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I asked Tom Hodgson at tigmus about, well, tigmus mostly...

tigmus = This Is GoodMUSic: Watch / Perform / Host


What is your first memory of music?

As a 9 year old, being cuffed round the back of my head by my trumpet teacher for playing a wrong note.  He then knocked my stand over and told me to pick it up!  I now know my scales inside out.

How, when, why did you get involved in music?

I started playing trumpet at 9. I played in brass bands, orchestras, jazz bands, before ending up playing for indie-folk band Stornoway.

What's your experience of (the social impact of) making music with others?

I actually did a PhD in the anthropology of music at Oxford, and spent several years in Pakistan travelling around Kashmir with musicians.  It was such a fun time.  Whilst we could speak to each other in broken Urdu, our main form of communication came when we picked up our instruments.  There was some pretty interesting mixing of styles!

Have you organised events, promoted concerts / gigs, worked at venues ...?

With Stornoway, we travelled all over the world playing on some of the biggest stages.  We poured all of those experiences into Tigmus to try and make touring easier.

What have you done previously?

After my PhD, I was a lecturer at Magdalen College, Oxford, before being awarded a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at King’s College London.  During this period I also played in Stornoway and helped set up Tigmus with my co-founder, Oli Steadman.

Did you work on anything else together before starting tigmus?

Oli and I played in Stornoway prior to tigmus, and we met Richard shortly after.

What or who gave you the confidence to start your own company?

No one, really!  It was more a case of me and Oli egging each other on.  I supposed our first real confidence boost came when we won a seed fund competition from Oxford’s Said Business School.  That’s when we thought, “OK, let’s go for it”.

Is tigmus the first company (you) started?


Who founded it? (When?) Why?

I founded it along with Oli Steadman, who plays the bass in Stornoway, in late 2014.  We launched our first website in May 2015.  As musicians, we experienced first hand the collapse in CD sales and recognied that, while fans were consuming music in a different way - i.e. via streaming - the live music industry was still based on offline networks.  We wanted to change that.

What frustrates you about current events, specifically live music?

Despite there now being lots of interesting data available to tell musicians when and where to perform, the live music industry is still a clunky world of promoters, agents, ticket vendors and traditional venues.  We wanted to freshen it all up by bringing music into interesting spaces and making use of artist’s social media analytics to determine where they should play.

What’s the financial model for tigmus? % of ticket sales or something else?

We take a commission on ticket sales of between 10-20%, depending on how deep into the analytics an artist wants to go.

Who are you thinking about most when developing the company - promoters, musicians fans?

Up until now we’ve been focusing on artists and venues.  We’ve got over 800 venues on the platform of all shapes and sizes - churches, warehouses, bunkers etc. - and over 300 artists.  We’re now developing a special portal for promoters to be able to access this data and make bookings.

Who else is involved? How did you meet? Who does what?

It’s quite a small team at the moment, with me, Oli and our CTO Richard Taylor.  I tend to look after the business side of things, Oli focuses on all things music, and Richard tinkers with code.

What do you enjoy most about starting and running your own company?

For me it’s definitely about intellectual autonomy.  Being able to make your own decisions by taking your time to think about the right kinds of questions, before coming up with the solutions.  Attending a gig that’s been booked through the platform is immensely gratifying.

What did you learn in 2015?  What are you learning at the moment?  What have you yet to learn?

It’s hard to articulate quite how much I’ve learned this year.  Everything from the bare mechanics of running a business (accounting, law, HR etc.), to how to manage people, raise equity financing, web development and marketing.  We’ve also learned a lot about the product itself, what our users want - and, importantly, don’t want - and how we might shape things in the coming months.  We’re now pouring all of that experience into the coming year.  Taking the platform to the next level will require a whole new set of skills, so no doubt this will be a never ending process! (Another reason why starting a company is lots of fun).

Who’s been responsible for the design / development of the website?

Oli and I came up with the original ideas and mapped out the initial wireframes.  My cousin Bruno Jones designed the logo, graphics and layouts for the whole site, at super mate’s rates.  Richard then turned the designs into a functioning website along with another developer called James Taylor.

What's your strategy viz websites versus apps in 2016?

The Tigmus App is the can that keeps getting kicked down the road!  At the moment we’re comfortable operating as a website, albeit one that’s optimised for mobile browsing.  We will introduce an app at some stage, but it’s a way off.  It will most likely focus down on one or two functions, quite possibly around ticket delivery.  Watch this space.

What are your biggest challenges starting, managing and growing the company?

Financing.  It’s both a blessing, in that it allows you to operate and grow, and a curse, because so much of my time is taken up with fund raising.  We’re currently in the middle of a funding round.

What was the first event / concert / gig that was hosted / promoted through tigmus? How did you get them to try it?

The first ever Tigmus gig was at The Cellar in Oxford and featured Balloon Ascents, Count Drachma, Bright Works and Duchess.  It was one of Balloon Ascents first gigs and since then we’ve helped them play a sold out show at an O2 Academy!

How many people have used tigmus?

We’ve had over 150 gigs booked through Tigmus and 850 venues registered across the UK.  We’ve even started to see venues pop up in Belgium, Germany and the USA. 

What about the next 5..10…50..100…?

There are over 300 artists on the platform, which we’re aiming to increase over the coming year.  It sounds crazy, but we’re aiming for 5000 artists over the coming year.  The more artists we have on board the more effective the system will be, resulting in more gigs in better venues.

What kinds of events, venues, customers have you seen through the service so far?

We’ve seen gigs in people’s living rooms, churches and even O2 Academies.  A real mix.  We’ve also had a good spread of indie, folk, hard rock and classical concerts being booked.

What / how much do you know about the people benefiting from tigmus?

We’ve been really hands on with all the gigs going through the platform thus far.  This has allowed us to get to know all the musicians and learn what they need.  The most satisfying gigs have been the ones where we’ve seen an artist use the platform several times, in increasingly bigger venues.

Who are the most well known musicians who have used tigmus?

I’m ashamed to say I think Stornoway are probably the most well known!  The band put on two sold out shows in Oxford’s St John’s the Evangelist Church.  We’ve been focusing on building a grassroots community and are now aiming to bring bigger artists onto the platform.

Which musicians, hosts or promoters have used the service do you think have been most successful / have used it most effectively?

Definitely those that roll their sleeves up and engage with their fans.  The most successful gigs are the ones where the artist really makes their fans feel part of the gig.  By putting on gigs in alternative spaces, artists and fans really get to share a new kind of musical experience.

How long do you envisage people (musicians, hosts, promoters, audiences) remaining loyal to tigmus?

I think so long as we can keep delivering artists more gigs, in better venues, for more money, then the platform will have long legs.  We’re not just opening up new spaces in which to perform, but shining a torch on new territories for artists by analyzing their social media metrics.  “Who knew you had fans in Copenhagen?”, is a phrase I’d like to use more in 2016.

Has anything surprised you?  What are you learning about your customers about what they want tigmus to be?  How are you adapting, growing, developing tigmus according to what musicians, and promoters want / need?

We initially began as a kind of crowdfunding platform for gigs.  We thought this would be a great idea but quickly realised there wasn’t much of an appetite for it.  Our alternative venue database, on the other hand, was a surprise hit!  This aspect of the platform was almost incidental to begin with, but soon recognised that this is the part that musicians were really interested in.  Thus began our first pivot as a business!  There’s definitely a balance to be struck between staying true to your original ambitions while being agile enough to respond to your customers needs.  I’m sure this is true for all businesses.

What data can event hosts / promoters / musicians see about people buying tickets?

At the moment, hosts, promoters and musicians can see real-time updates of who is buying tickets.  We’re about to introduce functionality that will allow the gig booker to monitor ticket sales vs costs and profits.

Was there a stage at which the on-boarding process changed or became easier / harder?

This is a constant process of refinement!  I think, if I were to be brutally honest, there’s still work to be done here.  We’re about to launch a brand new artist landing page which will make the whole process a lot smoother, and we’re in the process of developing a dedicated promoter portal.

tigmus on Facebook

How do the musicians / hosts / promoters / audience define their success?

This varies from case to case.  Some want to make sure they break even or make a healthy profit on a show, others are more interested in creating a memorable evening, or playing in front of new audiences.  I suppose it depends on where one sees the value of putting on a gig.  We aim to make it as easy as possible to put on gigs and make money.

How do you define success for your customers?

For hosts, success is getting more bookings.  For artists it’s playing more gigs, in better venues for more money.  For fans it’s about experiencing music in exciting new ways, getting up close with their favourite artists, and being part of the whole process.

One of the biggest challenges for musicians, promoters, venues, is getting people to leave their houses, to spend the time, energy and money getting to, and into an event. What do you think are some things people can do to entice people to get out?

I think it’s about upping the ante on gigs.  Why not play in this abandoned church?  Or this library?  Or this tunnel?  Fans love it and there’s definitely an appetite out there for experiencing culture in alternative surroundings (just look at Secret Cinema).

How can promoters persuade people to go out of their front door and attend events?

Again, this is about moving out of your comfort zone, either in terms of space or scale.  Would a fan be more likely to leave their house on a soggy evening to see a gig in a cosy library cafe, or a sticky floored function room?  We’ve all been to the latter.  People want something different and exciting.

What other challenges do you see in the music / entertainment industry?

With the rise of online streaming, I think it’s becoming increasingly hard for musicians to make money from music.  If there isn’t a fairer distribution of the proceeds coming off music then I fear talent may start drying up, save for a few who make it big.  If only there was a way to leverage the data coming off streaming platforms...

What impact do you think / hope tigmus will have on the music industry?

I hope we will be able to help more and more artists leverage their streaming data to put on more gigs, in better venues, in more places and thus make a living from music :-)  I think there’s a good opportunity here to dovetail into platforms like Spotify and generate new revenue streams for artists.

What have you done to grow / market / promo the company? Or have you let your customers / clients do it for you?

We launched at The Great Escape in 2015 and put on our own stage, featuring over 20 artists - inc. Hippocampus, The Half Earth and The Mispers.  We also released a special promo video for the platform, made by our good friends at Last Village, which can be viewed here

How have you funded tigmus so far?

We won a seed fund competition through the University of Oxford, which got us off the ground.   We then begged, stole and borrowed money from friends and family (and a small group of business angels) to get us to this stage.

What do you hope to achieve in 2016 / in the next 3 years?

We’re spending the first quarter of 2016 investing in the technology, improving the service and introducing a few new features.  We’re then going to beat the bushes with all our might to get as many artists and promoters involved as possibly.  The success of the platform - and its effectiveness - will depend on getting as many people on board as possible.

What would or who could help you to reach and exceed your goals?

This is such a good thing for musicians, venues and promoters, and we hope to work together with all of them to build a sustainable business.  We want to hear from as many promoters and musicians as possible to help us continue shaping the business for their benefit.

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