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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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.
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!
"When we arrive at the gym or a subway station, our devices will detect the location and play the mix that we like for working out or commuting"…"This is what the future of music is."
This quote from Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, is alarming.
The most powerful form of recommendation is word of mouth but in order for it to be credible it must come from a trusted source. Honestly, how many people can say they trust their computers with much at all, let alone making choices about art?
That fact that some technologists think they can replace music curators with an algorithm is the most disturbing trend yet in the music industry. The industry that was already bemoaning the devaluing of music is now on the way to devaluing those that expose wonderful art to a wider audience.
Are museum curators next on the firing line? Will we one day walk through a museum that senses our presence and displays only what a computer has been programmed to think we would enjoy?
The age of context holds so much possibility but we must realize the value of hand-picked curation will never be replaced, only supplemented.
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.
There is a problem many bands experience when starting out which can be devastating to their careers: playing shows too often in their hometowns.
Unless people are breaking down the door to the club and there are lines around the block to see you perform, you should probably be playing far less in your hometown than you currently do.
Your hometown is where you should have the most excited and passionate fans. When you play there it should be a scene - a special experience. People should be excited to hear you again.
In order for this to happen you need to manually create scarcity. Sure, you could probably play at least one show a week in your hometown, but that’s no good for you because at best you’ll be playing to the same people, and at worst you’ll be playing to no one at all. For the fans it’s just as bad because they’ll hear the same music over and over and it will change from an exciting night that they’ve waited a month for into exactly what they just saw a week ago.
Create scarcity by playing once a month or less in your hometown. Supplement that with digital media that will get your fans amped for your shows. Get them to give you their email addresses to access this media so you can in turn promote shows to them.
Playing one show (or less) in your hometown per month now allows you to spend more energy promoting the one gig instead of the four you might normally have booked. Decide on another market or two you think will be good for your group to hit next and play each once a month or less. Try to get a flow going. Sure, it takes more time to leave your hometown for a gig, but that’s what you’ll need to do if you want to get anywhere as a touring act.
Recently I’ve been spending a significant amount of time and energy deciding who and what, outside of our team, Bundio needs to grow over the next few months and years. While we’re a technology company, I think this exercise can be valuable for anyone starting a business (band, songwriting career, etc). Going through this process helps you diagnose where you are currently and the resources you will need to progress further.
I’m sure my opinions about this will expand but I immediately see five kinds of people that you will need in order to grow. I think they are all essential in their own ways.
This is the person that no matter how bad things go they will be supportive and encourage you to keep going.
The Drill Sargent
This is the stark contrast to the Champion. They will kick your ass. You will need that from time-to-time. You: “Hey, Drill Sargent, we sent an email to our fans last week!” Drill Sargent: “That’s it!? Come back when you have actual results!”
You will need many experts. They will not necessarily know everything about your business but they will fill knowledge gaps that you (and your team) may have. Identifying what you don’t know is crucial. Once you figure that out you must either learn it yourself or seek assistance from others. With Bundio we are finding experts in mobile and advertising.
You need this type of person. Without them there is no way to keep going.
The type of person that will sing your praises from a mountain-top (or an influential Twitter account). Ideally this type of person is also a customer because that adds more legitimacy to their endorsements.
Did I leave anyone out? Is there an archetype you would replace one of the five with? Tweet me @iamweisser with your thoughts!
We Are Our Own Responsibility
Things are getting hectic with Bundio. We are in the middle of fundraising, forming some very exciting partnerships, and optimizing our platform so creators, curators and their audiences have the smoothest subscription experience possible.
Regardless of how crazy things are getting for me, I’m making a very serious effort to continue meeting with talented entrepreneurs and other creative types to see how my knowledge and experience can help them.
Regrettably I cannot take every meeting requested, but I try my best to to meet with a few people each week to help them with advice. This might seem philanthropic but in reality I end up getting as much value from these caffeinated chats as the other person does (hopefully they get value from it). When I talk (or write) about my ideas and experiences it further solidifies my understanding of them. Hearing about industries and business models I don’t work in day-to-day keeps me sharp.
Not to knock traditional educational systems, but I feel that much of the knowledge that has informed my ideas and beliefs came from others that were generous with their time and happy to share with someone eager to learn. When I decide who I can help I look for people that fit Dave Balter’s description of a sponge and a stone.
Chances are you know something that others want to learn about. You do not need to be an expert to help - you just need to have a willingness to share. I think the expression, “pay it forward,” is cheesy but I believe strongly in the ethos behind it.
Who can you help to grow? It will undoubtedly help you too.
I totally snagged the above image from some church’s site because it fit the post title perfectly. If you are with the church and are unhappy about this feel free to reach out and I’ll take it down!
Whether you are a singer-songwriter or a founder of a tech startup, it is very likely that you are your own boss. When you are the one that must make sure you stay on task and accomplish things within a certain timeframe there can be many challenges. If you have friends that don’t understand the lifestyle (hopefully, like me, you have at least a handful) it can prove very difficult to achieve a work/life balance. Here are a few things I’ve found immensely helpful when it comes to being my own boss and maintaining a (somewhat) healthy lifestyle. Some are related to health and others are related to time management and expanding your mind. I hope you find at least a few of these to be useful.
Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning
This cannot be emphasized enough. Regardless of what time you wake up you must drink a glass of water immediately. Most of us don’t realize how incredibly dehydrated we become overnight. I live in Boston and, like many other residents of this fine city, have no control of the heat in my apartment. When I wake up in the morning that glass of water does more than anything to get me moving in the right direction for a productive day.
I love reading blogs because they talk about the here and now but books are under-appreciated by too many people that lead a digital lifestyle. Reading makes you a better writer and an even better thinker. Sit down and completely immerse yourself in a book every day. If you like keeping track of your progress sign up for GoodReads.
Plan ahead and learn best practices for scheduling
You may not be very busy. You may say to yourself, “I can remember that appointment.” If you are progressing you will undoubtedly begin to have fuller schedule. It’s important not to learn the best way of organizing it once you are scrambling to keep track. My iCal is one of the first things I consult each day and it’s a good habit. Make sure to set alerts so even if you forget to check your calendar you’ll still have an hour to get across town for that meeting.
There are no regular business hours
If you are running your own business you need to be ready to be working late into the night, before normal people wake up and at other times in between. Time off is healthy and needed but it is not something that can be set in stone. If you are your own boss the weekends are not time off. If you really care about your business you need to do the work whenever it needs to be done.
If you have a smartphone there is no excuse
If you have a phone that is connected to the internet and the person you are taking too long to contact knows this it comes off really badly. A friend once told me she doesn’t have a smartphone because she does not want to have to work on her off time. It’s a great idea for someone like her that isn’t their own boss. When you are calling the shots you need to be ready to get to work or put out fires on a moment’s notice.
“I regret that workout,” said no one ever.
Needless to say, I’m not an athlete. Even if you are not one it’s important to train your body and stay in (relatively) good shape in order to succeed. This is not about self image, it’s about the fact that it’s incredibly unhealthy to have fat hanging off of our bodies. I started the couch-to-5k program and it changed my view of training. I am able to do 5k in under 30 minutes which, while nowhere near competition status, would have been a fantasy for me in High School. Find out if working out feels better for you in the morning or at night then do it every day. If you have problems following through I’d suggest GymPact though I’ve never used it personally. The dread of having to pay if you don’t work out is likely a strong motivator for many people.
Have people to talk to.
Running your own business is very fulfilling even if you don’t succeed monetarily. The experiences, however painful or stressful at times, are incredibly valuable and enrich you as a person. You need people to talk to about the things that are bothering you. It could be other co-founders/confidants over coffee every week. It could also be a friend to discuss relationship dilemmas and things not related to your business. You need someone to talk to that will listen and relate to what you are going through. Starting a business is very difficult and keeping the struggles to yourself can be harmful to your health. Make sure you treat those that support you with warmth and show how much you care.
This is just a start. I’ll be posting more thoughts and things I’ve learned about being my own boss as time goes on. Take care of yourselves out there!