It’s never easy for up-and-coming bands to promote their shows and market themselves in a way that allows them to play a sold-out show in front of thousands of fans. Even hundreds of people would be a lot to ask for.
Oak Lawn native Mike Echlin wants to change that.
Since 2013, with a start-up company he calls “Gigable,” the Marist High School graduate has been trying to help bands sell tickets—and stream their music to a larger audience.
Gigable, which is now available as a smartphone application, allows users to listen to streaming music, similar to Spotify and Pandora. If a user enjoys the music, there is a button available to purchase tickets to the band’s concert.
Later this month, Echlin is bringing his efforts to a local show.
“Gigable Presents: Grassroots Showcase,” featuring three bands, will take place on Aug. 20, at 7 p.m., at the Beverly Arts Center (BAC).
Midnight Pilot, Tyler Barham and the Zach Pietrini Band are scheduled to perform.
Echlin said his goal is to help such bands gain more exposure.
“There’s this influx of music, and I don’t think people really realize how much quality music is being created right now because we still have the basic distribution in place for pop, mainstream songs and music that’s being promoted,” Echlin said. “Radio really hasn’t changed much. The format hasn’t changed—it’s Top 40, which means that any given time, there’s 40 artists who are being promoted on almost every major radio station around the country. Beyond the top 40, obviously there’s thousands and thousands of artists who have really quality songs out there. So our app is kind of designed like radio, in which we’re curating the music, but we’re going much deeper than the Top 40; we’re not even touching anything near the top 40. We’re not including any artist who’s considered mainstream.”
According to the Gigable website, Midnight Pilot is an Americana pop-rock band from Michigan that has been influenced by Tom Petty and Wilco, while Montana native Tyler Barham is a country singer/songwriter. The Zach Pietrini Band has become popular in Milwaukee and is inspired by Gram Parsons and Ryan Adams.
“We’re calling it a grassroots concert,” Echlin said, “and it’s really rooted in country Americana, and it’s going to have a couple of different flavors of that in there.”
Echlin, 47, plays four instruments, he said, and has been working on Gigable for about three years; this summer essentially marks the official launch of the company.
After working in software design for several years, he said Gigable became his full-time job about seven months ago.
“The first two years, it was more or less a side project,” Echlin said. “We were kind of testing the market as far as … can we reach new fans? Can an artist reach new fans? How strong is social media and word of mouth, which really gets the word out about emerging artists? We did a bunch of shows, and we learned a lot of stuff. We kind of learned about the psychology of ticket sales and what makes people buy tickets at what point in time.”
He thinks his brand can find a niche alongside the popular music-sharing services because it offers a different category of music.
“Those services are great for mainstream,” Echlin said. “We don’t see ourselves competing with them because they do a great job of streaming music for Justin Bieber and Adele … any of the mainstream acts.”
For the upcoming show, Morgan Park resident Vince McCann is working with Gigable. A Marquette University alumnus, McCann worked in radio in Milwaukee and discovered the Zach Pietrini Band during a visit to Nashville. He met Echlin in January, and by helping to bring Pietrini to Chicago, he feels the relationship has come full circle.
McCann, 23, is a full-time teacher at Ralph Ellison High School, but he’s excited to be pursuing his passion for music as well.
“Music has always been a big part of my own life; it’s something that I’ve never wanted to let go of,” said McCann, a St. Cajetan Elementary School graduate. “I went to school for teaching, but I’ve always loved music; I’ve always played music. These kind of cool opportunities that you just stumble upon every once in a while in life—the way this is working out is just really cool, to be able to work within that music industry, to help bands promote themselves and just make music better.”
The BAC is an appropriate local venue for the show, McCann said, and Echlin is excited to see his brand—and, hopefully, the three bands playing—expand their reach.
Echlin believes that plenty of lesser-known musicians are out there waiting to be heard. Gigable, he said, gives them that outlet.
“There’s just so many great, original bands recording,” Echlin said. “It’s really like a renaissance.”
Tickets to “Gigable Presents: Grassroots Showcase” are $25 online or through the smartphone application and $30 at the door. To make a purchase, visit the Web site at gigable.net.