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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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.
My buddy Dan and I just played an open mic tonight at Igor’s Checkpoint Charlie in New Orleans. It got me thinking about the concept of open mics.
They are a great equalizer. Anyone can perform. The people performing at them can range from downright awful to remarkably good.
The internet is a digital open mic. Anyone can step up and get their art out to at least a few ears. They will likely bomb the first few (or more) times. The best people keep at it and refine their art based on the reactions they receive.
Get out there!
Creators need to think past Klout scores and other “black box” metrics when identifying influential fans. These are more for vanity than anything else as they do not provide much in the way of actionable data. Being more observant of who is sharing a creator’s links, writing about them, bringing their friends to the concerts - I think these metrics are more meaningful.
Engagement and discovery will continue to occur on social media platforms but, like I state in this Hypebot article, the focus should be on bringing the new fans into your ecosystem and eliminating the distraction of the social networks and the millions of other tracks on places like Spotify.
Recently I was walking in the Arnold Arboretum with a friend. We had been walking around for 30 minutes and stopping intermittently to read the tags identifying the origins of various trees. Our conversation darted between many topics but at one point we found ourselves discussing education’s impact on creativity and individuality.
My friend told me she knew someone at an art school that felt pressured to follow the form which was currently popular amongst his peers and professors. He did not have a particularly strong passion for the form but felt he would be looked down upon because he was not part of that community based around it.
As we were walking through the park pondering this, a strong aroma of flowers blasted our senses. There we stood in front of a lilac tree that had been brought over from Japan in 1997.
This lilac tree had stood out from the other trees we had walked past. It wasn’t particularly better than the other trees we had enjoyed on our walk but it was different. My friend and I decided that her friend did not need to make better art than his peers, but in order to be noticed he needed to make something strikingly different.
I’m delighted they put in the effort to move that tree to Boston nearly 20 years ago.
I book jazz gigs at the Lucius Beebe Memorial Library in Wakefield, Massachusetts. It’s one of the nicest town libraries I’ve encountered and is heavily frequented by the people of Wakefield.
The musicians I have the opportunity to book are truly spectacular. Boston has some of the finest musicians in the nation coming out of the many universities. Many of these musicians are young and just getting on the paths to really build names for themselves. In short, no one in Wakefield likely knows who any of them are.
There is a small and loyal contingent that has frequented the series since it started last summer. They number about 20 in good weather and 15 in bad. I would imagine they average 70 years of age.
The music takes place on a plaza in front of the library. The sound can project pretty far from this brick landing and, aside from a loud motorcycle or two, there is just the sound of wind through the trees and birds chirping along.
The library is on Wakefield’s main road and people hear the music as they drive by, pull into one of the many empty parking spaces, and stop what they were doing to watch some music be made. Families will be walking by and end up staying for the full 2 hour performance. Others break out blankets on the grass next to the plaza after the library-provided seats have already been filled.
After the show, many audience-members approach the musicians and discuss music. They exchange backgrounds and dreams. A healthy amount of CDs are sold.
The musicians served something remarkable to an underserved community and the results were fantastic for all involved.
If you live near Wakefield, MA check out the show listings on the Library’s site. Please say hello if you stop by!
Byron Luke Manchest Noemdoe is pictured above.
In general, an important goal for many artists is to share their work with an audience. Seth Godin goes as far as to say that artists need people to see their work and react to it before it can even be considered art. The hope of the artist is that their art resonates. This causes people to talk about the art and spread it.
There is a strange dichotomy; artists need their work to spread to become successful but they must be careful about spending too much time it promoting themselves. The goal must be to promote it to the right people that will cause the art to spread to others.
The most powerful endorsement comes from those that have no vested interest in the artist’s success other than enjoying their creations. When they say something positive about an artist’s work they have no incentive to do so other than to share something they love with others who they think will love it too.
Crowdfunding campaigns that really take off are almost always a result of shifting the burden of promotion from the creator to the fanbase. It’s not about the artist removing themselves from responsibility, it’s about them realizing when they need assistance and activating their fans. It is not a good sign if the artist is talking more about their project than their fans are.
A few steps to move artists in the direction of creating an army of evangelists:
- Create something that people cannot help but share and talk about.
- Start a project that is only fun or exciting if many people are involved in it (example: Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir)
- Make something incredibly unique based around a currently popular song. Straight acoustic covers won’t cut it. (example: Stony - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - Can’t Hold Us [Looping Cover])
- Start a crowdfunding project or subscription where there is an accurate value alignment with your fans that causes them to help you reach your goal so they can get your art.
I order a pizza around once or twice a week from the same place a few blocks from my apartment in Boston. Yesterday when I went to pick up my standard order I was a bit taken aback by the massive advertisement that was staring me in the face as I walked back to my apartment.
The advertisement was for the Yellow Pages, a resource I know exists but have no use for. I’ve known about the Yellow Pages since I was a young child. I faintly remember having to take the large book off my parent’s shelf whenever I needed to search for a business phone number before we got our first computer.
The Yellow Pages advertisement congratulates me for finding the perfect slice of pizza but they had nothing to do with this discovery. I had walked past the pizza restaurant a few times and then looked it up on Yelp and read good things. My personal exposure to the restaurant and the positive reviews from others caused me to find what has become my “go-to” pizza place.
The service offered by the Yellow Pages has been reduced to near irrelevance and instead of convincing me to use their service they actually managed to reinforce that belief.
I forgot to mention that the pizza box was not even made as well as the ones the restaurant used previously.
This question will always come up, it’s just a matter of time. You can either be prepared to answer it or be completely sideswiped.
What makes you the right person to lead the next game-changing startup or become the next big singer-songwriter? Why are you the person that can succeed where so many others fail?
It cannot be your drive or willingness to work every hour of every day. There are so many people that can and will do exactly that.
It is the result of those many hours that matters. It all comes down to execution.
If you do not have a proven track record it becomes all the more difficult to convince someone that you are the person who can make things happen. Experience in a related field or even a general history of tenacity can go a long way towards proving you are the person who will reach the milestones that so many fall short of.
You can find great success following a trend or leeching onto a fad. You could make millions of dollars and maybe even solve some problems that people are currently experiencing.
What you will not do is change something that is fundamentally broken or build something entirely new.
Never follow the leader. If you do this you will end up where they do but you will be too late. You will be left to build around their idea. There is nothing inherently wrong with that but I believe most entrepreneurs want to build something new.
There are options:
- Revisit ideas that have failed for others. There may have been a great demand but the execution was so poor that they did not solve the problem. Facebook was not the first social network.
- Look at patterns and history. Guess what direction the leaders may eventually head in and get there before they do.
- Find something that has only just become possible and be the first person to try it. Since technology evolves so rapidly, things that were impossible just a year or two ago may now be feasible.