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News Flash launch show this Tuesday! Read an interview with founder Ryan Frizzell

Posted by Theo / March 9, 2013 is a new Montreal-based website that compiles the details of numerous Canadian music venues and presents them alongside user ratings and reviews, all in an effort to make touring in Canada easier for musicians. Recently, Midnight Poutine talked to site creator, Ryan Frizzell, about StageBanter and the website's Tuesday, March 12th launch party at Sala Rossa.

Midnight Poutine: What inspired you to create Why was there a need for the site?

Ryan Frizzell: In 2011 we booked a cross-Canada tour with Bent By Elephants. To find places to play in unfamiliar cities, we emailed bands that we knew from those places and asked them where to play. Although the suggestions we were given were good and well suited to our band, we found this method to be inefficient because it was time consuming to wait for the email responses. StageBanter solves both of these issues by offering quick access to the booking details of hundreds of venues in one place and by offering user reviews and ratings so that bands can get an idea of whether the venue is a good fit for them.

MP: What did researching Canada's live music venues teach you about the country's music industry? Were you surprised by anything?

RF: There are some awesome venues in small towns in Saskatchewan (see Bruno Arts Bank), and some great venues in towns in Quebec that most anglophone artists skip right over on their way to Nova Scotia like Le Zaricot in St. Hyacinthe.

It seems to me that Hip Hop, Pop and DJ venues are more popular in Alberta and BC and Indie and Rock venues are popular in Quebec and Ontario. That being said, I'm confident that there's a proper venue for any type of band in any region in Canada; sometimes it just takes a little more research to find them. I think a band would be better off playing a smaller venue where people are expecting their kind of music than playing a big one that doesn't usually host that kind of music.

MP: When talking to other musicians about StageBanter, what kind of feedback have you received? Did you incorporate any outside ideas into the site design?

RF: The musician community has been very supportive so far. A lot of people have told me that has helped them book tours and shows and that they're excited to have access to such a resource.

I've had quite a bit of feedback about the design and the user experience. People have told me they find it easy to use, but there are definitely some improvements that can still be made and hopefully those changes will be made in the next couple of months.

The design is intentionally neutral so as to try to avoid explicitly representing users of certain musical genres.

MP: What was the greatest challenge in designing the site?

RF: The strength of StageBanter will come with increased user-generated content like ratings and reviews, but it's challenging to get users to take the time to voice their opinions and recommendations in writing. It's a challenge even for well-established websites. I read that Yelp paid people to leave reviews at one point, though they don't anymore.  

Right now we offer to tweet about someone's musical project or business in exchange for adding a venue, but in most cases, users have contributed because they want to help other musicians, and that's what we'd like to encourage.

MP: The site is very young, so venue listings are still limited in certain cities. How do you envisage site growth and the expansion of the venue database?

RF: If a user visits StageBanter with the hope of reviewing a venue they played, but notice it's not yet listed, they're encouraged to add it to the site using the "add a venue" form. They only need to fill in the very basic information, we'll fill in what's missing and get it posted to the site as soon as possible.

We're also spending some time every day researching venues and adding them to the site. It may take some time, but eventually it will be very complete... more importantly, if there's a strong user base informing us of errors and omissions, it will also be up to date.

MP: A strength of the website is that it connects artists directly to venue booking managers. It also has the power to hold venue owners to account for poor treatment of artists. Have you spoken with venue owners about StageBanter? What has their response been?

RF: When I started this project, I was worried that I might receive some backlash from venues that receive negative reviews, so I have encouraged users to be respectful and as factual as possible with what they write. But so far, there hasn't been much cause for worry. Nowadays, I think that businesses are accustomed to being available for criticism online. I have a few friends who work for or own music venues, and when I have shown them the website they haven't seemed concerned about negative reviews. In general, businesses want to be listed on the site. It's free, and it can help them to grow as a venue, so it's positive for them.

MP: The venue/artist relationship can be difficult. What can both parties do to improve this?

RF: I think the key is to get the "right" bands connected to the "right" venues for them. The "genre" and "capacity" information listed on the venues pages help users get an idea of what kind of bands might be well suited to a venue. User reviews and ratings will help give an idea about what a venue is like, and we're also working on developing some new features that will help to clarify venue types.

As far as the band/venue relationship, bands should be sure to check the booking details listed on to make sure they're going through the right process for booking a venue. Both parties should make sure they're clear on the door deal and what gear is available so that there are no surprises when the band gets to the gig. If you know what you're getting, you have a better chance of having a good show.

MP: With a global reach, StageBanter has the potential to make touring in Canada much easier for international artists. As a member of Bent By Elephants, have you found any similar kind of service outside of Canada when planning your tours? 

RF: I'm sure there are some. There's a service in the U.S. that is well-established with lots of useful information called Indie on the Move. When Bent By Elephants toured the U.S., we weren't aware of the site when we were booking venues. It would have been helpful, but it's no use if you don't know it exists. Getting the word out is very important.

MP: Any plans to adapt stagebanter for the U.S. or Europe? 

RF: It's definitely a possibility, but I'm going to wait until we've established ourselves in Canada. At that time, if we have some good contacts in Europe and the U.S., maybe we'll think about asking them to help us with international sites. It would be beneficial for us and our users if there was one site where you could get booking details for venues in any country.

MP: You've assembled a pretty great lineup for the site launch party with Attention (Alden Penner and Jamie Thompson), Erin Lang and the Foundlings and your own band. What can people expect at the show?

RF: I don't really know what normally happens at a website launch, so I just put together a show of music I like. Alden has been posting some amazing youtube videos of song settings of poems by Alden Nowlan, so we'll probably hear some of that. But since this is a brand new project from him, I really have no idea... but he's a major talent. I'm really excited to hear what he's offering. Bent By Elephants are writing new music for an upcoming LP release so I know on good authority that we'll be hearing a set of brand new songs. Erin Lang has been on tour recently so she'll be well tuned for an awesome live show, I'm sure.

Also, we'll have the website on display for people to try out while they're at the show, and they can take home a nifty guitar pick!

MP: What's on the horizon for Bent By Elephants?

RF: We're currently writing new music to record and release on our second LP. Mike Feuerstack (Snailhouse, Luyas) is onboard as a producer and he's been really helpful at guiding us through the process of preparing for that recording.

MP: What is your end goal for

RF: My hope is that will become the main resource for musicians around the world to connect with canadian venues and musicians.



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