An indie band that sings about their dissatisfaction with life and the meaning of existence has become the first band in Taiwan – and possibly the world – to create a dating app. Fiftybodyfifty, an alternative folk rock band, says Hearting offers music fans a way to connect with other people who have similar tastes – and non-single people are welcome, too. They are targeting people who are interested in going to see gigs and meeting other fans – for romantic reasons, to make friends, or to find collaboration partners for artistic endeavors. The band plans to promote independent music and other arts, and hopes the app will eventually help to nourish niche cultures in Taiwan. It launched this month with the slogan: “The coolest dating app that gets your underground needs,” and already has thousands of people signed up. Lead singer C.-M. Hsiao, a software engineer, said Hearting is like Tinder – plus the arts. “In ordinary life, it’s hard to mix culture and art together with sexual passion and a sense of belonging, but on this platform they interact,” said Hsiao, 31. “I think this is one thing that’s fun about it.”
Within a week of the Chinese-language app’s launch on December 5, it had already been downloaded 3,000 times, mostly by users in Taiwan, and also mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, the United States and northern Europe. Like better known dating apps, users can browse other people’s profiles and swipe left or right depending on whether they hope to match or not. If two people are interested in each other, they can message each other. What is different about Hearting is that it has a whole other section that shows upcoming gigs, festivals and live tours. You can click a heart to express interest in an event, and scroll through a list of other people who also might want to go. Then you can directly message anyone who is already a match and ask if they would be interested in going together. On the event page, people can comment publicly and share photos of the gig, and how it made them feel.
The band and app’s manager, Bully, said Hearting offers music fans a place to hang out, something they had been missing. “Facebook and Instagram are used by performers to interact with their music fans, but music fans don’t have their own space to talk with each other,” she said. “In Taiwan, after a gig ends the fans just go home because you can’t be too noisy at night, so there isn’t a way of continuing to share the experience.”
The idea for Hearting sprang from a website that Fiftybodyfifty launched last year to promote one of their concerts and create engagement with their fans. On the site, people could connect with each other by sending a heart, and chat with each other after watching a trailer for the concert. The band knows of at least 10 couples that came together via the platform, although one has since broken up.
Manager Bully, 32, said they realized that the site was attracting diverse groups of people. “There were even people who weren’t music fans, who didn’t even listen to Fiftybodyfifty,” she said. “So we thought this is a really good way of breaking through and reaching lots of people.” The website increased Fiftybodyfifty’s fanbase, but the app is not about promoting the band per se. It publicizes other bands’ gigs, and later on Hsiao said they will open it up to other artistic and cultural events, too.
Unsigned Fiftybodyfifty is made up of three engineers and a customs officer, who play to crowds of up to 600 at festivals. The four men play acoustic guitars and drums and mix in sounds produced by artificial intelligence, such as Google Assistant. Sometimes they improvise on stage, and vocalize their dissatisfaction with society or themselves and the roles people are expected to play, as well as their drive to keep going. Hsiao said their fanbase is used to them doing “strange” things for a band, like organizing hikes with fans up mountains.
Lead singer and app developer Hsiao said they will try to make money off Hearting through advertising and subscriptions. For the moment it is free, but early next year the team plans to start charging a monthly subscription of 99 NTD (US$3.50). The band’s bassist, Scott Lin, said he hopes the app will help people to connect with others who like alternative and niche cultures. “In the future, the scope can be larger – not just music, we can add hip hop or film,” said Lin, 30. “Hearting can be a place of exchange for all kinds of culture. My hope is that this can make Taiwan’s subculture more interesting,” he added.