There are very few thrills like that of going to a gig. The scramble to order tickets in time, crossing the days off the calendar until the night itself, deciding whether or not it’s worth paying for the cloakroom or to stand with your bag and coat tucked between your knees like a penguin caring for its egg. It’s a rush. Naturally, you want to share that excitement, to show the world that you, of all the people in the world, you (!), are there.
Sadly, however, that excitement is all too often ignored. While you might want to shout in your friends’ faces about getting tickets to the Stormzy show, they would probably rather you didn’t, and even if you did, it’s unlikely they’d shout back anyway. For those precious few hours packed in the crowd, you want to share with someone who understands, someone who gets how much of an absolutely massive deal it is that you are seeing this gig and that’s exactly why Niall Green invented SECOND SCREEN.
“What it was about for me was… allowing people to interact with other people who have the same goal at that moment; to get tickets, go to the event, then share their experiences with people who actually care, not just their grandma or auntie on Facebook” he explains over the phone. SECOND SCREEN sits somewhere between a social network and a fan forum, operating almost exclusively in the live music market. The company develops specialised apps for festivals, tours and other live music events, based on a white label template but built with the needs of attendees in mind.
Niall Green – Ellen Offredy
“We sit slap bang in the middle of those two. Fan forums are always going to be big news, and we’re the same sort of thing, sharing information with those that require it,” Niall says. Sharing is inherently social, so giving people the tools a skin that’s relevant for that festival or artist, [content] will be received by members of that community and shown more interest in, which is essentially what everyone is looking for.”
Founded in 2014, SECOND SCREEN has already built apps for festivals like the Isle of Wight Festival and Boardmasters and has created platforms for the likes of SJM Concerts and UNIVERSAL MUSIC. The apps are designed to give fans better access to live music, providing maps and timings for festivals and offering a look behind the scenes at events often through artist takeovers of the apps giving a prime look in for fans. In some cases, SECOND SCREEN has even given fans the opportunity to affect the show they’re seeing by suggesting songs to perform, acts to play and cities to go to within the app’s message boards.
Niall’s inspiration for the service came from his youth growing up around festivals. “Going to festivals and feeling that buzz of the crowd, I wanted to put a harness around that energy and allow people to create sort of, connections based on that energy at events,” he says. “I was fortunate enough to be able to go backstage, but for a lot of music fans they get to that metal barrier, spend an hour and a half screaming at their favourite artists and then go home. There’s a whole world, a whole community, that’s wrapped around that event that people don’t get to see and [I think] people are really interested in seeing that.”
Rather than start a singular service built around live music, Green recognised that specialisation was key. Social media is already becoming saturated, why add to that noise, he says. Instead, SECOND SCREEN apps provide a more direct platform for fans to connect with one another and a simpler interface for festivals and event organizers to respond to attendees’ requests and comments.
While specialisation is at the core of SECOND SCREEN’s apps, Green also recognized that there’s likely to be a crossover of interest among users, especially festival attendees, and as such once you create a login for one SECOND SCREEN service you can use it across all of their apps. All content generated through the thirty-seven-plus apps SECOND SCREEN has on the market also ends up on their desktop site LiveHub, a service that gives users and clients all the benefits of a single network without the mountains of excess data and content that comes with it.
Of course, none of this has come without controversy and debate over social media etiquette at gigs continues to rage both in the pit and out of it. I ask Niall whether SECOND SCREEN has ever felt a push back against encouraging people to share live music based content in the way it does. Surprisingly he empathises with the fans stuck watching gigs through someone else’s phone screen more than most, yet argues that SECOND SCREEN can help rather than exacerbate the problem. “I think that beauty of having apps like ours is that people can be involved, they don’t overshare while they’re at the event… What we’re seeing more of is that when people get home and they have their post-festival blues they can share that content with other people who were there and have some sort of further connection to it.
“People will film gigs regardless of where they’re going to put that content so all we’re doing is giving the festival or the artist the ability to regain control of that content, to say you know what ‘we really don’t like that video, let’s take it down’ or ‘we love that video, lets share it on social media and tag the person in it.’” For Niall, it’s all about giving longevity to events that they’d otherwise miss out on and creating a space where fans can talk about their passions uninterrupted and unjudged. It seems to be working, “with the Isle of Wight app, there’s people still posting in it today,” Niall says “this festival ended in early June. We’re extending the shelf life for these events and expanding their social reach.”
Looking to the future, Niall has plans to bring SECOND SCREEN into events outside of the music industry. The company is currently exploring the possibility of creating apps for sporting events and recently launched an app for West End Musical Son of a Preacher Man, as well as a number of charities, including an anti-poaching organisation in South Africa. “It’s something more alive than a website,” Green muses, “It’s just harnessing that conversation and being able to extend it. Wherever there’s a conversation it’s my view to get an app up there and to capture that energy.” With 1,000,000 users and counting, it probably won’t be long until you’re logging onto a SECOND SCREEN app on the way to watch your favourite band or checking the feed to make sure you’re up to date on the line-up of your favourite festival.