My good friends (disclosing my bias early) Charlie the Most play some of the most thrilling funk, rock and soul music you will hear nowadays.
Last night they took the stage at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge, MA and proceeded to blow the minds of most in attendance. This particular show was an incredible opportunity for the band; they were opening for Coolio (of all people!) in a much bigger venue than they usually play and in front of many who had never heard them before. As blogger Mia Marchese describes, “they started their set like wild fire and didn’t have to find the pocket - they were already in it before they even stepped on stage." The audience was grooving hard to the music and every new peak the band reached caused cheers to erupt from the crowd.
Photo by Mia Marchese (@mia_marchese)
Suddenly Charlie the Most had their set (ostensibly) cut short by two songs. After being cut off while launching into another song, bandleader Charlie McCanless had to thank the crowd and say their set was over. The audience was not pleased to hear this and started chanting, “One more song! One more song!” The chant grew to a point when half of the packed club was demanding Charlie the Most continue to play. The person in charge of logistics would have none of it and the chant ended with the audience booing in response to the denial.
Charlie wasn’t pleased about being cut off. While I empathize, because I know how they had more they wanted to share, I think the performance could not have ended in a more ideal way. I’ve gone to hundreds of concerts and I don’t even need five fingers to count the amount of times an audience has demanded that an opening act play “one more song.” It wasn’t intentional, but Charlie the Most left their fans (some old, many brand new) begging for more. I have no doubt they will seek it out online and at future shows.
All artists should structure their shows and releases in a way that leaves their audience happy but longing for the next song - wherever it is they may get it.
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“No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.”
This Chinese proverb is very powerful. I, like many, first learned of it in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success.
Realistically, it is nearly impossible to accomplish this goal since most people have schedules with some degree of variability. What is most important is the idea that if you don’t strive to reach that goal you will never even get close.
As an entrepreneur, I know that revenue projections are typically idealistic at best and batshit crazy at worst. The same applies to life goals. They are goals that are not likely to be achievable. Regardless, setting difficult goals and putting your very best effort into accomplishing them will get you farther than setting much weaker ones.
Imagine, for instance, setting a goal of being up before dawn two days a week. This seems much more feasible. This goal does not do do is push you. The lack of intensity might actually make it easier to write off.
Don’t dream the impossible dream. Strive to achieve the impossible goal.
Do your concerts ever seem like the photo above? Here are a few areas you might be able to improve:
1. You’ve over-saturated your market with too many gigs too close to one another.
Read my post titled “Don’t Kill Your Hometown Crowd”
2. You are promoting to the wrong people.
Friends don’t necessarily equal fans. They may support you even if they don’t care for your music but only to a certain extent.
3. You are playing venues that your fans don’t like.
Are they too far away? Hard to get to by public transit?
4. You are sharing a bill with bands that aren’t a good match.
A $10 cover is harder to justify if your fans won’t enjoy any of the other music and will only be sticking around for your 45 minute set. You will also be unlikely to turn people that came to see the wildly different artists into new fans.
5. You Aren’t Collecting Emails
Imagine if you collect at least 1 email at each show you play. After 100 shows you’d have 100 people (likely many more) that you can target specifically about future concerts and releases. People that are willing to give you their email and risk getting spammed really like you (possibly more than the person that bought a CD). It’s scary how few bands take the minute to write “Mailing List” on the top of a piece of paper and leave a pen next to it. Don’t be one of them. Collect emails online too.
Here’s a confession: While I love approaching interesting people to start conversations, sometimes I like it when they approach me. When I want interesting people to come talk to me I will wear a shirt that prompts a discussion.
Often that will be the Amoeba Records shirt (with the logo pictured above) I bought the first time I visited San Francisco. Amoeba Records is one of biggest remaining record stores in the country and the reason it has survived while others perished is because of the experience they present to those that visit. Walking into Amoeba is a dream for music fans. There are rows after rows of new and used CDs and vinyl. To the far right is a large stage that has been graced by numerous legends playing in-store performances. What you experience at Amoeba cannot be replicated digitally (though I’m sure may will try).
That’s precisely why people engage with me when they see my shirt. They want to bond with someone over a positive shared experience. Without a shared experience, the shirt would not be nearly as powerful a social object.
So far, two people have conversed with me today about Amoeba. One recounted the thrill of walking into the store for the first time and how he would love to fly back just to visit. The other asked me if I knew of anything similar to Amoeba in Boston and we both talked about our favorite music shops here.
If I want to be (somewhat) antisocial I make sure to wear a plain t-shirt with nothing written on it.
I like much of Macklemore’s most recent album but what I enjoy even more is how savvy he and his crew are. Macklemore’s brand is about fiercely supporting his fans in being who they are. In turn, the fans support him.
Macklemore doesn’t focus on the quick buck. Real artists that value a sustainable career never do. They want you to fall in love with their mission and want to be a part of it. Emerging artists need to do the same thing. It’s not about selling records or merch, it’s about building an army. Before you do that you must understand your soldiers.
Even better if you could be one of them yourself.
The Unpaid Internship -
My friend Kayleigh Mill just wrote about unpaid internships. It’s a good followup to the my Internship Guide.
We had been eating at Alewife for lunch in Baltimore, Maryland. Sitting in the window of restaurants in Baltimore is not always the best idea if you want to keep your appetite. My friend and his girlfriend had a clear view of all of the madness and sadness coming down the sidewalk and passing their car.
At one point during our lunch they noticed an old man roll up near their car on an electric scooter/wheelchair. He looked worse for wear, but not much different than the others that had passed by before him. He looked to be in a daze and was slumping over. As people walked by, some would straighten his hat or help him sit up in his chair. For the 30 minutes we sat finishing our lunch, he remained in the same spot, almost directly across the street from our window.
As we left the restaurant, we heard a bunch of locals making noise in the middle of the street. It turned out the old man had died (at the very least, he looked very dead). “That ______ dead!” shouted one local. Another yelled out, “put that shit on Instagram!”
As we got into the car and drove away, I realized why these people were laughing. On one hand, they were probably disturbed by the fact that an old man (who could have been one of their grandfathers) had died out on the streets without anyone immediately noticing. On the other hand, they see so much tragedy and horror on these streets. They can do nothing but try to laugh it off and not give it too much thought. Thinking about and confronting these demons would be too big a battle for one individual. How can we work together to take better care of those in our communities?
"And they hide their faces
And they hide their eyes
‘Cause the city’s dyin’
And they don’t know why
Man it’s hard just to live
Man, it’s hard just to life, just to live”
I wrote this guide after seeing one too many internship posts that sounded like they were looking for free labor. I also realized that many people looking for internships needed to be reeducated in the value they should be seeking.
When you don’t know something there are three options (probably more, but these are the most common):
I’ve talked before about how much I hate networking but love building relationships. These relationships are so critical because when you find out you don’t know something these are the people you will be able to reach out to for help.
I go to Benji or Jayce to learn about crowdfunding. I go to Sonny to learn about building hardware. I go to George to learn about licensing (amongst other things).
There are plenty of things I don’t know (well). Even the smartest people in the history of the world were completely clueless about certain topics. That’s not an issue until you make it one by refusing to admit your lack of expertise in a given area.
The quality of street performers in New Orleans is simply incredible. They play with all of the fervor and tenacity you could expect from someone perfecting their art on these busy streets for years.
Something my fellow musicians will notice almost immediately is that these performers are playing very inexpensive instruments. You could goes as far as saying that these are amateur (or shit) instruments. The music being generated on them, however, could not be further from that.
The quality of the instrument matters very little when the talent is so great. Sometimes we make excuses for our playing and make the claim that if only we had a nicer guitar we’d make better music. It’s a cop-out. Next time you start down that path think about the wonderful performers on the streets of New Orleans and how they can that Squires sound just like BB King’s Lucille.