For as long as I can remember I've been obsessed with music.
As a baby, my parents could only get me to sleep by driving me around the neighborhood while playing Pink Floyd. I bought my first single (Madness' version of It Must be Love) aged six and by my early teens I had discovered The Clash. And that was that - I was hooked. At college, I was music editor on a campus magazine, and I eventually ended up working on a music magazine/website for six years.
So yeah, music is important to me, and always will be.
This is the first in a regular series of articles exploring the apps that we couldn't live without.
That much is clear by looking at my Google Pixel 6's homescreen: Spotify, Sonos, the BBC Sounds app and YouTube are all given valuable real estate, and all are regularly used as I either immerse myself in old favorites or seek out new playlist fodder. But if pushed, I could do without them all; I have stacks of vinyl and a turntable; I have hundreds of gigabytes of MP3s ripped from the CD collection that's now been consigned to the shed; I have a DAB radio; I have one of the best Bluetooth speakers. I'd manage.
The app I couldn't live without, though, is Songkick.
Taking center stage
Songkick is a music discovery service, but more specifically it's a way to find out about upcoming concerts you might want to go to.
It's far from new; the service has been around since 2007 and the app arrived more than a decade ago, in 2011. But it remains the best such example on either the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.
And honestly, I'd be lost without it. Live music is a particular passion: for most of my adult life, I've gone to a gig every week or two. When it was part of my job, that number increased to two or three concerts a week, countless nights spent in dingy venues scattered across London, faded entry stamps on hands, beer on shoes and hangovers in the morning.
But it's hard keeping up with things as you get older. The demands of two kids, a busy job and just life in general get in the way. And my memory is terrible. Friends help, but honestly if it wasn't for Songkick I'd have no chance.
Here's how it works: Songkick serves up suggestions for concerts in your area by artists / bands you like. You tell it where you live, tell it what you listen to and it does the rest, sending you notifications when a new tour date gets announced then letting you buy tickets from the official sellers.
Notifications are the big thing, because the chances of me actually remembering to find out who's playing where in the next month are roughly zero - it's just not something I am capable of.
Back in my twenties that didn't matter, because I was out most nights and someone would always give me a heads up. And in my thirties, I was told where and when to go and paid to do so. But now? Well, now I'm on my own, with a window of about 20 free minutes a day in which to book some tickets, and an increasingly unreliable brain reminding me to do so.
Songkick, together with my phone, acts like a personal concert planner. And it's really smart. Although you can easily search for bands you like and add them that way, there's a Spotify integration that makes it so much better. Link the services and Songkick will scan your Spotify library, adding artists you listen to regularly and saving you from having to do it manually. It's all very slick.
What's more, it remembers things. If I see something I want to go to, I can click that I'm interested and it will remind me nearer the time. If tickets aren't yet on sale, it will tell me when they are. It links with Google Calendar - basically the only guarantee I'll remember anything - and tells me what's coming up.
And when I do buy tickets, it keeps track of them and emails me in the days before. More than once this has saved me from completely forgetting about a gig I was supposed to be attending - and saved friends from being stood up by me.
I guess what this all says about me is that I'm unreliable and forgetful and generally useless - all things I already know. Still, as long as Songkick exists I have a workaround, for one area of my life at least.