For music lovers, it can be tough to keep track of and discover new concerts in the area. A Vancouver-based developer is hoping to turn that around. Shubaloo was created as a platform to build a live music discovery experience that shows hundreds of upcoming concerts in the nearby vicinity.
Created by Shu Zhang, Shubaloo was born out of an extensive background in tech, and a love for live music. The website’s simple design is clean and easy to maneuver. Zhang has built an interactive listing that uses various filters, can play full tracks from upcoming headliners and openers as you browse, as well as shows price comparisons from different ticket providers. The website is interactive and allows users to curate and add shows while creating personal concert calendar listings. In this, Zhang sees part of his long term vision for a large community of curators powering event discovery.
As part of my ongoing series to meet artists and feature those involved in Vancouver’s music scene, we chat with Zhang to learn about Shubaloo, and why he chose Vancouver as home for his new project.
Where are you from originally?
I went to Waterloo for computer engineering and have worked the last seven years across a variety of tech companies. Most recently, I was an engineering manager and founding member of Zynga’s ad platform where I led the development of its backend system, which delivers over one billion ads a day across 30 Zynga games. I’m from Beijing originally, but largely grew up in Toronto and mostly worked in the States in Seattle.
How long have you lived in Vancouver?
A little over a year.
What inspired you to build Shubaloo?
I love live music and have been looking for a product like this for years. Nothing has really met my expectations. Live music technology feels under-invested and underdeveloped and that’s very surprising because live music is the one facet in music that will always be highly valued even as other music products are devalued by technology.
Like it or not, streaming tech has effectively set the value of listening to unlimited music to $10 a month (or free with a few caveats). Going to a cheap show every couple of months cost more than that and serious music fans can easily pay 10 times that. Going forward, the music industry is powered by shows and there needs to be more innovation in this space.
What makes Shubaloo different to other concert listing websites/apps?
There’s no live music discovery today. There’s music discovery and then there’s live music listing and tracking tools for live music. People are expected to discover bands through other channels and then use live music related technology to make sure they catch these bands in town. But live music discovery is about more than catching bands you already listen to a lot and this disjointed system in place today doesn’t work well.
What we’re trying to do is an integrated and dedicated discovery experience for live music. For starters, we’re offering a more complete browsing experience than anything out there, some novel discovery mechanisms, a platform for curation and a platform that’s social to its core while retaining the simplicity of plain listing sites and tracking/notification features of existing concert apps.
What’s the response been like so far?
The response has been very positive so far. As part of the initial launch, I posted an intro to reddit’s music community (/r/music) and it promptly shot up to #1 there and made the reddit front page. We got over 100,000 pageviews within hours of the post and hundreds of enthusiastic comments. Obviously Shubaloo has a long way to go, but the response so far makes me think we’re at least on the right track.
Is the site currently just for the city of Vancouver or is it tailored for more cities?
Shubaloo works across North America. Try it out when you travel.
Is there an app associated with the website?
The site is responsive and should work well on most phones. Native apps will definitely be made some time in the future, but there’s a lot of other work that needs to take precedence for now.
Why did you decide to make Vancouver the home for building Shubaloo?
First of all, there are some amazing new music coming out of Vancouver and the music scene here is very diverse. There’s also a lot of passion here from both artists and the people striving to support them. However, at the same time, there are serious issues affecting discoverability. Several local bands I know have done successful European tours and can’t fill up small venues in their hometown.
A lot of shows here feel very underground and known only to some small scenes, and those scenes are not growing very fast. Not saying these shows aren’t fun, but bands are not getting paid well, are not growing their local following as fast as they should and some incredible local talents will never be heard by over 99 per cent of Vancouver and that’s a problem.
To me, it’s this combination of talent, passion as well highly visible and relevant problems that makes Vancouver the perfect environment to incubate Shubaloo. This is the kind of environment that really drives ideas and innovation in the space.
How do you see the website growing from this point?
We’re growing through a lot of channels, but I’ll call out one in particular here, which is to enable influencers to use Shubaloo as a curation platform for shows. Similar to how blogs/publications/brands curate and embed playlists from platforms like YouTube and Soundcloud, they can curate and embed a mini local events guide from Shubaloo. We’re starting to pick up some great partners while working them to figure out how to add more value for their sites.
Most importantly though, I need music fans to love this platform. For long term growth, nothing else is more important. I know we’re nowhere near where we need to be. Shubaloo is in its infancy and it has a lot of growing up to do.
For anyone reading this, check out Shubaloo, and if you have any feedback, issues, suggestions or collaboration ideas, please do reach out to me. I’m always listening, I’m always working on improving Shubaloo, and I really just want to help people discover great live music.