Full disclosure: I’ve never been on a nationwide tour. Most of the bands I played in throughout high school were avenues for friends and me to come up with increasingly ridiculous band names. We would eschew playing music for sitting in someone’s basement and playing Madlibs. Each person received a part of speech and, on the count of three, yelled out the word that came to mind. Fat Jesus Running on Water was the most embarrassing name we were known by for any period of time, but I digress. Having been on my fair share of press lists at concerts, however, I can attest to the annoyance of dealing with people who you need something from but who are uninterested in your presence. I assume booking shows means dealing with these people for the sake of your livelihood, a terrifying proposition.
Band on Tour, an iOS app developed by musicians to help alleviate the stress of booking shows by aggregating contact information for venues around the world, attempts to become a must-have for bands on the go. But the success of the app relies primarily on two factors, whether or not the information is accurate and how easy it is to use the app. Band on Tour shows flaws in both of these aspects.
The first thing that you’ll notice upon paying for and downloading the app is the amount of clutter on the screen at any time. This is driven largely by the near-persistent banner ad on the page, which appears above the menu system that is locked to the bottom of the screen. It’s difficult to see the menu, and not wanting to click on errant ads, it took me some time to realize that the navigation was even actionable. There’s a Store button in the menu that both looks like an ad and seems out of place on an app that you’ve already paid for. This points at one of the major problems for Band on Tour. This is not an altruistic product released by a frustrated group of musicians. It’s designed to make money. That there is a $3 add-on in the Store to make the app advertisement-free feels subversive and backhanded.
The map feature, which allows you to browse venues, is tough to use. When zoomed out, the map shows a counter over regions that displays the number of venues in the area. While it’s a nice feature, the amount of times that you have to click and zoom in before being able to select a venue is prohibitive. Worse still, when you are zoomed in enough to be able to select a venue, the icon that you select is universally displayed as a star. If you don’t know the exact location of a venue, you’ll have to click through many of these icons before you arrive at the location that you’re looking for. If the functionality of the app is to make out-of-town booking simple, this feature fails to be effective.
Perhaps most problematically, doing a cursory check of contact information in the app showed a few discrepancies with information available online. After checking for information on the venue websites as well as on services similar to Band on Tour, contact information was frequently different on the app. It seems unlikely that the app would have insider contact information at locations across the country, calling into question the accuracy of the emails and phone numbers available to bands.
Band on Tour is a good idea executed haphazardly. I wasn’t able to actually book shows, so using the app to manage my tour — potentially a selling point for bands — was something I couldn’t do. Regardless, simply working with the app proved challenging and less intuitive than going to Google and searching for “[venue name] booking information”. And that’s the real problem. While going to individual venue websites and finding booking information was usually a hassle, searching for that same information took less time than using the app. If you don’t have any leads on venues in a city, Band on Tour can act as a good resource to find potential places to play, but if you have even a cursory knowledge of the venues in a city, it seems easier to Google for this information than work through the app’s clunky interface.