Is Jukely the Netflix for Live Music?
For adventurous concert-goers, Jukely Unlimited offers all-you-can-see concerts at a decent price. The catch? It's mostly bands you've never heard of.
It was a frigid night, and I was trying to become a more adventurous person. My efforts were fueled by a new concert subscription program called Jukely Unlimited—which, to put it in Jukely co-founder Bora Celik's own words, is "kind of like Netflix for concerts." Celik launched the company two years ago as a music and concert recommendation site. This past October, Jukely was upgraded to a service which allows users to pay a monthly fee for a subscription that lets them go to as many shows offered on the site as they'd like. Jukely recently launched in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and is planning on an eventual 450 city-wide launch. Individual passes cost $25, while "unlimited plus" passes—for a user and a plus-one—are $45. Depending on how many shows you end up going to, that fee can go from a pretty reasonable price to an insanely good deal. Theoretically, you could go to a show every night.
If that sounds too good to be true, here's the catch: While Jukely compares itself to Netflix, the latter asks for far less commitment and is, for obvious reasons, way more convenient. Jukely runs on a first-come-first-serve basis, offering a limited number of passes to a handful of concerts each day. That means even with a subscription, you could miss out on the shows you want to see.
But Celik says Jukely isn't about the shows you already want to see, it's a place to try out something new. "Say you love Tom Cruise, and Tom Cruise has a new movie. You know it's not going to be on Netflix but you buy a ticket to see it," he says when we meet at the Jukely office in Manhattan. "In a similar way, if you really love Franz Ferdinand, you would immediately want to buy a ticket." In other words, Jukely is like the New Releases section of Netflix: "You're hoping to be delighted."
But taking the risk on Netflix is different. Say you randomly pick a movie you've never heard of. If you hate it, you waste maybe 30 minutes of your life and move on. But if you end up at a concert you don't enjoy, you've wasted time and money and energy getting there. You can't leave and just pick another concert, either—you can only go to one show a night. Then there's the selection. While I have my fair share of adventurous, pick-a-random-movie nights on Netflix, I mostly keep my subscription because I know it'll give me things I actually seek out to watch, too.
Nevertheless, I decided to try out Jukely Unlimited for myself. I went on the website to check the listings for shows that weekend, hoping to find something that would drag me out of my winter hibernation. I was disappointed that whenever I saw an artist I like on the site—be it Interpol or Angel Olsen—I was always met with a SOLD OUT sign. If Jukely is Netflix, almost every night would be a pick-a-random-movie night.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. Celik says the platform is for people who are adventurous and looking to discover new music. Bands like Interpol are secondary to the app—just a nice surprise for the lucky member who happens to snag one of very few tickets available. "The idea is to introduce new fans, and Jukely members will be people who normally wouldn't be buying your tickets," he says.
I landed on a band called Neighbors, a group I had never listened to before but, from what I could tell by a quick 30-second listen, had a promising indie pop sound. I decided to go see them at Glasslands that Sunday night. The process for RSVPing was dead easy: With two clicks, I was done. I just had to show up the next day.
At the venue, there was no hassle at all. My name was on the guest list and despite the temperature dipping into the lower 20s, the space was bustling with a packed crowd. (How many of us are here because of Jukely? I wondered.) The band was pretty good—several decibels above the bedroom pop sound I had expected but hovering somewhere closer to orchestral twee, complete with a Michael Cera-esque frontman. Would I buy a ticket to see Neighbors the next time? Probably not, but that's part of the risk and excitement of Jukely.
The service seems tailored for solo concert outings, unless you're one half of a couple that does everything together. Even though I had room for a plus-one on my pass, I couldn't find anyone to go with me on such last minute notice.
Jukely may work more in favor of the artist (of low to mid-level fame) than the consumer. They partner with artists, promoters, and venues for ticket allocations, and work to expose new talent. I want to be optimistic about Jukely's mission, because I want to support emerging artists. I've seen a handful of my own friends' shows listed there, and I would love for Jukely users to walk in on their gig and become lifelong fans. But is Jukely expecting us to be more adventurous than we are? Maybe I fall just outside the target demographic—most of the users are ages 18–24. At 18, when I was going to shows all the time, often alone, I would have loved Jukely Unlimited.
I came home around 1:30 in the morning after the Neighbors show, my life neither better nor worse for it. Any other night I would have jumped right in bed and watched something on Netflix. Instead, I was back on Jukely's site, scrolling through to see if there were any new listings posted.