Most Bowdoin students likely don’t find themselves overwhelmed by the Brunswick music scene. However, once graduate school in Boston or the big internship in New York City begins, the live music options grow. Tamber, the concert recommendation app created by Alexi Robbins ’14 to help concert-deprived students find the best show in town.
Robbins wanted to create a system with which users could receive the best personalized recommendations as possible. Robbins’ dream became a reality in summer 2012 when he began collaborating with coder and Berkeley student Mark Canning and childhood friend Geoffrey Lee.
“It was about two years ago when we were tossing [the idea] around. We were fleshing it out, and it wasn’t something where we were like ‘That’s an idea. We’re doing it now.’ But that’s what it turned into,” Robbins said. “Getting to where we are now with the app was a long process with some failures along the way.”
After downloading Tamber for free from the App Store, users can select their favorite genres and artists, and have the option of signing into Facebook for additional data. Using this information, Tamber suggests concerts in the user’s geographic area.
Despite its simplicity, Tamber—named after the pronunciation of the musical term ‘timbre’—has a bigger purpose than solely assisting eager concert-goers.
“We wanted to design a system that would be able to recommend artists without a popularity base,” Robbins said. “The goal is to be able to recommend small artists just as well as the big guys.”
Tech-savvy college students are no strangers to other services and programs that provide personalized music recommendations. According to Robbins, however, Tamber is unique.
“What most people will say is ‘you like this artist, and that artist has these similar artists. We’re just going to recommend things from any of those artists.’ If you have a list of 20 artists that you follow, it’s a pretty simple and somewhat inaccurate way to do it,” Robbins said. “We look at all the artists and all the similar artists off of that, and weigh accordingly.”
Additionally, Tamber considers popularity trends of artists. Any musician who gains popularity quickly can appeal to a large audience who hasn’t heard their music yet.
Tamber can ride the upward trend by suggesting the artist more readily, which results in greater revenue from its small commission on ticket sales.
“We treat concerts like concerts and not as artists,” Robbins said. “You’ve got a lot of unique characteristics in a concert. There’s a bunch of artists that are actually playing the show. There’s not a super strong guarantee that if you like the headliner, you’ll like the other bands.”
Considerations such as distance to the venue and length of time until the concert are calculated into the suggestions. Additionally, tickets can be filtered by price.
Instead of returning to Bowdoin for his junior year last fall, Robbins took the year off to work full-time on Tamber in California with Canning and Lee. Back at Bowdoin, he has been working toward his computer science major, which he switched into from a government major upon returning to school this fall.
Robbins has successfully balanced Tamber with his classes at Bowdoin. He has allowed them to complement each other, and is hoping to apply his experiences gained through Tamber to an independent study based on iOS technology and marketing.
“Bowdoin’s not really structured for people to do their own projects,” Robbins said. “One thing that has really drawn me to the computer science major is that it is structured that way. There is an emphasis on [students] doing projects. I like that a lot.”
Before Robbins left for California, he connected and collaborated with other Bowdoin students who were interested in entrepreneurship. The College has been continuously supportive of student entrepreneurs, and has recently offered a series of start-up talks, bringing investors and entrepreneurs to campus to share their experiences with students.
Since its beginnings last August, Tamber has grown and improved significantly, receiving positive reinforcement the whole way.
“Everyone that has used it has given very positive feedback,” Robbins said. “We can ask people what they think about it and we do. We ask a lot of people.”
“Overall I’d say that the clean design is probably my favorite aspect of it,” wrote Max Blomgren ’14 in an email to the Orient. “I don’t really use it at Bowdoin because of the limited concerts in the Brunswick/Portland area. There have been many occasions at home when I’m out with my friends and we have found a concert through Tamber.”
Moving forward, Robbins aims to increase visibility of Tamber and update the app to fit Apple’s new iOS 7 operating system.
“When we launched it, we didn’t really do a big marketing push. We did some press out reach and word-of-mouth, and that was most of it.” Robbins said. “With this update, we’re doing more serious marketing.”
If Tamber continues to be successful, Robbins hopes to transition from student entrepreneur to full-time entrepreneur.
“It’s tough to see the future, and my graduation date is 2015. That’s quite some time,” he said. ‘But if things go how they’ve been going, [continuing with Tamber] would be fantastic.”