Francesco Cetraro, founder and CEO at GigsGuide tells us about live music platforms.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Francesco Cetraro: Luckily, we have all been doing fine. We are spread across Europe, though, as I live in Sweden, my brother is in the UK, and my parents and sister in Italy, so we have not had a chance to see each other in over a year now.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded GigsGuide.
Francesco Cetraro: I am Italian but I have lived in Sweden for the past 20 years. I have had a very international career in the domain names industry, so I have always traveled a lot for work. Particularly in 2015-2016, when I was leading the launch of the .cloud domain extension, I was on the road over 200 days a year.
I am also passionate about culture and music, and I grew increasingly frustrated over the fact that it was such a pain to find cool concerts and cultural activities to do during my trips without having to spend hours on Google each time.
This is why I decided to build GigsGuide, a service we often referred to as “the love child of Spotify and Skyscanner”. The idea is to make it very easy for people to discover live events that are relevant to them, wherever they go. It’s a great tool to discover the local music scene of the destinations we visit, or to plan a trip to see a favorite artist perform (and discover a new destination because of it).
How does GigsGuide innovate?
Francesco Cetraro: One of the biggest challenges when it comes to event discovery is that the overall quality of data on live events is very poor and inconsistent, so the process of finding interesting things to do is still very manual and time-consuming.
At the core of GigsGuide, we have built a sophisticated engine that collects event information from various primary sources, mainly ticketing companies and venues. We then enhance it with details like genres, performers profiles, ticket availability and price, geolocation of the venue, and make it available in a consistent format regardless of the country or the ticketing provider.
The GigsGuide website is a good example of how this data can then be used to match each user with the events most relevant to them and sell travel to music fans.
Our goal is to work with tourist boards and local venue associations and offer them the data and tools they need to promote music tourism in a way that creates real value for the local community and supports independent venues. We are definitely more “live music activists” than simply entrepreneurs and we talk a bit about it here.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Francesco Cetraro: As the Corona pandemic kicked in, the traffic to our site was growing steadily and we were in conversations with a few city promotion agencies to run pilot programs together. That all pretty much disappeared overnight, and with no travel and live events so did all our revenue prospects.
We went into survival mode, but we also decided to channel our passion for live music into becoming one of the largest discovery platforms for live-streamed concerts. It was our way to try and support artists and also help people. It has given us something to keep busy during the pandemic, and we got some nice coverage in the media and a good way to engage users and build up our brand in preparation for the return to “real” concerts and international travel.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Francesco Cetraro: We were lucky that the pandemic hit as we were about to ramp up our team, but we had not started yet. But as travel and live events basically stopped and our revenue prospects dried out, my business partner and I had to find “daytime jobs” and slow down the development efforts on GigsGuide.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Francesco Cetraro: A lot of our previous efforts in partner acquisition relied on attending industry events in person and building relations with e.g. tourist board representatives and music industry professionals. Virtual events have not really worked that well for that, because they just can’t offer the same opportunities for spontaneous networking that in-person events do.
Meanwhile, we have grown our presence on social media and are actively engaging with music lovers around the world recommending live streaming gigs to attend. This is also helping us build a stronger network with artists, venues, and other professionals in the music industry.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Francesco Cetraro: No. Sadly, The rules to apply for support in Sweden were complicated and the requirements did not take into account the special situation of many startups. Just like many other small businesses and freelancers (particularly in the culture sector) we were left alone by the authorities.
Your final thoughts?
Francesco Cetraro: With the vaccine being slowly rolled out, we are all hopeful and excited about all the things we will be able to do again. Obviously, we – like many other people – are particularly looking forward to the return of travel and live events.
However, in the past 12 months, the culture and live music sectors have been really struggling and received very little support from the governments. I wrote recently on our blog about this, and we urge all music fans to do what they can to put pressure on their local decision-makers to support artists and venues so that they actually make it to the summer.