The Yelp For Concerts

ShowScoop is an app that lets users rate musicians’ live shows. But can you apply the rules of restaurant reviewing to concerts?

Let’s say I suddenly found myself in possession of (free) tickets to see Tegan and Sara this evening at Minneapolis’s First Avenue and hadn’t already seen them four times/followed them obsessively for years: I, as an at-best halfhearted live music enthusiast, might not be sure I wanted to risk losing two (or more) hours on foot for a show that could (but again, in this case, wouldn’t) turn out to be a boring waste of time.

This, and circumstances like it, is when a (relatively) new app called ShowScoop might come in handy.

Or at least this is what the app’s creator, Micah Smurthwaite, is hoping for: an easily accessed and user-friendly guide to performing artists’ merits as live acts, with reviews provided by normal people who’ve been to see them. He sees it, in his words, as a “Yelp for concerts.”

Users who file reviews with ShowScoop rate musicians using four criteria: stage presence, crowd interaction, sound quality, and visual effects. These are categories that separate those performers whose work is best enjoyed at a distance (on an iPod, or the radio) from those who put on a show. If, as in the earlier example, I didn’t already know anything about Tegan and Sara as live performers, I could scroll through their ShowScoop reviews to get a better idea of how they rate in each category and as a whole.

For an app like this to succeed, or to offer anything that can’t be gleaned via word of mouth, browsing live videos on YouTube, or the comments on a venue’s blog, ShowScoop is going to need more reviewers.

They might be on the way. Smurthwaite told BuzzFeed that there have been over a thousand new signups and new reviews in the past two weeks, and some of the bigger-name acts are starting to get into the double-digits in posted reviews. (Smurthwaite noted that, “for whatever reason,” Marilyn Manson is currently one of the highest-reviewed acts, with 14 reviews on the site.) Still, to keep the Yelp analogy going, Smurthwaite said that, right now, ShowScoop is like the restaurant-review site, but for now, “with only reviews of chain restaurants.” In other words, there isn’t yet enough information here you couldn’t find pretty easily elsewhere.

And it’s hard to know whether enough people will ever view ShowScoop as similarly useful to Yelp when the logic behind each might not be quite the same: reviewing a concert seems much more personal and subjective, the way I know I could never give a Tegan and Sara show any less than a 5 in each category, but have no such unwavering devotion towards one particular pizza place and the experience it provides. (This, of course, may vary, but on the whole, there is one’s relationship with a musician outside the live show element, and, separately but often relatedly, the live show itself.)

Still, if it can build enough of a user base, ShowScoop might prove especially useful for lesser-known acts with great live shows, and the kind of consumer who wants to find them. Just ahead of SXSW and the music festival season, Smurthwaite also sees ShowScoop helping attendees who want to prioritize their festival scheduling. “It’s hard for attendees to make festival schedules because they aren’t familiar with all of the artists,” he says. “Researching the lineup is a lot of work. With ShowScoop fans can see instantly see which artists puts on a great live show. There isn’t anything else out there that taps into the wisdom of crowds with quantitative concert reviews.”

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