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Interview | Five minutes with Pepper co-founder David Hamilton

Pepper is a nifty new social network dedicated entirely to live music. The app’s beautiful interface and ease of use wowed me – even though I did find the lack of users to connect with a major snag – so I was eager to learn more when I sat down with Pepper’s co-founder David Hamilton.

Hi David, thanks for your time. First off, can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi, I’m the CEO and co-Founder of Pepper. I’ve been in the tech world ever since leaving University, but have always been a live music fan which really just makes this my perfect job!!

How did the idea for Pepper come about?

For me, Pepper came about while working on a contract in Brighton. Brighton is a town where a lot of live music happens, and as a fan of live music it was just wrong that I hardly went to any gigs. I found that being in a foreign town that had so much going on, it was just hard to work out what was going on that I might enjoy. Not only was there so much going on, but I didn’t know where to travel to get to the venues. Could I walk, or was it a long drive? Chatting with friends in the pub after work, we joked about how good it would be to have an app that just told me what was going on in walking distance from me.

I also have friends in bands, and although in their home town they would pull in a good crowd, it was always hard when they went to another town, seeing only a handful of people coming and going for the bands they knew, and therefore finding it really hard to grow their fan base.

Adding these two points together I knew there was something really interesting that I could create to help both fans of music, and the people in the industry itself.

How long have you been working on the app?

The company has been going now for about 4 years.  However, it is more than just an app, we are building an eco-system for the live music industry.  The app is our product for the fans of music, a social network for live music.  It is all about discovery of events, making sure you never miss out, and ensuring you have all the information you need in one place.

On the other side of our eco-system we have BackStage, launching in the next few weeks, which comprises many services for the live music industry – initially focused at the venues, artists and promoters.

The number of events listed on the app is quite impressive. It seems like artists, promoters and venues are warming up to Pepper quite fast. 

At the time of writing, we have around 18,000 upcoming events across the UK.  We pride ourselves on the quantity of events we have, covering anything from an open mic night all the way up to a gig at Wembley Stadium, or even an Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall.  We are focusing our BackStage system on providing services that the industry wants, so yes, we do have a number or venues, artists and promoters that are excited about our platform.  However, this is still early days, a lot of our data is still collected by our own in-house team of specialists.

The music tech market is becoming increasingly saturated. How hard is it to stand out?

It is very hard to stand out, there are so many start-ups out there all doing different things, some of them are amazing, and some less so, getting heard above the noise is hard, but all the more reason to ensure that our product does exactly what it is required to do.  I feel as though the time for creating just an app is long gone (yes, there will still be other Instagrams, but not many), a start-up these days really needs to know how they are going to monetise and make their business successful rather than just hope for a big buy-out.

For us, it has been a long time in building this platform, but I believe that it will be what helps us stand out, both consumer and industry are interlinked on our platform helping each other to grow in a very symbiotic relationship.

Pepper’s success is heavily dependent on having a growing user base which connects regularly. Who should join Pepper and why should they keep coming back?

Pepper is designed for anyone who likes live music. We don’t care if you only go to the big pop shows once a year, or if you are an avid gig-goer attending as many events as you can.  Pepper has the events you will want.  What makes Pepper special is the ability to add your friends, helping you discover more about their interests.  Why should people come back – because they want to find a new gig to go to, or discover a new artist!

We have a strong belief that Pepper needs to be a free service for our users, with no advertising to turn a user off.  We also don’t like spam, and part of the magic will be about helping to notify you of things you actually want, rather than just bombarding you with pointless lists of events (although this is not yet available while we perfect it).  The next couple of years will see Pepper’s name and services grow within the music industry, we aim to become a household name that will be hard for you to miss.

Pepper is currently only available in the UK. Is this intentional or do you also plan to make it available elsewhere at some point?

This is intentional, it takes a long time to ensure we have the correct coverage for events.  We have already run beta versions of the app in the US to test the technology and are concentrating on growing our event data in the US so that we can launch our services out there.  We want to be a global service and aim to start launching in other countries next year.

When can we expect to see Pepper available on Android?

Pepper is currently available on iPhone, Windows Phone and Windows 8.  We are currently working on a major update for all platforms which we aim to launch around October – this will include availability on both Android and Windows 10.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the UK live music scene?

The UK live music scene feels as though it is growing, less revenues available through recorded music means more gigs are going on.  However, with the growth of this comes a bigger issue of discoverability.  I went to see The Killers at Wembley a couple of years ago, and they weren’t sold out – this isn’t due to lack of demand, it is just an issue with discovery.

I also think that this is leading to more problems in the ‘local’ scene, some iconic venues are struggling as their events get pushed down in the noise of all the others.  If we aren’t careful this could cause some real issues for the UK music scene, not allowing new artists to get gigs and therefore unable to be discovered.  We believe that Pepper will go some of the way to help answer the issues around discoverability.

Thank you for your time. If there’s anything else you would like to add, now’s your chance.

We love feedback – we know that our app isn’t perfect yet.  We are building an app for fans, and therefore we really want to hear from people about improvements that will make it perfect for them.  I hope to talk with you again in October once we have launched our updated versions of Pepper so that I can give you and your readers more details on some new features I can’t really talk about yet.

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