From Napster to Spotify and Rdio, there’s been no shortage of innovation in digital music services. Not so when it comes to business-side tasks such as managing ticket sales, touring expenses, or an artist’s array of social media accounts. Financial management software made by companies such as Oracle (ORCL) and Salesforce.com (CRM) hasn’t really clicked with musicians and record label executives because it isn’t tailored to the music industry, says Scott Booker, the manager of psychedelic rock band the Flaming Lips. “People who are creating software don’t typically understand the intricacies of how the music business works,” says Booker, who’s also the chief executive officer of the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma. “We all do things in a haphazard way.”
Data analyst and singer-songwriter Matt Urmy has developed software called Artist Growth, an online and mobile hub from which musicians or their managers can keep tabs on scheduling and financial affairs. Besides tracking performers’ interview schedules and what concert promoters or T-shirt sellers owe them, the software’s analytics can also help determine which regions are the most lucrative for touring or whether a band needs to cut its gas and hotel costs to turn a profit.
Urmy’s company, also called Artist Growth, launched its software last year with $2 million in funding from a handful of individual investors, he says. The company charges a monthly subscription fee of $10 for independent artists and up to $50 per artist at larger management companies. In the four years since its founding, it’s built a customer base that includes managers for Alicia Keys, Ke$ha, Kings of Leon, and Dave Matthews Band, as well as roughly 12,000 indie musicians. “It’s very important for us to have a central place for all of this stuff,” says John Romero, the director of digital marketing for Vector Management, which represents alt rockers Kings of Leon and pop star Ke$ha.
Urmy, 35, started writing the program after a failed search for financial help balancing gigs in bars and cafes with his day job in the cancer research department at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville. He says he wanted a unified program that could store music-industry contacts and crunch the numbers on whether to book a show in North Carolina.
Sam Lewis, a fellow Nashville singer-songwriter, uses Urmy’s app to manage a gig from start to finish: He records a tour date’s location, payment, and promoter info; gets reminders to send promotional material to radio stations and other outlets; then types in ticket and merchandise sales and expenses after the show. “I’d like to know if I’m making my money back,” Lewis says. “This application clearly shows me where I go right and where I go wrong.” A few days after the show, he checks Artist Growth to see whether the appearance led to a spike in social media attention or online merchandise sales and incorporates the data into his pitch to managers.
Urmy says he wants to expand Artist Growth into other areas and may try to configure a version that can help organize medical data. The current version is unlikely to attract older, less Web-savvy entertainers, says Flaming Lips manager Booker. “It will be hard to get old dogs to learn new tricks,” he says.