Reading Bob Lefsetz sometimes drives me nuts. The man completely gets the music industry, but he doesn’t do enough to promote what he’s preaching. He talks forever about how fan interaction has to be a part of the new music experience…but he never gives examples of how it should be done. So, I’m going to.
Last night, one of my favorite up and coming North Carolina bands, The Enemy Lovers, was the opener in a four-band local music show at Amos’ Southend. Amos’ is one of Charlotte’s largest music venues and one of the things I love most about it is that John, the owner, gives local bands a chance, whether it be in local showcases like this or by putting a local band in an opening slot for a national act. Come to think of it, that’s actually how I first heard The Enemy Lovers, because they opened for Pete Yorn at Amos’ a few years ago.
Anyway, Charlotte is not known for large crowds at local shows. I’d only ever heard one other band on the bill, so I went with the expectation of it being a pretty slow show. Umm…wrong.
When I arrived for an early start at 7:15, there was a line halfway down the block outside of Amos’. All under 21s. But, I was impressed. One of these bands did their promo homework, I thought.
As I was standing at the merch table to help out the band I came to see, it became plainly evident who the crowd was there to see – a band called Jonas Sees in Color from Greensboro. I’ve never heard of them, and I didn’t stick around to see them play, but that didn’t matter. I didn’t need to see them play.
The lead singer, Ryan, was standing at the merch booth while the other bands were playing. And this kid knew EVERYONE who walked up to the table to talk to him; if he didn’t know their name, he did by the end of the conversation. He joked with them, signed merch, hugged them, had in-depth talks with them about their lives. Seriously, there must have been three dozen people that came up during the hour and a half time I was there, and he knew them all. And that kind of interaction reaps rewards in dollars. All the kids seemed to have the CD already, but they were buying t-shirts like you wouldn’t believe. Like little badges. “I already have that one, but I don’t have this one.”
From experience, I can tell you that lead singers of bands are often cocky and find the “mingling with the masses” to be below their station. Headlining bands usually sit in green rooms until it’s their time to play. But that model is dead. This is the new model. Be out there, with your fans, connecting, and making the magic happen.
Ryan left the table a few times to take phone calls or whatever, and as he made his way back to the table, I watched him wind his way through the room and stop along the way to talk to fans. The kid is a pro. What’s more is that he seemed genuinely happy to see every single fan he spoke with. And I don’t know the other members of the band, but I would be willing to bet that the rest of them were out working that room, too.
He even included me. He introduced himself and asked me about The Enemy Lovers. It was like it was his mission to make a friend out of everyone in that room…because he obviously gets it. That in today’s music world, you must connect with your fans on a personal level. Social media has given fans the inside track into their favorite musicians’ lives; the fact of the matter is that whether you like it or not, fans think they’ve earned the right to get close to you. And if you don’t give them what they want, you’re an elitist. They’ll stop listening to you and listen to a band that makes them feel special. Ryan made that crowd feel special even before Jonas Sees in Color took the stage.
So where’s the “proof?” Bob Lefsetz would ask. So what, the kids were good at connecting with people. Well, if proof is in attendance and dollars, here’s your proof: Saw the door gal later in the evening and asked her how many were at the show. She guessed about 400. In Charlotte, on a Saturday, for a bunch of non-radio play, non-indie hype bands, that’s seriously impressive.
I may not have stayed to see them play because I had somewhere else to be, but this morning, one of the first things I did when I woke up was to listen to their music online. Because I wanted to see what all the kids were hyping about. And it’s pretty darn good.
Will I go see them next time they are in town? You bet.
There’s your proof.