A product manager working in publishing and a Washington D.C. consultant aren’t the types who you would normally expect to have much impact on the New York music scene. But with their fast growing website, My Social List, Ben Rubin and Blake Schenekau are hoping to be the go-to source for concert-goers in the Big Apple.
Launched in April 2011, My Social List now gets over 500 views a day and has over 5,000 followers on Twitter. Rubin says the goal isn’t to revolutionize the way people find out about concerts, but to use social media to create a central location for show announcements and information on the bands, venues and ticket sales.
“Would something be game changing about Facebook from Myspace?” said Rubin. “They evolution wasn’t game changing, it was about making something better.”
So far, the young site has been unable to generate the kind of splash that Rubin hopes to make. A PR representative from concert promoter The Bowery Presents says his company hasn’t even heard of My Social List, despite the fact that it lists all of their shows. In order to keep the site running, Rubin wants to triple the amount of daily traffic on My Social List.
“[It’s] part of being up and coming,” says Rubin. “That’s what this summer is about. We are on the outside… Our goal is to make ourselves more relevant.”
By the end of the month, Rubin will release an iPhone app to help users find which shows are happening tonight, which ones are closest to them, and text their friends with information about the concert. In late March, MySocialList will sponsor Aputumpu – a four-day musical festival at popular Brooklyn venues featuring some of the most popular up-and-coming acts from the Do It Yourself (DIY) scene.
A major challenge for the website is keeping up with the panoply of music scenes in the New York area. Rubin says that due to his own taste, the site is skewed towards the Brooklyn indie-rock sound. Classical music, metal and punk rock also frequently get snubbed.
“While I don’t see electronic music or jazz represented quite as much, I’ve actually been impressed with the wide range of both genres and venues represented,” Ilana Novick, who uses My Social List to track show announcements, wrote in an email.
To help with this, Rubin added an algorithm to the site that monitors several popular music blogs for mentions of over 10,000 artists in My Social List’s database. The site then ranks the bands according to how much “buzz” they are getting, without editorial judgment of whether or not it’s a good show Rubin says this is partially due to not being a professional musician.
“My whole thesis is that I don’t want people to think that my opinion is what really matters,” said Rubin. “I don’t know what your tastes are. I know what I like; I don’t know what you like.”
Each band has to be manually entered into the database, which sometimes allows errors to occur. Surprise shows are often missed, and a big name like Bjork was ranked lower than others simply because she wasn’t already in the database.
Another user, Jack Manley, says that My Social List’s approach has caused his New York-based alternative rock band, Cosmonaut, to be overlooked despite headlining shows at The Knitting Factory and The Studio at Webster Hall.
“I understand they need to cover bigger shows, but I don’t think the Beach Boys are worried about a tweet here and there,” Hanley said. “It’s a double edged sword and they are doing what they can with the content given them.”
Rubin says this isn’t done intentionally, but the overwhelming amount of live music in New York City makes in impossible to cover everyone. He hopes that as they attract more users, My Social List will become a more comprehensive service.
“We are going to give it out all,” said Rubin about the upcoming concert season, which he describes as a do-or-die moment for the startup. As much as he loves his project, it isn’t worth the effort and the expense if people don’t get interested. “If we don’t make it, we’ll close up shop.”