Songkick Attempts to Catalog Rock History, Live and Online

songkickCompared with the record industry, the live music business is still relatively healthy. A number of online services catering to concertgoers have sprung up, most of which track and recommend upcoming shows based on a user’s musical taste and provide links to ticket sellers. One of them, British startup Songkick, has now launched an ambitious “social database” that chronicles more than a million live music events dating back to the 1960s, in the hopes that a new, time-sucking web resource for music fans will drive user adoption its way while documenting a cultural history that is currently loosely aggregated at best.

Music history has been well-documented over the past few decades, but Songkick’s database appears to be the first to cull together show dates, venue information, performance data and fan experiences in one place. Individual band sites do a good job for obsessive fans, but Songkick’s social elements draw on each user’s lifetime of experience seeing live music, in the same sense that bookshelves serve as personal histories for voracious readers. Rather than positioning itself as a social network for live music fans, Songkick is smartly aiming to be an information resource more than a friend-finder. It’s certainly a niche site, but the better Songkick can document the past, the better-positioned it will be to capture the future of a segment of the music business that’s gaining in importance as the record industry withers away.

Inspired by Wikipedia and IMDB, Songkick Chief Executive Ian Hogarth said, the company aims to build an encyclopedia of live music that could one day include 50 million shows. Into each page’s framework, users can contribute photos, post YouTube clips, edit set lists, and write reviews and accounts, as well as follow other users. The database is integrated with Songkick’s future show listings and recommendation engine, so that users who attended past shows are notified when the same artist or similar artists come to town. (Like several other calendaring services, Songkick already scans a user’s iTunes library to gauge musical taste, and makes money through affiliate ticket sales as well as advertising.)

Backed with about $5 million from investors including Y Combinator, Index Ventures and angels including SoftTechVC’s Jeff Clavier, Songkick competes with content-heavy JamBase; Bay Area startup SonicLiving, a favorite among early adopters; and Livekick, which launched officially this week after an extended beta phase. Songkick passed the much older JamBase in popularity earlier this year but has fallen behind again, according to statistics from