Is Gigtown a heavy-handed bully or visionary new business model?
Launched as an all-purpose app to connect musicians with gigs and fans to shows, some locals are recoiling at how this aggressive startup has flipped the script on the low-key world of singer/songwriters.
Pat Hilton's Gigtown jingle
...a mobile app jingle contestant
“I have heard stories that they use mafia-like intimidation tactics,” says solo performer Archie Thompson. “I don’t need some company messing up a scene that I’ve been a part of for 30 years.”
Gigtown was launched in January by Andy Altman and his father Steve, the former president and vice chairman of Qualcomm. The younger Altman boasts of Gigtown’s smartphone usability: “If somebody is sitting on the couch doing nothing and then they decide to book an artist, that’s one more local artist with a paying gig and a new fan. We’re connecting music fans, musicians, and venues to create a win-win-win.”
But some musicians say Gigtown aggressively took over the booking of Searsucker and Herringbone, which had been booked by a different agency. “They threw money at them,” says one insider who asked not to be identified. “They offered to provide music for free for two months just to get the account.”
“We talked to management and told them what we offer,” Andy Altman tells the Reader. “It was a business decision to go with us.”
Others complain that Gigtown uses battle of the band–style competitions to win a spot on upcoming shows, such as the Gigtown stage at the upcoming Kaaboo music festival or at the Gigtown showcase at the Quartyard on September 12.
- Friday, September 18, 2015, 1 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Del Mar Fairgrounds,
2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard,
“And then they end up picking their favorites,” says singer/songwriter Pat Hilton, who participated in a Gigtown jingle contest. Hilton says he created two 15-second Gigtown jingles that were selected for use on the airwaves. He says he was paid $100 for each but was denied the grand prize. “The winner was supposed to get to open for Steve Miller at a [July 26] fundraiser. My two got the most votes [in an online contest], 1400 and 1200. Third place was 500. They led us to believe that the votes determined who won.”
Andy Altman disagrees. “At no point did we lead anyone to believe that votes alone determine the winner.”
Altman declined to comment on Gigtown’s supposed $3 million startup.
“Just as Uber changed transportation, we’re changing local music. Yes, we’re stirring the pot. But ultimately more musicians will be able to make a living from playing music.”