THE DIRECTOR'S PAGE

From time to time, this page will feature an article from Jimi on various topics, usually about the Network, but sometimes we may just let him ramble a bit! Take the time to read this, enjoy, comment, etc. - Thomas, webmaster

I’m a ROCKSTAR DAMMIT!

Or, Finding your REAL niche

(Fanbase Building part 2)

We live in a multitasking world.

If you’re reading this, you probably have other applications running on your computer, have something to eat/drink at your side. Most of you are also either @ work or home, listening to music/watching TV, maybe even on the phone. & you may even have something cookin’..Modern conveniences have crammed so much into every waking second, that life’s become IN-convenient.Long ago, if it was cold, you got warm. Period. Lighting a fire & keeping it going was all you could do, ‘cuz it required a lot of attention, & besides, there wasn’t a heck of a lot else to do…’cept maybe cook. Okay, maybe boil some water. May as well smoke some meat while I’m at it…dry some clothes…Wait a sec. Multitasking has been around a while!For commerce to take place, product must be easy to access, for a person (fan) that’s already too busy to deal with what you have to offer.I’ll bet a single McDonalds location moves a THOUSAND times more food per year than Joe’s Fine Bistro up the street. Sure, there’s a big difference in what you get. But if you’re on the run between gigs & chores, & the dashboard is your table for one, Joe will NOT be getting your business at that moment.In the big picture, the same is true for your music. If your music requires a dedicated moment of fine listening to savor every lyric & nuance, you can’t expect the McDonalds crowd to embrace you.Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But you’ll need to accept the fact that your demographic, while more intelligent & upscale, will only be there for you in limited numbers, at THEIR convenience.Sure, you can do a little bit of savvy marketing to sell a lil’ more product, but without the “complete package” it’ll only getcha so far.Think cars. Usually it’s the LOOK that draws you in. Then features, quality, support & all the rest.Driving down the freeway, you’ll see very few really ugly cars, no matter how high quality, safe, reliable, or even comfortable they may be.Okay, it’s obvious, if you’re less-than-attractive, it might take a lil’ more effort.Milli Vanilli proved a big point, & there is much to be learned from that. Was it REALLY the music that got ‘em up to top Grammy honors? Why did they go 10X platinum? & what ever happened to the REAL musicians? Charles Shaw, John Davis, and Brad Howe obviously had some good vocal chops, The songwriters, Bill Pettaway Jr./K Lyles/ R Hollaman/K Adeyemo/R Hedges/N Butler/K Duffy/S Lynch know the value of a strong hook. So, have you seen the names of these talented artists lately? Any of them could say they’ve sold 10 million records. They all have excellent resumes, their talent is proven. So why aren’t they famous? Why aren’t they getting the big bux anymore?Actually, they’re doin’ fine, right back where they were before. Successful session vocalists & songwriters working with other artists. Norah Jones made “Don’t know why” a big hit…in adult contemporary & jazz.Listen to the rest of her CD & close your eyes. If you didn’t know it was her, you’d easily imagine a bottle blonde classic Nashville COUNTRY artist. But, because she LOOKS like a jazzer, well, there ya go.Okay, you may not have the look. YET. Beautiful is all relative. Be yourself, but be unique. Sure there are extreme examples like KISS or SLIPKNOT, but there are plenty of others who have created a MARKETABLE image other ways. Paul Schaffer celebrates quirky baldness, with class. Emmylou Harris’s silver tresses are a trademark instead of a sign of age. Ditto for Willie’s braids. Think ZZ-top, think of beards. IF you play live & expect people to come see you, you better be ENTERTAINING. & part of that is to LOOK entertaining. Some entertainers can get it physically, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Carol Burnett, No matter what they wear, the persona shines through. The Rock does it with a tic of an eyebrow.Okay now you have the LOOK, but can you set the HOOK?IF your demographic lives in Los Angeles, but you’re playing in Hollywood, generally, you’ll be lucky t’ get one hundredth of your fans to your show. & if you have less than a hundred fans, well, do the math.But hey, it’s just a couple o miles! Sure, but then there’s parking, drive time in traffic, drinks, food &/or cover, the hassle of finding a sitter (if you have a demographic like mine) for kids & sometimes pets, security, attitudes & TONS more excuses that your fans will come up with no matter how alluring you may now look & how great your songs are.Back to McD’s Generally, in any reasonably sized town, if you’re hungry & have little time and/or money, a ten minute drive in ANY direction will find you a McD’s. Or a three minute walk if you need Starbucks.These places are successful because they are in their demographic’s backyard. Why hassle setting up the coffeepot, & having to wash it later when Starbucks is 2 bux, & “right there?” Why go to see a live show when the TV is “right there?”A good friend recently played a donut shop in her neighborhood. She’s performed internationally for thousands of people at some of the largest venues in the world, but there she was, with 3 friends, at a donut shop.She knows these three fans always drop by this donut shop after dropping off their kids at the school across the street. So one morning, with the approval of the donut shop owner of course, she brought in a small PA, her CD displays & played for an hour. Well, of course those three friends took ownership of the idea & told THEIR friends about it, & they did it again a few weeks later. All word of mouth. No flyers or ads, no email campaign. It was because she went to where her fans were, & created an event convenient for her demographic. Another friend created a similar event at his grandson’s daycare center.You’re never too old or ugly to create an image. Heck George Burns EMBRACED being old & ugly, & made a decent career of it. Image & convenience are BIG factors for success as an entertainer. If you’re primarily a songwriter, & don’t want an image, hookup with another collaborator/entertainer that can be your “image”…but be up front about it, don’t milli your vanilliOr, embrace your limitations & find a niche. Selling 50 CD across 5 donut shops in a couple o’ weeks usually feels better than having to sell 20 tickets & have NOBODY come to your Viper Room show.We like to think we can change the world. Well…in a way, sure.But taking a thrash metal act into a coffeehouse really doesn’t work, & a singer-songwriter booking themselves in hardcore emo venue is just plain STUPID. We cannot force people to change, nor should we try. Every twelve step starts with honest recognition of the problem. & the problem is always yourself.So that’s where we begin. Square one. Be real about yourself. Know your limits. Square two may not be in the direction you expected, but once you see your way clear, it will make sense & step three is already right under your foot. There will always be unexpected turns & changes. Examine them & you’ll always find a way to keep moving forward.Or, if it gets to be just too much to handle, that’s okay too. Just pull over & park. There’s a niche for everyone.

& that’s exactly as it should be.

- Jimi