Spotify Made You Listen To More Music, WillCall Gets You To Go To More Concerts

In 1996, people in the U.S. bought about 2.3 albums per year. Today, thanks to services like Spotify and Rdio, some of us listen to that many albums a day. Last-minute concert ticket app WillCall wants to make live music just as accessible. This week it released version 1.5 of its iOS app, which delivers push notifications to your feeds about the shows your friends are going to.

WillCall picks the best concerts in town, strikes deals with the promoters, and sells tickets through its app in the few days leading up to the show. You can open the app to check out available gigs or wait for push notifications about newly added concerts or alerts about which shows friends are buying tickets to. The mobile-only commerce experience is super-lightweight, and you can trust it to only send you to see bands and DJs that are actually great on stage. You can see how it works in the video below.

Here’s why this model has big potential.

With recorded music, the barrier to wider consumption was price. It cost $16 for an album you had probably only heard one song from. It sucked when you popped it into the CD player and the rest were crap. That meant you only plopped down cash when you were almost positive you’d like it.

With live music, price is a barrier, but possibly even bigger hurdles are discovery and scheduling. Face it. A night of drinks at a bar could easily cost as much as a concert ticket. Let me tell you, take a few sips of whiskey in the parking lot before you go to a great show and you’ll have a lot better time at the same price as wasting away in some dive.

But WillCall’s real value-add is solving the other two problems. Founder Donnie Dinch tells me “The average person goes to 1.5 shows every year but we’re obliterating that number.” Low attendance is partly because people don’t know who’s in town. Even with apps like Songkick, monitoring for nearby gigs from your favorite artists and buying tickets before they sell out is a pain. WillCall takes care of all this. Its editorial team only picks reputable bands and only tells you about shows with available tickets (or the app clearly displays if they’ve just sold out).

Now that we have so many real-time communication tools like SMS, Facebook, and Twitter, there’s less need to plan things far in advance. In fact, it can be worrisome to buy concert tickets for four months from now with little idea if your best buddy’s birthday party will be somewhere else that night, or if you’ll be out of town. WillCall sells the tickets the week of the show, right up until it starts, so you’re sure you can actually attend and won’t have to end up messing around to sell them on Craigslist.

Push notifications from friends assure you won’t be alone at the venue. Dinch says “purchase notifications are what drive the most purchases without a doubt.”

The new WillCall 1.5 updates make both these things even easier. Video previews that show an artist’s best YouTube clip gives you a feel for the musicians it’s selling tickets to see. The new Friend Activity feed meanwhile aggregates all the RSVPs of your chums so you know who to have meet you in the parking lot to get at that whiskey. You can also share your purchases to Twitter in addition to Facebook to recruit more people for your whiskey drinking session night at the club.

When done right, mobilel commerce is awesome. No shopping, and the transactions go down in the background. What you want gets brought right to you, and the purchase only takes a single tap. That’s why I hear investors saying the early winners of mobile commerce could become institutionalized brands for years to come. And it’s why SV Angel and 500 Startups backed WillCall’s seed round.

WillCall has apps for iOS and Android, but is only in San Francisco now. It plans to launch in New York and Los Angeles early next year. For now, Bay Area folks can try it out as WillCall is running its own pop-up show with drum machine wizard AraabMUZIK tonight in SF.

[This is a pretty accurate representation of WillCall. The main omission is just that it doesn’t have shows for sale every night.]