Is EDM About to Tip Over?

DJ Spinning Tracks - Jeremy Larochelle - MBA

 

First and foremost. This is just my opinion on where the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) genre is headed. However, I will apply some scientific theory to my analysis. If anything more, than to just make me sound MUCH smarter than I am.

 

With that being said, I want to start off by presenting you with the basic Adoption Cycle.  It looks something like this. Some may notice it is a bell curve with a normal distribution and standard deviation.

 

A basic adoption cycle

 

The adoption cycle concept runs through nearly every conceivable business offering and music consumption is no different. Credit of the current model can be traced back to Everett Rogers who organized consumers into various groups based on their personality traits. According to Rogers, these traits influence their adoption of a new offering in the marketplace. The fashion industry is a great example of how the adoption cycle works. In this example, Gucci will unveil a new line at Milan Fashion Week. Right out of the gate, Innovators will spar and pay top dollar to be the first to don the coveted threads as they are typically of a higher social class and thus inelastic to price. Shortly thereafter, the Early Adopters will seek out the new styles. Many of these individuals are of the opinion class, industry gatekeepers, who influence the longer running growth of the Early Majority, which follows to the apex of the Bell Curve.

 

At this point, another economic principle takes hold. With Innovators, Early Adopters, and the Early Majority showcasing their new wears, more potential consumers are influenced and demand increases. However, those left are more price sensitive, so they seek out alternatives, which are satisfied through bargain stores such as Macy’s and Target that appeal to that Late Majority. At this point, Gucci has lost their competitive advantage and the company will move onto the next great design, leaving the market to these lesser profitable sales channels. With that exit, price continues to drop allowing the Laggards to pick up knockoff items for bargain prices at lower-cost outlets. Then, the cycle starts again with the newest fashion.

 

One might think that the adoption cycle is entirely the brainchild of the master brand to get you to purchase new items every year. And in many ways. It is.  In the technology market, this is called product obsolescence. However, the cycle is also a reflection on how different consumer personalities correlate to a particular product at various price points on the supply/demand curve and when analyzed from this perspective. One can more-easily predict when a product, fad, or trend is about to change or even disappear from the mainstream market altogether.

 

This analysis can be applied to the product of music as well. How many times has a friend told you about a new group that you have never even heard of? In this situation. That friend is an Innovator. Or have you ever listened to the radio or a curated playlist, heard a great new band, and then went and streamed their album. (That channel who lead you to the band is made up of Early Adopters). A year down the road, you go to their sold-out 600 seat show to join the Early Majority who have been influenced by those Innovators and Adopters. A year after that, your new favorite band is in-town playing before 1,500 Late Majority fans who have finally caught on. As the years follow, the band continues to pick up fans, but at a less rapid pace. They play to 1,850 the next year and 2,000 Laggards the year after that while a newer act fills the venue across the street on their second route through town.

 

This is also the case with entire genres of music.  Remember Grunge?  How about the Ska movement?

 

Which brings me to my contention regarding EDM.

 

Specifically in the U.S., we currently seem to be sitting at (or even slightly over) the apex of the bell-curve regarding the EDM adoption cycle. Evidence of this lies in where the genre has permeated society. It used to be that EDM was underground, held at house parties and hidden raves where Innovators caught artists such as Armin Van Burren, Daft Punk, and Afrojack on their rise. Music consumers looking for alternatives to typical live-music caught on, helping push these artists into larger clubs and thus acquiring a steady stream of Early Adopters. Eventually, DJ AM among others brought the genre to thousands with residencies in Vegas. Quickly pushing the genre up the Early Majority side of the curve. Today, EDM has found homes in most casinos, numerous festivals that dwarf anything live-music can match, and even terrestrial radio bringing the entire genre to the apex of the bell curve. Now, it is not uncommon to catch quality DJ’s in Nordstroms, restaurants, and even Whole Foods, which suggests the genre has not only peaked but actually may be moving into the Late Majority.

 

This does not mean that EDM is over. The bell curve representing this genre’s adoption is quite large compared to other musical choices such as, say, Texas Swing or even punk, which only lasted in the mainstream from about 74-84′. EDM’s start can be traced back to Jamaican dub in the 60’s with electronic music entering the mainstream in the 1980’s. This means that if we are in fact cresting today, in 2017, the genre has taken nearly 40 years to cover half of its adoption cycle.  Even if its fall is half that time, we still have a lot of booty shaking electronic bass to go.

 

However, as always in entertainment, the question remains.

 

What is next?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volume…what makes a good entertainer GREAT!

Watch Your Volume - Jeremy Larochelle-MBA

 

 

As someone who books bands for a living, I can’t believe I am going to say this. “Acts that don’t actively monitor their volume drive me nuts.”

 

There I said it.

 

Now, I am specifically speaking to the artists who perform in “background music scenarios.” Performance spaces in hotel lobbies, small bars, and restaurants that typically don’t focus on the entertainment (e.g. they don’t have a stage and dancing isn’t encouraged). In these situations, it is crucial that the artist pay careful attention to their volume as they are not the center of attention. Unfortunately, many newer performers have trouble grasping this concept and I believe that inexperience is to blame.

 

If you were to observe a veteran performer against a greenhorn in a similar environment, you will likely see what I mean.

 

Thanks to years of trial and error, veterans have been psychologically conditioned to accept the fact that they are not the focus of the room, which places them in the proper headspace to handle the gig. This comes through in everything from their song choice to their banter with customers and even how they read the room. As such, a true club pro will read a “background music” gig differently. If they see patrons leaning in too close to talk or notice the overall volume has increased. They will intuitively pull back the dynamics to restore order. The true masters will even alter their song selection choosing keys with darker…less bright characteristics such as D over E Major.  Notes that don’t conflict with the timbre of the average speaking voice and thus raise the overall decibel level in the venue.

 

As mentioned, seasoned pros typically fair better in these situations. However, other psychological factors come into play.  Artists still seeking the coveted “record deal” will have more trouble adjusting to these situations as their professional focus is to break through the noise and get noticed. As such, many have (rightfully so) adopted a mentality where they seek to command the stage and everyone’s attention. Chances are if an entertainer has more original tunes in their catalog than covers. They may be inside that headspace and the booker should enact more due diligence and proceed with caution.

 

A final word of warning is this. When vetting an act propositioning you for a gig. Many will say anything to earn the job and that includes telling you that they can meet any volume requirements.  It is always best to look beyond their puffery, especially if you notice that they are less-experience or more focused on the original music track of their career.

 

As for you artists out there. Don’t be discouraged by these gigs. For one, they can supplement your career and put food on the table.  They are also an excellent way for you to better your room-reading skills and ability to perform at softer volumes, thus increasing your overall dynamic control. These skills will come into play in other avenues of your career.

The Dangers of Egotistic Booking

The Dangers of Altruistic Booking

 

 

As a booking agent, it is imperative that you keep check on your emotional attachment to the product. You see. We all have our favorite bands… a song that has touched our heart… or an album that helped us through a dark time. This emotional attachment is a unique characteristic of the product of music and can be a dangerous way to go about procuring entertainment for your establishment if left unchecked.

 

As for the performance space. Owners also have an idea of what they hope their venue will look like. They envision a certain type of customer that will sit at their bars, the employees that serve them their libations, and the entertainment that drives them through the doors. These concepts we visualize are rooted in narrative psychology. Basically, we all envision a way we perceive ourselves, our environment, and our meaning for existence. As children, we dream of becoming astronauts, police officers, and even thieves.  Interestingly, we do not stop our internal play as we get older. We are constantly assessing how the world does, will, and should perceive us. This carries over when we think about the performance space and, left unchecked, can lead to erroneous qualitative assessments regarding what that space should be.

 

There is nothing wrong with having a “vision” for your venue, bar, or club. However, one should never let that vision go unchecked without quantifying their assumptions first. For instance, if you see your club as a country bar with fiddle-fronted bands, two-step contests, and lots of Budweiser. It would behoove you to undergo market research before you invest in that concept.  How many radio stations spin country music in your market?  Where is the venue located? Is it in Manhattan adjacent to Skyscrapers filled with investment bankers or on the outskirts of Houston with oil fields in the distance? Walk or ride your bike around the area at various times of the day to get an idea of whom is in your backyard. Are they wearing cowboy hats, jeans, and big belt buckles or white on white Nikes and flat-brimmed caps?

 

Tip: (Budget research costs into Your investment.) Allocate a percentage of your intended purchase towards a research budget. Even one percent of the cost of a $300,000 investment would cough up $3,000 for zoning maps, competitor analysis, and market trends. It will help you make better decisions moving forward and could easily save you that amount (plus some) in misinformed decisions.

 

Once you have your data. Combine your qualitative assumptions with those quantitative facts. Then, make your decision. Don’t get fooled by the stories of great leaders who went with their gut. I bet they gathered their own empirical evidence. Sam Walton was a private pilot who picked out store locations by flying over prospective towns for Walmart. He then made deals on lot prices based on his literal “bird’s eye view” of the situation.

 

If instead, you choose to just “go with your gut.” You enter into the danger of what I call Egotistic Booking. Or booking based solely on non-scientific evidence regarding the venue or it’s programming. There is nothing wrong with this type of booking…if you get it right! For years, the best agents were egotistic and successful.

 

But the game has changed.

 

The great bookers and promoters of the past never had to compete with the substitutes your customers have right now…in the palm of their hand. Your customers can choose to binge on Netflix, catch-up on their favorite Kardashian happenings on Instagram, check the daily news on Snapchat, and scroll through all of their friends’ lives on Facebook. They have Spotify with their favorite playlists loaded and ready to go and if they want to see a live band. They probably can with a live stream on YouTube, Facebook or one of many apps that now make that experience a reality.

 

That is a whole lot of competition that didn’t exist twenty…even ten years ago and chances are. You probably can’t compete with it.

 

But don’t worry. Neither can the local venues you contend with. This opens up a potential competitive advantage that you can grab. One borrowed from the online competitors you are now facing. They are using algorithms based on science and math to quantify and execute their decisions. Maybe it’s time you include a little math in your brick and mortar bookings. It will shield you from some of the dangers of egotistic booking.

 

 

 

 

MBA’s – The Mad Scientists Behind the Scenes

MBA's - the Mad Scientists of Business

 

I don’t think many get it.

 

I know I didn’t ten years ago.

 

Maybe it is because the “MBA” has lost its luster, and in some ways it has. However, for those who have successfully completed the program. We seem to understand just what an MBA entails and the knowledge it provides.

 

MBA students study leadership, operations, corporate social responsibility, project management,  international business, and marketing among other areas. All subjects you could pick up with a general Bachelor Degree. What sets the MBA, a graduate degree, apart from its predecessor is the depths to which MBA students dive into each subject. And, surprise, it’s not just reading, but a whole lotta’ math folks.

 

Much like traditional scientific studies, MBA’s collect and categorize information, create their thesis, and try to disprove said thesis through mathematical analysis that includes algebra, calculus, and plotting lines on a graph among other things. Through this information, the MBA trained mind can tell McDonald’s that if they lower the price of fries by 12¢ soft drink sales will rise by 4%. Teach Target leadership how to calculate the optimal order quantities to reduce overhead costs associated with held inventory. Or Amazon executives where to place the best distribution center in Europe based on mileage, load weight, product lead time, taxes and physical coordinates among other data points.

 

As a society, we like to celebrate great entrepreneurs like Jobs, Page, and Bezos. All are of the genius caliber and have become brand names in their own right. They created something from nothing and rose from the ashes just like any great movie plot, which is probably why we gravitate to their stories.  However, at some point, these great leaders needed to onboard people who understood the science behind doing business to complete the left brain/right brain development of their global entities. Perhaps more importantly, by bringing on leaders to “run their business,” these great minds were able to focus on creating new products, entering new markets, or even exploring their own blue ocean opportunities. As a result, their astonishing leadership skills and the scientific training of their top-level managers birthed dominant public brands.

 

Before I attended college, I was an entrepreneur. I learned everything from accounting, marketing, customer service, and management while also developing and delivering our products and services “in the trenches.” It wasn’t until nearly ten years later that I picked up my MBA. Every day I wonder just how much larger my brand would have been had I known this science behind doing business and how it could have helped predict, prepare, and position us for astonishing growth beyond what we already achieved.

 

At that time, like many, I was uneducated in the value of an MBA. The mad scientists behind the scenes of business.

 

 

The Risk Entertainment Buyers Face

Live concert - Jeremy Larochelle, MBA

 

My business card says agent, but truth-be-told, I am actually a buyer.  A buyer is slightly different than a booking agent in that we purchase entertainment for a particular venue. Booking agents generally have a list of acts they represent and spend their days pitching them to various venues and guys like me.

Buyers are hired for their entertainment expertise, connections, and ability to negotiate better deals for their clients. Those deals boil down to less money spent versus more money earned (relatively speaking of course). To get to that point, the buyer plays arbiter for all parties in the negotiation until the deal is struck. Unfortunately, sitting in the middle of said deal means that the buyer assumes the post of whipping boy should anything negatively impact the transaction before, during, and after.

In most negotiations, the risk is generally carried 50/50. If I have a contract to buy widgets from Johnny, LLC and I fail to pay. It is my phone that rings off the hook. Flip the script and Johnny forgets to ship my widgets in time. It’s his ringtone that gets overplayed. In a buyer-backed deal, they would sit in-between Johnny, LLC and the customer and get to deal with ALL of those calls.

Entertainers often overlook the risks buyers face and nowhere is it more evident than in their sales pitch. “Book our band…we have 1,900 followers on Instagram.” “Hire us for your corporate event…we really like Propecia. Come on!…what do YOU have to lose?” These statements tell us that somewhere musicians and bands are landing gigs on pitches like this. Most of the time, this happens with smaller venues whose entertainment is handled by an overworked bar or restaurant manager. Unfortunately, this has done a disservice to entertainers who want to move up the food chain and eventually deal with buyers like me.

I immediately ask potential acts to fill out our entertainer application.  It is a great litmus test to see if the artist is professional enough to follow directions.  It also forces them to write down the correct name, URLs, and contact information, which results in fewer errors. *Hint…this is one of the reasons YOU fill out your forms at medical practices.

Then, I check out their videos, social presence, other venues they have played, and even Google the band to see what comes up. If everything looks good. The next step is to go see the act live.  I have discussed this before in another post called Using A&R in Venue Management, so I won’t bore you with the details. (But check it out…it’s REALLY good… my mom says so.)

If all the stars align, I book them for one of our venues, but on a trial basis of limited shows. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched a great band in one venue completely falter in another. This is because numerous variables come into play including everything from the gear we use to the side of town we are on compared to that of the band’s home turf. I also talk about this in my post Listen Through the Show. Check it. My mom digs that one too.

Experience has taught me that these extra steps greatly mitigate the chances of a bad show in our venue.  And as a buyer, mitigating those chances is the name of the game, so if you are an artist looking for a gig. Be prepared.

  • Have live un-doctored videos on YouTube or Vimeo ready to share.
  • Have a social presence and use it to show that you connect with fans through lots of likes, follows, post interactions, and updates from your crew.
  • Have a list of your upcoming gigs readily available online. Sometimes, dudes like me have a few free nights and are looking to see a band we are interested in.
  • Be patient.
  • Put yourself in our shoes. If I didn’t know you. Would you book my act?  Now support that answer with a big fat WHY?

Keep in mind. Booking agents, buyers, managers, and the venues we work with absolutely want you to succeed. Simply put, we all make more money when you do. The best thoroughly vet their potential acts to make sure we can prepare you for that success. Work with them and your gigs will only get better.

 

Si vis pacem, para bellum

Be Prepared for Business Wars Like A Samurai
Si vis pacem, para bellum, translated  “if you want peace, prepare for war” is an exceptional mantra to adopt in both your personal and business lives.  While it sounds like something that would come from Sun Tzu’s Art of War. It does not.  Rather, the phrase comes from book three of De Re Militari by Latin author Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus. A first-of-its-kind war manual for Roman troops.

Business management is often looked at as a militaristic endeavor.  We have the war room, wear suits that dictate our prestige in the company, and even give marching orders. As such, we naturally gravitate to the military leadership and wisdom from war-tested individuals such as Tzu and Renatus.

It is important to note that when you read these manuals you will notice that much of the works are devoted to preserving life and, especially in Tzu’s work, avoiding a battle until absolutely necessary. As he points out, actual battle is costly – you lose both life and wealth in the process.  Tzu is consistent in his message of continually analyzing your opponent, the battlefield, and your position relative to both so that when the opportunity or need for war arises. You are better prepared to end the matter quickly and efficiently.

This is exactly the same in business. As a leader, you should always know what is going on in your battlefield.  Is a long-time supplier suddenly providing materials to a competitor?  Are there signs of your market shrinking… expanding… or disappearing altogether? Are your employees showing signs of complacency? Perhaps, your customers are discussing other options under their collective breath? These are all items a general should not only know but constantly analyze and calculate against the firm’s Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).

These suggestions are not meant to create paranoid leaders. Rather, they are to remind said boardroom generals that peace in business is not achieved because you defeated a competitor. You will always have new competitors, fleeting customers, changing regulations, and world events that will impact your bottom line. Peace comes from accepting those fates and doing everything in your power to prepare for the wars that may come, so your army can win the battle quickly and efficiently.