Everyone's an Expert

I write this as I sit at the Roman Candle pizzeria in Middleton WI, reminiscing about the days when my band HIATVS used to dine on our signature pizza, The Hiatvs, here. The Hiatvs had mushrooms, feta cheese, banana peppers, and a random fourth topping that was usually garlic. It was a sassy 'za and we were working hard on RC's management to get The Hiatvs added to the menu as a signature pizza. We thought it was worthy to be a main menu item, because we ate at RC a lot and got the same goddam toppings every time. We felt we were experts on what made a pizza worthy of the RC menu. But we were not experts. RC is expert at pizza and the marketing that supports it. We should let them handle pizza menu decisions. Maybe if we had been a band with a longer tenure and larger fan base, we might have gained some traction.

A lot of musicians think they are experts at things they are not experts at. One thing is understanding what makes music fans tick so they can be encouraged to come to shows. If musicians were really expert at this, people would come to shows, but they usually don't. The mistake that musicians make is that they focus on the product rather than the marketing of the product. They think that if they produce good music and a solid live performance, people will come to shows. But it is a catch 22. In order for fans to know your music rocks, they have to first come see you rock. But in order to first come see you rock, they have to know your music rocks (or at least believe it does).

So just rocking amazingly well is not enough. People won't know that and they won't spontaneously come to your shows, except maybe in very small numbers by random chance completely unrelated to your music. Even promoting to people that your music is excellent is not very compelling. Every band thinks they are excellent and fans need something more convincing than your say so.

So the initial focus should not be on the product, it should be getting people in the door of the venue. That is compelled in ways other than the quality of the music.

People need to associate coming to your show with some selfish need that makes them feel good. Once they are in the door and feeling good from whatever that incentive is, that is when you can get them to associate feeling good with your music. It helps if your music does not make them feel bad, but rather augments their good feelings - make them laugh or dance or feel special.

So bands need to think about ways to get people in the door and then keep them there by making them realize that their good feelings will noticeably diminish if they leave.

My band would play a show for free if they money we would normally get paid was used to offer a free drink tab to attendees first come first served. Better yet, the venue could pay us in the form of one or two kegs of good beer at a discounted price. The beer is free as long as the keg(s) last(s). Once people are there and having a blast, they will stay even after the beer is gone, unless your music really sucks.

So you do need to have good "product." But that is necessary but not sufficient.


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