Concerts apps are mostly similar, in that they typically mash the now-familiar GPS on your phone against show listing databases. But when you're on the run, trying to find that last-minute concert or be among the first to score tickets to something before it sells out or scalpers ruin the party for everyone, only a handful will actually do the job and get you tickets on time.
I've missed too many a good show in my life to know what it feels like when your favorite band is playing right down the street. Enough is enough! As such, we've compiled a list of free, reliable apps on various platforms to help ensure you never miss a great show again, or in one case, to learn more about shows after they've happened.
Note: The apps on this list do different things on different platforms, we're posting it in alphabetical form rather than ranking them all.
Bandsintown has all the features of your typical concert app, but we really like the Concert Cloud, so let's start with that. This feature loads your tracked artists who have upcoming concerts around your location while a slider control at the top dictates how many "recommended" artists you want to see, versus your already tracked artists. The more similar an artist is to your already tracked artists, the darker its color, so as you scroll the slider towards "recommended," the cloud turns a lighter hue. This is probably the best show recommender we've seen on a single screen, although your mileage will vary as usual.
The app also includes typical features such as recommendations based on what's in your library; Last.fm and Pandora integration to enhance recommendations; searching for shows by location; venue directions; and ticketing links. (We like that Bandsintown links directly to countless official sellers rather than third-party aggregators.)
The concert listings are very comprehensive, and include shows at smaller venues as well as festivals. The social features are fairly neat too; you can see a partial list of attendees for a show, based on other Bandsintown users. Meanwhile, artist pages also include a Spotify listen link for checking out unfamiliar acts (Finally: No more 30-second samples!).
We can skew towards iOS at times; in the interest of fairness, this list includes two Android-only apps, and this is one of them. GigBeat's sleek interface allows for easy browsing through four simple icons: Artists, Featured, Location and My Gigs. It also makes it easy to keep tabs on different cities and venues, so you're not stuck always searching based on your current location (frequent travelers take note).
Swipe through different menus to browse concerts near starred cities, or browse your favorite artists from Rdio, Last.fm, and your local library. GigBeat also offers the option to add an audio alert to its push notifications, which alert you to upcoming or just-announced concerts by your favorite bands. Once you've found a concert you like, GigBeat offers ticketing links via Songkick.
You also get artist profiles but, unfortunately, no listening options. Still, we like the simple design and no-fuss navigation on this one.
onTour Concert Finder (Android)
This app syncs with your local library and Last.fm account, and provides ticketing links through Bandsintown. You can also search for concerts manually and get directions and read artist biographies and discographies via Last.fm, and you can find directions to the venue or read through the artist bio -- powered through Last.fm -- and scroll through their discography. You can also add concerts to your Google calendar with Google-powered phones, or share events with friends.
One particularly great feature about onTour is that it allows you to set the distance you want to go for a concert so it will search from 25 miles of your current location (or some other set location) to up to 150 miles. Additionally, the ability to set a date range as opposed to ambiguously "upcoming" is useful for specific planning.
Overall, onTour is a great Android location-based concert app, and the fluidity of its interface allows for easy scoping for when you want to find a show fast.
The $2 Pro version removes ads.
The grandaddy of them all, Songkick Concerts is available on the two main mobile platforms as well as within the Spotify app. If you're a Spotify or iTunes user, this is probably your best choice from this list, because it can track the artists you add to your Spotify playlists and iTunes library. If you want it to, it can also track the artists you like on Facebook, Pandora and everything you've added to your Last.fm profile -- and, of course, you can edit that list, because we all have stuff in our libraries from bands we'd never want to see live.
You can create a detailed calendar of everything you plan to see and export that to iCal, Outlook or Google Calendar. And as if that weren't enough, you can activate a feature in your Account Settings that puts the concerts you attend on your Facebook timeline so you can show off. The CEO of Bandsintown says his app is number one, but Songkick undoubtedly tracks gigs at a huge number of venues, which is reason enough to recommend it (again, especially if you use iTunes or Spotify).
I've attended more than one show per week, for months on end, over several periods of my life. Sooner or later, it all dissolves into a blur -- the "best time of my life," but there's also no small amount of "what was that new song they debuted again?"
Setlist.fm is a user-generated database of setlists, which, as you know, are the lists (physical or unwritten) of each song in a band's set on a particular night. Obviously, not every show is listed, because what is this, the Panopticon? Still, they have the big acts covered, and some smaller acts, too.
The more comprehensive setlists offer tiny notes as well -- for example, if two bands stepped on stage to do a collaboration, or if a song was a cover. You can search by artist, venue, festival, or the most popular setlists. Setlist.fm also offers statistics like "most covered artists" and "[artists with the] most concerts [in the] last 365 days." The listings extend back to festivals in the '70s, and earlier classic rock shows, and the list is always growing.
A note to data-heads: Setlist.fm lets you click through to see all sorts of neat stuff, like how often "Sherry Darling" has been performed by Bruce Springsteen, and when.
Like Setlist.fm, ThrillCall departs from the usual formula -- in this case by emphasizing last-minute shows and deals in case you find yourself with a free night. (This also gives venues a way to offload a bunch of tickets if a show isn't selling out.) ThrillCall also offers exclusive tickets to sold-out shows, and even backstage access -- but only if you're in Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco or Seattle (more cities presumably to come).
The prices aren't too steep for flash ticket offers, and you can purchase tickets directly through the app. ThrillCall works with several venues in each city to get the exclusive access, and so if you're looking for a show not among those handful of venues, chances are you'll be out of luck -- though the app does work with concert promoters to get other deals. Along with ThrillCall's flash deals, it functions like any other basic concert app, although you'll probably want to grab one of those too, because you can't be too careful when it comes to not missing the shows of a lifetime. It's a pretty dandy catch-all for your concert needs.
Did we leave out your favorite app for finding out about live shows? Please, let us know, because we update these lists.
Top image courtesy of Flickr/tjuck_el
Follow Eliot Van Buskirk on Twitter: www.twitter.com/evolverfm