It's Showtime

Austin-based app makes finding live music easier than ever

Austin-based app makes finding live music easier than ever

A Giant Dog SXSW Austin
Need help finding the perfect concert for this weekend? Spot Caller has your back. Photo by Daniel Cavazos

Austin may be the Live Music Capital of the World, but that doesn't mean everyone in the city knows where to be and which bands to see at any given time. It's time-consuming to be that plugged in, and you often have to pull up 12 different sources to know what’s happening out there. This is where Spot Caller comes in.

The Austin-based live music app searches for shows happening in the Capital City and allows you to filter by neighborhood and genre. If you want to catch a rock show in North Austin, Spot Caller will identify where one is happening. Beyond Austin, it also has show information in major Texas, U.S., and international cities from San Francisco to Amsterdam, New York to Sydney.

The app also provides links to artist pages, tells you who the promoter is, links to ticket purchasing, and allows you to share the event on social media. It's an all-in-one resource that takes the edge off deciding where you should be when the music starts. The app is only downloadable for iPhones (an Android version is in the works), but the service can also be easily accessed online.

CultureMap caught up with CEO Dave Blue to provide a more detailed look at Spot Caller.

CultureMap: If you had to boil down Spot Caller to just a few words, what would they be?

Dave Blue: The simplest way to discover live music. Imagine you're traveling abroad, or just looking for something completely new in Austin, you'll need a reliable way to find what's going on without previous knowledge of the local scene. Spot Caller is designed to make that happen for fans.

CM: Spot Caller claims to learn "what you like" as you use it without making users log in. Could you elaborate?

DB: There's a big emphasis on finding events by neighborhood and genre. So as you select a genre filter, or choose an event to view, the app will keep a record of what types of music you interact with most, and use that to influence the ranking of options in the future. This feature is completely private and doesn't require a login because the whole process takes place locally on the device. And let's be real — apps that make you login just so they can spam you are lame.

CM: On the promoter side of things, once an event is uploaded, how does the info update in the app?

DB: The way Spot Caller sources data is by aggregating existing live music events from Facebook. We do this because we believe artists should only have to enter event details once, and then have those spread across as many channels as possible. And we want to use available data and technology to its maximum potential before asking artists to create yet another account, fill out a tediously long form, and yadda yadda yadda.

So Spot Caller is constantly crawling Facebook to find new (and publicly viewable) live music events from millions of artist pages. But there's also a "promo tool" in the app which an artist can use to submit an event by simply pasting the URL of the Facebook event. But no matter how the event is initially identified, we re-sync the data from Facebook every couple of hours until the event is over.

CM: What was the inspiration for Spot Caller?

DB: The shallow answer is to say that when in college, I was constantly frustrated by missing all the cool one-off events due to lack of information. Which is true, but the more honest answer is that I have a primal urge to entertain people, and I would do almost anything — even give my right arm — to avoid a normal, predictable life. So even though I've spent many years learning to code, failing with early prototypes, the work I do is immensely satisfying and will hopefully lead to the entertainment of people on a large scale.

CM: Could you elaborate on how Spot Caller is a part of the mayor's efforts to revitalize and sustain the Austin music scene?

DB: While not officially partnered with the city, Spot Caller does share common cause with two major proposals being presented to City Council on how to revitalize our music scene: cultural tourism and genre development.

Spot Caller is already strong with helping travelers hook into the local, authentic music scene because of genre-based browsing, a clean map-centric UI, and a feature that highlights trending events based on social media metrics. We're also developing relationships with many concierge desks in Austin and will be introducing better tools for them to guide visitors to Austin's best music spots.

Spot Caller's current approach is already supporting minority scenes because our process isn't subject to human bias, and will list any music event that has a Facebook page. But there's more that can, and should, be done to support a wide range of burgeoning genres, and later this year Spot Caller will introduce a new way for "scene ambassadors" to showcase the best live music events everyone in Austin should see.