uber a lot,” he said. “At the same time, my dad mentioned, ‘If I wanted to hire a pianist over to play, what’s stopping me?’”
Andy’s dad just happens to be former Qualcomm president Steve Altman and the two tried to figure out if there was a way to make an Uber-style app that would make it easier for music fans to connect with local musical acts.
“We toss around ideas all the time,” Andy, 25, said. “This was the first time we couldn’t knock the idea down.”
Instead, a new app took flight: GigTown, an app now in beta testing in the San Diego area.
The app allows users to quickly find and book local musicians, ranging from solo guitarists to eight-piece bands at prices ranging from $60 to $4000 per hour and book them using a stored credit card.
GigTown takes a 17 percent commission on any gigs booked through the app and Stripe, the payment processor, takes an additional 3 percent.
Steve Altman, 53, retired from Qualcomm in January, but is excited about the possibilities of GigTown.
“This could change the music industry,” he said. “Less than one percent of musicians make a living, and local artists have a hard time creating a fan base. To become a fan of a group, you have to hear them live, then you have to like them so much that you will look them up on Facebook.
“But if you think it’s hard to discover local music, it’s even harder for the average person to book them,” he said.
The hyperlocal focus of GigTown could help bands play in places where there is currently no live music, Steve said.
“We can show a club or a restaurant that a group has 5000 fans living nearby and maybe they’ll book that group,” he said.
Andy said there are currently 40 bands registered on the website and hopes more local groups sign up before the app launches commercially in mid-January.
“We’ve got a good variety, but no bagpipe players yet,” he conceded. “We thought it would be easy to get musicians to sign up, but it takes a while to get them to send content.
“A lot of them wonder what they want to put as their hourly rate. We understand that a band will charge more for, say, a wedding rather than a backyard barbecue, and these are the things we’re working out with the app.”