September 16, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Sonar iOS App Breaks Down Barriers Between Fans, Fans, and Bands

sonarClearly, there’s no lack of start-ups these days trying to help us merge online and offline identities. At times, the TechCrunch Disrupt conference we checked out earlier this week seemed to be about little else.

But the Sonar Mobile Profile for Local Social Networking iOS app appears to offer something special for music fans — and, perhaps more interestingly, for the people whose job it is to promote artists. relies on existing social and locational networks (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and as of this week, LinkedIn) to figure out whether there’s anyone else in a particular venue who likes the same music you do. Then, the app lets you introduce yourself. Crucially, they don’t need to have Sonar installed for it to work.

“For a fan, imagine walking into any venue, popping open your app, and knowing what music the other people in that venue listen to — who are their favorite bands, whether the girl sitting across from you also loves Arcade Fire, or the guy behind the bar was into Titus Andronicus on Facebook,” Sonar founder Brett Martin told

Led Zeppelin's notoriously brutal manager Peter Grant never would have used the Sonar iOS app to thank fans, but those were different times.

That vision hasn’t fully been realized, which might be a good thing from a privacy perspective. The exact scenario Martin describes above would probably require facial recognition or personally-identifying near-field communication. So for now at least, Sonar relies on messaging to introduce people.

“With one click, we give you a rank-ordered list of everyone [who has checked in] at that venue and how you’re related to them,” explained Martin. “With your second click, we give you an overview of the person — who they are, how you’re connected to them, and what bands you both like. And with the third click, you can send a message to that person over public channels like Facebook or Twitter.”

Music fans might be into this, especially if they’re single, but people affiliated with bands have other reasons to use it: identifying the super-fans and the new fans, learning about them, and possibly even walking up to thank them for their patronage.

“For bands, managers, and venues, you have all of these people coming to a show, but you don’t know who they are,” said Martin. “Sonar helps you analyze everyone who’s checked in at the show or RSVP-ed online, and [answers the questions] ‘Who are the people here who we really want to give VIP treatment to? Who are the most active people on Facebook, or the most prolific people on Twitter? Who likes the band? Who follows the band?’”

This allows an artist (or their handlers) to invite super-fans backstage for a photo, give them free merchandise, and so on. The system can also identify new fans, helping the band cement their fledgling fandom.

“We can also tell you who liked the band before the show and who liked them afterwards, so you can say ‘Hey, we saw you at the show — did you have a good time?’”

In yesterday’s world, the allure of rockstars was that they were so out of reach and untouchable, but that pedestal has been knocked over in many regards. Sonar and similar tools — because, really, Sonar can’t tell you anything you couldn’t figure out some other way — might help artists stand up, shake their fans’ hand, and welcome them to the club.

If they do, our guess is that attendance will be slightly better on their next trip through town.

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