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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using A&R in Venue Management

Live Concert Venue

Artist and Repertoire is a cool job. The A&R men, as they are known, were record label executives who found and nurtured talent toward stardom. The position was integral during the record industry boom, as they were the ones responsible for keeping a record label’s pool of talent both fresh and full.

It takes a very specific skill set to be exceptional in this department. For one, You have to have a good ear for music and be able to hear how much potential an act has by doing what I call “listening through the show.” You have to be a powerful influencer. Not just with potential artists, but with those who hold the purse strings at the record label. I once worked with a legendary A&R name on a very limited basis. He taught me that the Artist and Repertoire agent never has the “final say” if a band will get a record deal. Instead, he had to work with potential acts to prep them for the pitch to those with the means to launch their careers.

Once an A&R person lands the act they have been hunting, the job truly begins. Now, they must work between artist and label to align the talent in a way that meets the business needs of the financier. They may work on the entertainer’s image, adjust their marketing and promotion, or train them to become better performers live among a host of other tweaks.

Unfortunately, the A&R gig has been downsized along with the mammoth record labels that existed pre-Napster. Something I was saddened to be reminded of during my undergraduate studies in music business.

Six years and an MBA later and I am on my way to a second venue in one night to catch a band. This will be one of four venues visited that day and about ten in two weeks. This act is one of nearly twenty on my evolving “need to see list” that stems from research online, word of mouth, and solicitations from those looking for work. It is not uncommon for me to check a country band, Ozzy Tribute, Tejano lounge act, DJ, and guitar soloist in one week.

I am directly responsible for filling nine lounges with weekly varied entertainment. On top of that, the company I work for is always on the look out for talent to place in lounges in Vegas, Texas, Arizona, Seattle, Oregon, and on every major cruise line. We need everything from DJ’s, to duos, trios, rock bands, Latin bands, tributes, bingo callers, and soloists. On top of that, our clients demand professionals who can read the room and meet very stringent brand aesthetics.

So, I am out scouting to fill our talent funnel working like an A&R man. Never letting the bands know I am coming. You can’t see how they will “really” act if they know a suitor is there. When on site, I am working. I am observing the band. How do they look? How do they sound? Is the crowd into it? Are they holding the crowd? Are they drinking? Is the crowd drinking? Would their song choices, style, and delivery meet my client’s needs?

Now, if you think I find acts that meet all of these criteria. You are sorely mistaken.  As I analyze, I look at what they do well and the investment we would need to make them into a good match for any of our buyers. Are they simple fixes, like updating their dress or more complex situation such as adjusting their music selection or learning to read and control a room. If I think we may have a match, I reach out. If not, I may come back again to see how they are progressing.

I’ve got a list for that as well.

Much like an A&R man of 1987. After we have landed a group for our client’s. My real job begins. We work on getting them ready for our stages, our protocols, and our needs. I catch their gigs, take notes, and if needed call them the next day to suggest changes. And just like the A&R men of the past, I am working with the record label (or in my case my venue client), probably assuring them that the new act will result in positive ROI, or that we will adjust their dress, drinking problem, or break times to help push those metrics.

I find great talent and nurture it into a successful product for my client’s needs. It is just that instead of my client selling records, they are looking to sell drinks, cruise getaways, or more time in the casino. By looking at my procurement funnel from the view of an A&R man, I can help them achieve those goals by crafting a pipeline of talent that will keep their venues fresh and full.

I guess I got to be an A&R guy after all.

 

Listen Through the Show

Sound Guy with Headphones

 

As an entertainment manager, I receive a constant influx of artists looking for work. These emails and requests come from numerous sources including colleagues, agents of our venues, and (of course) the artists themselves. This results in one large “procurement funnel” I work with daily.

I attack the funnel strategically.  First, I weed out acts that do not fit our client’s geographic, budget, and demographic needs. Next, I check out the musician’s live videos. You read that right.  Their “live” videos.  From my experience, I can attest that most entertainment bookers prefer live videos that are un-doctored over flashy promo. Yes, iMovie and Final Cut are cool, but we want to get an idea of how you handle yourself in a live situation…and how you sound when you do it.

If these videos pique my interest, the next step is to go see you live…but, I won’t tell you when I am coming out.  Why? People act differently when they know a booker is in the room, so if you are in a band. Here’s a hint. Always think an agent, label, or other type of gatekeeper is in the room.  Later on in this blog, I will share a story from my days on the road that demonstrates why you should do this.

 

But Jeremy, we don’t have the gear to make quality live videos and the places we play have horrible FOH, so we always sound bad, but we are really good. I swear.

 

This is where “listening through the music” comes into play. I have over twenty years in this business with the majority as a performer in a variety of bands. I have worked with legendary artists, taught music, done cruise ship orchestra shows, fill-in theater gigs, and even studied at Berklee where I was my Production and Engineering roommate’s go-to session drummer. I have been through countless challenging live-sound situations, which have taught me some key attributes “professional” artists possess that prepare them to succeed in, pretty much, any live situation.

These fundamentals vary by instrument, but boil down to musical ability and stage presence.

Musical ability: This covers the gamut of being a professional musician.  How does the intonation of the brass section sound?  Can the rhythm section keep solid time? Is the singer holding her mic properly and projecting from her diaphragm? Is the guitarist using the right gear and producing a quality tone? Does the entire group start, stop, and make the band hits together?

Stage presence: Are all members into the show…especially when there are only three people in the audience?  Are they reading the room correctly? Are they controlling the room properly? Are they smiling? Do they talk to fans during their breaks? How are they dressed? Do they care about the show…no matter how big or small?

Now look at those again…did you notice that I am not worried about the front of house mix? Nor the monitor mix or the lighting?  That is because it is my job to listen through the show and analyze the core of the product on that stage.

But, why?

It all boils down to an old saying: “garbage in… garbage out.” Sure, a bad mix can impact your gig, but you shouldn’t let it define your musical ability.  The greatest band in the world – The Beatles played before over 56,000 fans with nothing more than 100 watt amplifiers.  They couldn’t hear themselves. Ringo relied on watching Paul’s foot to keep the show going and they harmonized blindly.  Zeppelin recorded the best drum sounds I have ever heard with just three microphones (and one in the chimney on occasion). Duke, Bird, and Miles made some of the most iconic music ever and didn’t use in-ears, a separate monitor mix, or line-array speakers.

All of these acts created great music because they relied on their musicality and ability to control the stage night after night. When this can be done, the sound crew is capable of working from a clean slate and can enhance that quality and make it sound great at any time… at any volume.

 

 

A second lesson regarding why you should “listen through the music.”

Ok, here’s the deal with booking rooms. Contrary to what everyone thinks. You are not guaranteed a great night. I have watched numerous outside forces kill an amazing event. Weather, economic downturns, a competing concert that suddenly pops up and steals your marketing momentum can all kill your night.  As a venue booking agent (especially in the minimal cover/free club scene), we must do what we can to mitigate losses on those particular nights. One of those ways is to find entertainment that can “hold a room” no matter how many people are in it.

If you have read my article on Herd Mentality in Entertainment, you know that I believe strongly that an “adoption point” can be acquired if a room-specific attendance percentage is hit. I also believe that maintaining that crucial number and avoiding the “exodus point” is critical to the success of your live venue and this is directly related to the skills discussed before.

Sometimes you catch a potential group and the room is jammed. You immediately start thinking. This band will save my venue and maybe they will, but first. Take an inventory. With the room jammed, the band may have better than average stage presence.  However, is their musical ability up to snuff or has herd mentality simply taken over.

Flip the switch.

Don’t just walk away if the room is dead. How does the band sound? Do they look enthused? Are the people in the room hanging out, drinking, and pulling their eyes away from their phones to watch the group? If the answer is yes, maybe you need to keep your eye on this particular act and return to check them out a few more times.

Data is a funny thing. The good stuff sometimes likes to hide. Checking out an act is not checking out the room. You are looking at the band to see if they meet your needs or could be coached to meet those demands. Taking away the external elements and listening “through the show” will make it easier for you to book quality entertainment for your venue.

 

Would you like to discuss your venue needs?  Contact Jeremy today.