Web developers and live music fans Nameer Rizvi and Naomi-Grace Panlaqui had been dating for about eight months when they decided to take their relationship to the next level. During a pre-pandemic night out, the couple went for a drink at Ivy and Coney and began reflecting on their favorite dates together — many of them live music shows.
“Naturally, the conversation steered toward doing a project together, as a developer couple,” Rizvi says.
The couple’s first plan was to create an app that would list curated date ideas in the D.C. area. But they eventually narrowed their focus to designing an app that would showcase live music shows. Since they’ve been dating, Rizvi and Panlaqui estimate they’ve been to more than 20 live shows together in D.C. — more than half of them at Pearl Street Warehouse. Panlaqui and Rizvi saw it as an untapped market: One-stop shops for local concert listings, like districtconcerts.com and GregsListDC, no longer existed. And larger event management sites didn’t have the local flair or D.C. knowledge Panlaqui and Rizvi could bring to the table.
“You can go to Eventbrite and see names like The Anthem,” Panlaqui says. “You wouldn’t find Mr. Henry’s on Eventbrite.”
Rizvi, a 31-year-old web developer contractor, moved to Ashburn with his family when he was 16. He lived in D.C. for about three years before the pandemic began. (He’s now back in Ashburn working remotely.) And Panlaqui, a 24-year-old web developer working for Booz Allen Hamilton, grew up in Fairfax and moved to the District at the beginning of 2019. During her first year in D.C., Panlaqui lived by The Wharf and would walk in her pajamas to Pearl Street Warehouse’s free Sunday night shows. She’d call Rizvi afterwards to tell him about the shows and the artists she’d met there (like Elizabeth Cannon, aka Elizabeth II, and Hayley Fahey).
Rizvi and Panlaqui launched DC Music Live this month, an app that aggregates local concerts. The couple promoted the launch on Reddit’s washingtondc subreddit, in a post that has received about 1,100 upvotes and more than 200 comments, most of them encouraging and supportive.
The app consolidates upcoming shows (both in-person and virtual) at 23 different venues around the District and connects users to sites where they can purchase tickets. Panlaqui and Rizvi hope their app can help revitalize the local music industry by making it easier for concert lovers to have a single source for all live shows in D.C. with a clean user interface.
When users open the app, the first thing they’ll see is a map of D.C. with brightly colored dots and labels for venues with upcoming music shows. The map is a core feature of the app, since Panlaqui and Rizvi want to make local concerts as easy to find as possible, especially for last-minute entertainment. (Pre-pandemic, the couple would regularly look up shows to go to that same day if they had nothing else planned.)
Users can filter shows by time, price, neighborhood, venue, and even proximity to different Metro lines. So if you’re looking for a show tonight under $20 that’s accessible from the Red Line, this app can help you find it.
Rizvi says that the app is particularly useful during the pandemic, since many music fans might not even know live concerts are happening nearby.
“We’re hoping that by having an event listings app like this, people will be aware that there’s [still] live music happening,” says Rizvi.
D.C. music venues have been devastated by the pandemic: Longtime favorite venues like Eighteenth Street Lounge have indefinitely closed their doors or shuttered permanently. Only one full-time jazz club remains in D.C. And most venues that have held on through the pandemic have either had to pivot or keep their doors closed — aside from the six that participated in D.C.’s indoor concert pilot program last fall.
But DC Music Live comes at a time when venues see light on the horizon: The District will allow live entertainment venues to partially reopen in May.
Panlaqui and Rizvi are already compiling feedback for new features or improvements. Some of the suggestions include adding specific venues they’re missing and creating filters to sort shows by genre or by venues with outdoor performance space. Panlaqui and Rizvi also want to develop a way to highlight local bands and expand their listings to include venues in Maryland and Virginia.
One of the biggest challenges is figuring out how to include concert data that isn’t linked to a website. Currently, the app pulls show data — who’s playing, the time, and the cost — directly from music venues’ websites. But this means shows at venues without websites, or other neighborhood performances that don’t live at a unique URL online, fall through the cracks.
“There have been people emailing us, ‘Where’s the go-go music?'” says Panlaqui.
They’re exploring options on how to include those events, like crowdsourcing from users.
Panlaqui and Rizvi also hope they can work more closely with venues so the app can stay up-to-date on upcoming shows that may not be reflected online. The couple says they reached out to some D.C. music venues about the app, and most were appreciative. Only one spot dismissed the project entirely.
“Blues Alley said they didn’t need us, essentially,” Panlaqui says.
Down the line Rizvi and Panlaqui would consider ways to monetize DC Music Live. But for now, they say they’re focused on providing the most value they can to the local music community. Rizvi says the responses they’ve gotten so far from users has been “amazing,” and it will drive the direction they take the app.
“We’re really just focused on trying to make the app better and do what we can to revitalize the D.C. music scene,” he says.