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The Best Concert-Finding Mobile Apps

Jul 8, 2013
Originally published on July 15, 2013 8:37 am

A few months ago, I reviewed a handful of new apps that show you which bands or artists are playing in your area. Some of those apps were hit-or-miss, and some have made some improvements since my initial review. This week All Songs Considered co-host Robin Hilton and I have pared the list of apps down to our two favorites. (You can hear us talk about it on the weekly series All Tech Considered.)

I see a lot of live bands. So far this year I've gone to nearly 300 shows. For the crazy, out-every-night concertgoer the best app is Timbre. It's snappy, fast, concise and elegantly designed. As I initially reported back in April, if I click on an artist, it immediately plays a clip of music (though you can turn that feature off). You can search any city for any date, which is great for traveling. You can also buy tickets, share show times with friends and add the events to your phone's calendar. And since it shows you nearly everything that's playing in the area, you can easily discover bands you've never heard before.

Robin doesn't have much time to see shows like I do and just wants to see bands he already knows. The best app for that is BandMate. BandMate scans your music library and tells you which of the bands in your library are playing in the area. If you have a massive music library (Robin has nearly 30,000 songs in his), the app can be a bit slow to build its database. But once it does, just like Timbre, it'll let you listen to the bands, watch videos, read bios, see their Facebook pages, buy tickets and more. And, if you don't want BandMate to curate a list of shows for you, it'll show you everything in your area, and even has a more complete list than Timbre.

Got another app you prefer? Tell us about it in the comments section or tweet @allsongs.

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There are dozen of apps for your smartphone and tablet that help you find out about live concerts or to keep track of your favorite bands. So which to download and which to dismiss?

For advice, we brought in some in-house experts.

ROBIN HILTON, BYLINE: How many shows did you see last year?

BOB BOILEN, BYLINE: Last year - I go by bands - last year, I saw 463 bands. And I keep a spreadsheet. It's the only way I can keep track of this all.

CORNISH: That's Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton from our NPR Music team. Bob is the one with the spreadsheet. And here's their review of two concert apps you might want to check out.

BOILEN: It used to be you'd go to the newsstand, you got the Village Voice or some paper or something. But, of course now, there are great apps and there's a couple of really amazing apps. You type in the city named agency all sorts of bands that are playing, and often tailored to the music you like.

There is one app called Timbre, actually they pronounce timber 'cause nobody can get it right. The company says they now go by timber. It's free and you can see everything that's play. It knows immediately where you live and it shows you so many of the concerts that are in your area. If you go into another town, you type in the city - bam - you see all the ones. Scroll by date. It's really elegant.

HILTON: What if you don't know what the band is?

BOILEN: Well, that's a cool thing. This is also a music discovery app. If there's a band playing in town, you've never heard of them, you just swipe and you start to hear the music.

HILTON: Well, Bob, you are what I would call an extreme concertgoer. You see so many bands every year. I don't have the luxury of time. I've got a toddler at home. I'm busy. I don't get out a lot. And I'm certainly not going to travel to another city and go and discover a band that I've never heard of in a live setting.

BOILEN: You're pretty much going to go to a show that you know a band, you want to see them.

HILTON: Right, I just want to go see bands that I already know I like. And Timbre is a really beautiful app. It's very elegant. You can scroll through it very easily, you see an infinite list of bands. But there's no filter on it. It shows me everything - pretty much everything that's showing in the area. And I just want to go see bands I already know.

The best app that I've seen for that is BandMate. It scans my library - my iTunes library. It shows me who in my library is playing in the area. And of all the apps that I've tried, it seems to do the best job of curating a list of shows for me to see, based on what it knew I already liked - had a great interface.

The one downside to BandMate is I'm cheap. It costs a couple bucks. A lot of these other apps are free. I had to create an account. I don't like creating accounts. And BandMate's a little slow. It took a long time to create a database based on what was in my library, though admittedly there's something like 30,000 songs in my library.

BOILEN: Yeah, I think worth the time. It does take a little longer. And the other thing you can do with these things is, you know, you can buy tickets. You can share the concert with your friend. I love the fact that in both of these applications, the BandMate that you love and I love, too, and Timbre, you can put it on a calendar so, you know, you're sitting there scrolling, oh, what can I see next week? What can I see the week after? You throw it on your calendar so you don't forget. And both of them, you can also see videos of the bands and read bios of the bands and things like that, so it's pretty cool.

HILTON: So how many shows do you think you'll end up seeing this summer?

BOILEN: This summer, if I do 10 bands a week - and there's how many weeks in a summer? You do the math.

CORNISH: That's Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton of NPR Music with their concert app picks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.