Music News

FanTrail app aims to mobilize fans. Take to the Oars one of the first acts on board for launch.

It's no secret that smartphones have changed the way we experience music, but most of the apps we've seen thus far have been spotty, poorly realized cash grabs that have little or nothing to do with the artists in question.

FanTrail is hoping to change that by offering bands and fans another way to connect to each other in addition to traditional social networking sites. Specifically geared toward smartphones and custom tailored for each act, FanTrail is a free, centralized system that allows bands to connect to their fans through the various social-media servers that already exist. The app generates updates through the Internet -- meaning a band doesn't have to resubmit to FanTrail every time its stupid drummer quits it want to update its bio.

"An old friend connected with me and asked if we'd be interested in beta-testing this new project with them," says Take to the Oars frontman Ryan Gombeski. "So we've been able to help them shape the app and what it offers." Gombeski's outfit is among the first bands chosen to get a personalized app. Although Erykah Badu and the Roots got first dibs on the launch, the rest of the smaller bands like Take to the Oars, who helped shape the service, won't be far behind.

"It will give us a chance to connect to fans on a personal level," Gombeski notes. "It's got a few different ways of doing that." In addition to tapping into traditional social networks, FanTrail offers new services like push notification for shows and announcements, as well as a chance to game the band.

Gaming life isn't a new thing; Facebook's and Foursquare "check-ins" are often utilized by the self-important to ensure that friends know where they are and what they're doing. While those reward you with mayorships of the Staples down the street (and a bloated ego), FanTrail rewards fans with something more tangible. Enter the perhaps poorly but aptly named "LoveMeter," where fans can express their, uh, love, by checking in at shows, sending messages and even donating directly to bands. In return, they'll get something from the band -- or, rather, they can. That part is up to the group to decide.

The freebies for playing the game of fan life can range from personalized messages from the band to free tickets for shows. That's all at the band's discretion. As these things tend to be, it'll probably be a bit of a rocky start, but time will tell if FanTrail has what it takes to engage users on a level that'll make it last.

FanTrail is officially slated to be rolled out at South by Southwest. As for Take to the Oars, its app should launch around the same time. The clip below throws around a lot of big dollar signs and investment costs, while explaining the simple details, if you're so inclined.