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The live music app keeping the North East in tune

GIGCO, a free live music app, transforms the North East music scene, connecting artists, venues, and fans. Founder Ben Kindlan and chief executive Matt Grey discuss its inception, evolution, and vision for the future.

The local music scene has been through a lot in recent years. Venue closures, skyrocketing living costs and the rise of secondary ticketing outlets has made it more difficult than ever for local artists and venues to bounce back in a post-lockdown world. And while we’ve seen record breaking tours, sell-out festivals and global artists making millions off live performances in the last year, it hasn’t been the case for artists and grassroots venues in the North East.

But things are changing. GIGCO, a free live music app, allows artists, venues and fans in the North East to connect like never before. From spoken word poetry to electronic dance, the app allows fans to discover the very best our region has to offer – all in one place.

Here, GIGCO founder Ben Kindlan and chief executive Matt Grey sit down with NET’s Kate Hewison to discuss the app, how the industry has evolved, and how there’s nothing quite like live music.

“You don’t say, ‘do you remember the first time you played your favourite band on Spotify?’, do you?”

Right from being young, Ben Kindlan and Matt Grey have shared a love for music.

And within the first few minutes of meeting them, it’s clear they have a deep-rooted passion for the industry, with a desire to help boost a somewhat downtrodden music scene and amplify incredible talent.

With a friendship spanning nearly two decades, Ben and Matt have woven a shared narrative.

From travelling across the country in a beat-up van with Ben’s band in their early 20s, to Ben working at Newcastle Drum Centre and managing music venues and Matt’s experience as a DJ, the duo has an unwavering dedication to the world of music.

But while they had worked in the industry for years, it wasn’t until founder Ben moved to Laos, in South East Asia, to help set up a music venue back in April 2015, that the initial inspiration for GIGCO sparked.

Ben says: “There was always musicians calling in saying, ‘I can get a gig here, do you know where I should play next?’

“And the connectivity and discoverability side of things was really apparent.

“Like me, as a venue owner, I struggled to find bands, artists and DJs to book.

“And from a musician’s point of view, they found it hard to find where they could play and sing.”

Ben returned to the UK in 2020 and pitched the idea to Matt, who was quick to express his enthusiasm for the concept.

And, after many discussions and market research, the idea was formed.

Chief executive Matt says: “We had a place we were working in next to Ernest, at the top of Ouseburn.

“And Ben said, ‘wouldn’t it be great if in our window, we had a big TV screen, and just told everybody what was going on in Ouseburn?’

“And I thought – ‘yeah, that’s the first version of the app’. It’s just that simple.

“There was nothing at that time. There wasn’t one central place, people were getting lost.

“It was too complicated for folk.

“So, we thought, ‘let’s simplify it – let’s aggregate all the information we’ve got into one place’.”

Fast forward four years, a name change, two app developments and a transition from manual technology to almost complete automation, and GIGCO has promoted more than 5000 artists through the platform and listed 6000 events in its first year.

As well as discovering what’s on in the region, GIGCO allows you to create a personalised profile, selecting the genres you like during the onboarding process, and then utilising algorithms to tailor your experience depending on what events, artists and venues you’re engaging with.

You can then connect with friends, fellow music lovers and likeminded people, share events and build a community from there.

Matt adds: “If you put in pop and stadiums, we’re going to be pretty certain we know what you’re interested in.

“But on the whole, if you start using the app, and you start favouriting other events and liking certain venues, then we can start tailoring by those as well.”

Navigating a live music app through numerous lockdowns, venue closures and lost skill sets has helped Ben and Matt understand the necessity of GIGCO, not only for fans and artists, but venues too.

Matt says: “Some venues that may have cool events going on, haven’t quite got that cut through brand recognition.

“And maybe because they’re playing esoteric selections of music, it makes it harder for them to achieve that.

“We’re trying to give them the opportunity to build that experience of discovery, to help people recognise and be aware of what’s happening on certain nights and have that conversation.”

In the post-lockdown era, the local music industry suffered immensely, but by using GIGCO,  the team believe there’s a way to bring it back.

Matt says: “The music industry has got to find some sort of solution that helps artists and venues with promotion, marketing, access and monetisation.

“People are willing to spend a little bit of money for something that’s special.

“We had every conversation from, ‘you know those posters people rip off your wall?’ ‘Well, they’d pay for those’.

“And they’ve never tried to make any money on posters, something that’s really quite cool.

“Even meet and greets, the opportunity to have a close relationship with your fans. That could make some money for an artist or the venue where it’s organised.

“The functionality of the app will be that you could create those special events, which just gives people that extra opportunity to create a close relationship between the place, the artist and the fans.”

As streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify dominate the industry – and figures showing artists are generally paid less than $0.01 per stream – it’s never been more important to continue to support live shows.

Matt says: “It was always, you made the record and the tour was the marketing for the record.

“But it’s now completely the other way around, with streaming a reminder for people to go and buy tickets for the tour.

“The flip is just huge. It means the live music aspect is even more important than it was.”

So, with a new app updated at the end of last year and a passion for world domination, what’s next for GIGCO?

With live music, comes merchandise.

GIGCO recently completed Ignite’s accelerator programme, which has helped the team fine-tune the platform, but has also helped create significant partnerships.

This includes a tie-up with fellow North East start-up and social commerce platform Sugarcoat.

Utilising this partnership, GIGCO is getting ready to unveil a marketplace that allows venues and artists to sell merchandise, memorabilia, physical and digital music, tip musicians and even fundraise for artists in need.

Matt adds: “Our aim was always to have an option for people to sell stuff, and monetising things that they weren’t currently making money from.

“And that’s not just the artist, but the venues.”

There’s nothing quite like live music, the vibrant atmosphere, the exhilaration of hearing a song that you love, or a lyric that resonates deep in your soul.

And the figures tend to agree.

According to studies, global live music revenue is expected to grow to an estimated $25.6 billion by 2027, up 27 per cent from 2019’s figures. Events such as Glastonbury Festival are selling out at an astounding rate, and shows such as Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour and Beyonce’s Renaissance Tour are breaking records worldwide.

What this shows, is that the world hasn’t fallen out of love with live music. Instead, all it takes is some appreciation of local music scenes. And GIGCO is the perfect app to do so.


Photography: @jaydavison_

March 3, 2024

  • Arts & Culture

Created by Kate Hewison