My New Groovy Venture

It has been a long time since I last posted in the ol’ blog here, but there is a good reason.

Earlier this year I launched a drummer clothing company called Spirit and Groove. It is an exciting venture that is pulling from all of my professional experience (e.g. running my own company, my work as a graphic designer and photojournalist, my MBA training, and absolute passion for drumming).

I am working Spirit and Groove during my down time as a booking agent, and if you are in the business you know there is very little of that. However, I have accomplished a lot in these first few months.  We currently have forty plus drumming and groove-inspired t-shirts up for sale and a whole bunch in the coffers.  We have also established a number of “Groovy Communities” on various social platforms where we give out Groovy Cookie Comments to people we feel have got groove.

Join the Spirit and Groove Groovy Musician CommunityYou can join those networks by clicking on these links:

Spirit and Groove on Facebook

Spirit and Groove on Twitter

Spirit and Groove on Instagram

Spirit and Groove on Google Plus

Spirit and Groove on YouTube

Speaking of YouTube, we have also put together a groovy drumming video blog where we offer insights into best drumming practice techniques, top groovy drummers and albums, and a whole lotta’ fun.  Here is our most recent video for you to check out and you can follow the entire drum video lesson blog here.

Well, I’ve got to get back to designing some more drumming shirts, checking our drummer website, optimizing our SEO, working on our paid click campaign, or launching another Facebook ad among other things, but please go check out my groovy new website www.spiritandgroove.com.

You’ll be glad you did!

 

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EXTRA, EXTRA, Social’s All About It!

Copyright All rights reserved by mwr83 from Flickr Creative Commons

Copyright All rights reserved by mwr83 from Flickr Creative Commons

I started my career as a photojournalist at the age of 18. The local newspaper had hired me after I investigated a minor scandal at my high school, which got a lot of people in some hot water. This landed me on their radar and eventually on assignment for a Pulitzer-Prize winning editor.

Oh wait.

For all of you that don’t know, a newspaper was a printed version of say…Facebook. The only difference was instead of paying with likes, loves and shares you paid with real cash to see a daily tally of what everyone in your hometown was up to.

The economics of a newspaper are quite simple.  Present enough relevant knowledge to attract advertisers to buy up space surrounding that information. A consistent run of good stories drove-up a key metric in the news business – subscriber rates.

Subscriber rates are important because, in a nutshell, they guarantee to your advertisers how many people will have access to their marketing messages. If the newspaper has more subscribers, they can charge those advertisers more money. To increase those subscriber rates, newspapers offer readers a deal to switch from just picking up the paper at the store, to having it thrown on their front porch by a crazy haired mother whose kid didn’t get up in time to pedal his route before school.

I like to equate social media to the economics of the newspaper industry. However, the model is slightly different.  First, we still have businesses looking to tell consumers about their products and regardless of what you have heard about The Long Tail, Niche Marketing, and On-Demand Production. Deep down inside, marketing is a numbers game and admen (and adwomen) know that the more opportunities to see – the better their chances are of making a sale. Things change slightly in the “subscriber” section of our social model, because our customers no longer must pay to subscribe to relevant information. Instead, they are now in control of which channels they will accept through a Like or Follow.

The major change in the social model is the blurring of the line between advertiser and news. Many traditional journalism brands such as CNN, The New York Times, and USA Today still follow the basics of the elder model. They provide the information people want to see and advertisers pay to show up beside those stories. I will assume that this is because they too see the similarities between their past “ink” audiences and today’s “click” consumers. The problem arises with the many organizations who do not understand this similarity between print and digital. They either un-wittingly leave out the information component of their online publications or purposely remove them to utilize the entire space as nothing more than a billboard where they bombard their audiences with sales pitches and marketing messages. Interestingly, these same publication tactics exist in the print medium as well. They come in the forms of penny savers, car flyers, and grocery store circulars that probably spend more time at the bottom of a bird’s cage than in a consumer’s hands.

So, why am I explaining the similarities between the news medium of yesteryear and today’s social advertising strategies?  Aren’t newspapers dying off?

Yes, print news is dying. However, our appetite for information is not. We have become an interconnected species hungry for more information. YouTube has made millions on videos that teach you how to fix your own car, grow your own vegetables, or learn calculus among a host of other subjects. Facebook connects thousands of people everyday to share their life stories, anecdotes, and views on everything under the sun and, according to some sources, over two million blog posts are published each day on a range of topics. We have become a society in demand of more information than those before us. However, unlike our predecessors who wound up with ink on their fingers from thumbing that information we cleanly click and swipe.

With that being said, I would like you to return to the newspaper model I described earlier. Think about its simplicity. Provide enough relevant information to attract a sizeable audience and charge advertisers to surround that information. Now apply that theory to your social pages. Provide your consumers with enough interesting information so they return to your pages over and over again. In the marketing world, these are called opportunities to see. The more you have the statistically greater your chances will be for a positive result such as an interaction, or better yet – a sale. It doesn’t matter if you do not want outside advertising on your site. Instead, you can simply display your own messages. Just remember to empower your social team to focus on the “news” element first and your long-term ROI will be greater.

Sure, newspapers are dying, but their economic model can be a powerful tool in today’s social-focused ad world. All of the basic elements are there. You have a medium for news distribution and you have an audience hungry for that information. Put those elements together and you have an opportunity to create a sales channel for any internal or external brand.

But only if you can put the news first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Tidy Shop Saves the Show

The Show Went On

This past weekend, I was working at an outdoor concert when the rain came in…and it came in hard.  Luckily, the foresight and preparedness of the production manager and his crew literally “saved the day.”

As fans, we often equate the show with the actual performance. Many do not get to see the hours, days, weeks, and even months that go into preparing for that gig. Diving deeper, many do not see the countless hours spent on non-show days constantly preparing for what the future, and mother nature, could hold.

In this particular situation, the production manager runs a clean and organized shop. When his men in black aren’t running a console, they are cleaning gear, organizing cables, marking road cases, and testing equipment.  To many, this would seem like nothing more than busy work. However, it is anything but. Standing stage right of a colossal set-up of line array speakers, LED walls, lighting hanging from a shiny truss system reaching into the sky and connected by a sea of cables the production manager explains. “We spend all that time in the shop preparing, so we know that once everything is rigged we can just turn it on and go.”

If that wasn’t enough to justify his clean-shop initiative, this weekend’s monsoon rain would easily cement his theory.

About an hour into an opening set on a gloomy Sunday afternoon the rain came in…and it came in hard.  Luckily, our manager and his team were ready.  They had already covered the hundreds of thousands of dollars in gear with tarps, canopies, and tie-downs earlier that morning after not liking what they saw in the AM weather forecast. A sprinkle here and there didn’t bother them, but the outlook on the Doppler did, so they lay in wait, checking their situation on a constant basis. Soon, the sprinkles turned into a downpour that just wouldn’t move on and the outside show was facing a dreaded cancellation.

With lots invested in this performance, leadership asked our stage manager if they could move the show indoors into their showroom… a spot which had hosted a national comedienne the night before. Luckily, our black-clad leader’s preparedness had ensured that the stage was struck, the cables tidy, and the space ready for any situation – even an emergency pool party on a rainy Sunday. With just a team of three, he agreed to the move and instantly went to work. I was so inspired by what I was about to see, that I offered a hand and over the next few hours one phrase continued to pop in my mind.

“Chance favors the prepared mind.”

After a quick delegation of what to grab from the tarp covered stage, the leader and his side-kick headed to their shop to pick-out what they required to set-up their second show in less than six hours. Thanks to their preparedness, the quickly surmised, located, and loaded the needed gear before wheeling it from one end of the property, up and elevator, and backstage into the new venue. Preparedness made sure that when they needed a 25-foot XLR cable, they knew where it was. Preparedness ensured that when one CDJ 2000 was out of commission due to the rain, they simply grabbed the back-up sitting next to it. Preparedness made sure that the act could go on with his rider requirements in place. Preparedness made sure that the show could go on.

Preparedness saved the day.

We live in an “instant” world and sometimes turn our noses at the work that goes on behind the scenes. The cook prepping at 10:00 am for the dinner shift, the flight mechanic who spends hours in pre-check before a plane takes off, the server who wraps dozens of sets of silverware before her shift. We turn our noses, because we sometimes do not see the direct impact these events have on the final outcome. In rock and roll, we often only see the show…the band under the lights. We do not see the sweaty, hungry, tired guys running like mad behind the scenes to make it all come together. And sometimes, we certainly do not see the countless hours they put in while the speakers are quiet to make sure the show will always go on.

This post, if anything, is to formally thank those “men and women in black” and their preparedness. Without them…rock and roll would cease to exist.

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Buddy, Berklee, and Big Swing Face… a Lesson in Fundamentals for Musicians.

Buddy Rich Big Swing Face

I have listed to a lot of music over the years…I mean a lot. One of my favorite albums is Big Swing Face, a live album recorded over two nights by The Buddy Rich Big Band in 1967. There are a number of reasons that I enjoy this record. For one, it stars the indisputable king of drumming, Buddy Rich. Second, it is a big band album and as a drummer who has driven thirteen to eighteen piece swing bands, I can attest there is perhaps no greater challenge to the craft of the instrument. Each section of a big-band pulls/pushes time differently. Trombones, due to the difficult nature of their instrument, will pull. Trumpets, with their top of the spectrum tones and quick staccato, will push. As such, the drummer must control those fluctuations, all while reading and matching hits with each section.

Buddy Rich was a master of this.

He was also one of the hardest bandleaders ever to walk this earth. He berated, threw tantrums, and regularly fired band members for the simplest of infractions. If you want to hear just how rough Buddy was on his band mates, and if a whole lot of swearing doesn’t offend you, take a listen to The Buddy Rich Bus Tapes and be mortified by his leadership style.

However, before you cast judgment on Buddy, do two things. First, remember that Buddy always gave at least 110% on the stage night after night right up until the end. Don’t believe me, watch this video from 1982 when the drummer reportedly had a heart attack during his solo on the last song and still finished the set. Second, take another listen to Big Swing Face. This album is virtually flawless in every regard from time, to phrasing, and intonation. These musicians nailed their takes live without the aid of computer software to fix their mistakes or enhance their sound in post-production. The latter is a very important lesson when it comes to making music.

Garbage in…garbage out.

I was first introduced to this phrase during a late night recording session at Berklee College of Music in the mid 90’s. At that time, we recorded to tape and ProTools was still in the early adopter phase and not available to anyone with a computer. The option to fix takes later wasn’t as simple as it is now. Luckily, all Berklee students (including those in the production and engineering program) must undergo intense fundamental courses in ear-training, harmony, and private instrument studies so they know how to make musicians sound better BEFORE they are patched into the board. They understand that the fundamentals of the craft will always trump technology.

So why am I sharing this story?

Now that I work behind the stage booking entertainers I hear a lot of excuses, especially from those of the younger generation, as to why they aren’t sounding their best. The monitors weren’t right. The room was dead. The engineer doesn’t know what he is doing. We would sound better with our equipment…with our engineer. Truth is, the excuses are sometime so relentless that it gets me thinking that it could be the outside environment and not my musicians. Then I cue up Big Swing Face and I am reminded that nearly fifty years ago sixteen musicians could perform some of the most complex music live. Record it and wind up with an almost flawless album all without today’s modern technology as a crutch. Swing Face teaches me to constantly listen beyond the front of house and focus on the musicianship happening on stage. To seek out entertainers who are good at the fundamentals of their craft. The singer who knows exactly how far her mic should be from her mouth. The DJ who can match keys and tempos as well as beats, and the drummer who can swing a group of multi-time musicians into shape. I know that if their fundamentals are on point, the rest of the show is simply enhancing those skills, which is much easier for all involved and the key ingredient to a stellar performance.

 

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