Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Phish: The Ultimate Experience B(r)and

I’m sure there are more than a few Phish fans out there that would be outraged for me to associate Phish with brands and business, but I’m going to do it anyway. Because I, myself, am a huge Phish fan, and I guess I can be considered to be pretty businessey as well (that’s totally a word, look it up…well, no, don’t). And to be quite honest, Phish is the definition of an experience brand, at least in how it relates to music and live entertainment. And when you think of what they’ve accomplished in their 20 plus year career, it’s really quite amazing. They have never had a number one single, they’ve never had a hit music video on MTV, and they have never ever been played on Mix 94.5, or most radio stations for that matter. Yet they can still pack hundreds of thousands of fans into a three day festival headlined by only them. How is it that a band can be so out of the mainstream, yet so popular right outside the confines of it? Well, in case you haven’t gotten the point of this post so far….it’s the experience! The experience of going to a Phish show is unlike any other now a-days; the people, the community, the pre-show excitement, guessing what the opener will be, not having any idea of what is in store for the set-list, the lights, the on-stage antics, the dancing…and last but absolutely not least, the music! What draws people to a Phish show is the experience of all the above, plus much more that you can only understand if you’ve been to a show…and trust me no Phish show is ever the same.

Phish has built a massive audience as well as massive brand recognition through that live show experience, and they have done a great job to sticking to their core brand. For example, if you were to stop a random person on the street and ask them to name a Phish song, they probably couldn’t. That’s because the songs themselves aren’t at the center of their brand equity. Now, if you asked that same person if they know who Phish is, they probably do…or would probably say they’ve at least heard of them, and maybe say something along the lines of “aren’t they that Vermont stoner hippie band?” Which is fine, because I’m sure that Phish would rather be known as that Vermont stoner hippie band than as that girl who needs to wear dresses out of meat to gain notoriety. But at any rate, the point is that people know Phish as a live experience jam band, not as an in-studio, radio friendly pop act that puts out singles. Phish sticks to their core brand, and you can bet that they know exactly where their brand equity lies.

Along with the live show experience, connecting with fans has always been a priority for Phish. Audience participation is a guarantee at any Phish show. The beginning of the song “Wilson” is a great, simple example. Trey, who is the guitar player for any non Phish fans reading this, starts out the song by just strumming two quick notes, and the audience almost immediately responds with an elongated two pitch response of “Wiiiiiillll-sonnnn”. This repeats a few times and then they start playing the rest of the song. Another great, slightly more involved example is the song “Meatstick”. “Meatstick” is a song that came about after a European tour in 1997 when, looking for food backstage, the band was only able to find a refrigerator full of sausage. The song was never released on an album, but is a crowd favorite because of the Meatstick dance. Phish came up with a little dance for the chorus (you can watch the over the top New Years 2010 here, go to about the 3:40 mark…they’re doing the chorus in a different language, but they do the dance…and then they have dancers from different cultures come out…talk about an experience!) For the rest of the 1997 tour they showed the dance to the audience and taught them how to do it. Then, at a festival in upstate New York, they told the audience that they were trying to break the world record for the most people dancing exactly the same to the same song at the same time….and it was true, there were Guiness Book of World Records representatives there to judge. Unfortunately, part of the dance required the dancer to jump 90 degrees to the left after each run through, and then repeat the dance, and then jump again, until you came full circle (kind of like the Macarena)…and at the festival the audience wanted to keep facing the stage, so they did not count the record because the audience failed to turn angles. Talk about being robbed. The last that I’m going to mention, and one that I think one of the funniest, is the Audience Chess move. And yes, it is exactly what you’re thinking. Phish played chess against the audience at a few shows during one of their tours. They had a large chess board on stage, and at each show the band would make a move in the first set...audience members would gather at the set break and decide what move to make, and then one of them would make a move on stage during the second set. To say that their live shows are an experience is an understatement.

But with all the talk about the live shows, the music is really what ties everything together. The eclectic mix of rock, jazz, blues, classical, funk, country, psychedelic, bluegrass, improv, and of course face-melting guitar solos really brings the experience home. You don’t go to a Phish show to hear their newest single played live, you go to have a good time and hear some really great music, whether it was released 2 months ago or 15 years ago. If you’re lucky, you might see some classic antics along the lines of playing chess on stage and the Meatsick dance, like jumping on trampolines while playing, vacuum cleaner solos, the band members switching instruments for some songs, and some a-capella songs…but at the very least you are always guaranteed a great show that is unlike any you’ve seen before. And the experience of the show is what sticks with the audience, or the consumer, and inspires them to buy their music and keep going to their shows. To me, that makes Phish one of the best experience b(r)ands.

P.S- Go to a Phish show at some point in your life if you haven’t.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Alice Cooper

I have been a huge fan of all things music for as long as I can remember. Alice Cooper is one of those iconic figures that have been to hell and back overcoming many trials and tribulations of demons throughout his career. Unlike so many other rockstars, he is still ticking and still touring? Known for his theatrical style and often times bizarre behavior, Alice paved the way for many other acts to follow.

What I cannot grasp my head around are a few things: 1) how is he not dead yet….simple! He took like a few years off to chill out and play golf. Do not know about you but if I was on the golf course and saw this guy heading down the fairway, I would grab my ball put it in my pocket and go the fuck home! Seriously, I do not want him messing with my mojo during tee off. 2) After his sabbatical, he went back to work doing what he does best and wrote an album called Brutal Planet basically describing how twisted the human race and dark a place the world is. Alice never holds back and calls it as he sees it using this platform as a medium to vent his frustrations. Do not bottle up your anger and emotions folks; it is the quickest way to the grave. 3) There has to be something in his diet…C’mon people just look at the guy. He has been a toothpick for as long as anyone can remember. He has the type of stature that when there is a slight breeze to the air, he falls over. Meanwhile the sun does not do him any favors for it is beginning to melt his face off.

See what I mean!

3) If it is something in his diet that is keeping him on this earth then give yourself a round of applause for you are all feeding the machine that produces his chemical treatments. Looking at the picture (above) he is off his usual treatment, and this is what he looks like when he is on his treatment (below.)

The average price for an Alice Cooper concert these days: $46.20, which is not so bad comparatively to others currently on tour. I am extremely bothered by the fact that he is being classified as Pop / Rock. Huh….are you fucking people kidding me! You are really going to put him in the same vain as Nickleback (should rename themselves “pennyback” because that is what their music is worth these days, Maroon 5, The Fray, and Jason Mraz? What the hell is everyone smoking…apparently it is the same thing that is keeping Alice Cooper going! His current tour lineup has him playing in very rough, tried and true venues that includes the Sturgis Rally, and appearing with heavy metal greats Iron Maiden and current metal mainstay System of a Down.

Love the man; he is a legend but seriously man….take a break for a bit.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Who's currently on tour and what are the average ticket prepared to suck you wallet dry!

Keep in mind folks these are the average! Tickets are going for much more. Stay tuned for more comments about some of the acts listed. This is going to be fun :-)

Aerosmith Pop / Rock $91.56
Alicia Keys RB / Soul $78.74
André Rieu Classical $78.39
The Allman Brothers Band Pop / Rock $71.71
A.R. Rahman World $67.83
Aventura Latin $59.92
"America's Got Talent" Fair / Festival $59.72
Al Jarreau Pop / Rock $59.10
Alejandro Fernandez Latin $56.81
Anthony Bourdain Lecture $55.51
Alan Jackson Country $53.63
Al Green Pop / Rock $51.67
America Pop / Rock $49.96
Alice Cooper Pop / Rock $46.20
Amy Grant Christian $45.81
"American Idols Live" Fair / Festival $45.07
Arcade Fire Pop / Rock $42.87
ASIA All Four Original Members Pop / Rock $42.60
Alice In Chains Pop / Rock $42.01
The Australian Pink Floyd Show Tribute Acts $41.64
Aaron Lewis Pop / Rock $40.64
Air Supply Pop / Rock $40.23
Allen Toussaint RB / Soul $39.02
Air Dance / Electronic $38.22
"ArtPark Festival" Fair / Festival $37.83
Adam Lambert Pop / Rock $36.68
Aimee Mann Pop / Rock $36.68
Avenged Sevenfold Pop / Rock $34.84
The Avett Brothers Pop / Rock $34.47
Ani DiFranco Pop / Rock $34.09
Aziz Ansari Comedy $33.83
Apocalyptica Pop / Rock $30.89
Andy McKee Folk $29.65
Alejandro Escovedo Pop / Rock $28.62
Asleep At The Wheel Country $28.07
Amos Lee Folk $27.67
The Airborne Toxic Event Pop / Rock $26.65
Arctic Monkeys Pop / Rock $25.48
As I Lay Dying Pop / Rock $25.22
Amon Amarth Pop / Rock $24.98
Andre Nickatina Rap / HipHop $24.74
Angels And Airwaves Pop / Rock $24.29
Atreyu Pop / Rock $23.56
Australia's Thunder From Down Under Theatrical $23.51
Alexisonfire Pop / Rock $23.48
Atmosphere Rap / HipHop $22.69
The Aquabats Pop / Rock $22.27
"Aqua Teen Hunger Force Live" Theatrical $21.91
Alter Bridge Pop / Rock $21.51
A Day To Remember Pop / Rock $20.77
Asylum Street Spankers Country $20.43
Amy Speace Country $19.66
All Time Low Pop / Rock $19.36
All That Remains Pop / Rock $18.86
Aqualung Dance / Electronic $18.79
Anberlin Pop / Rock $18.59
Alkaline Trio Pop / Rock $17.67
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti Pop / Rock $17.31
Attack Attack! Pop / Rock $17.25
Angus & Julia Stone Folk $16.93
Authority Zero Pop / Rock $16.51
"Alternative Press Tour" Fair / Festival $16.16
Against Me! Pop / Rock $16.10
Allstar Weekend Pop / Rock $15.96
ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra) Pop / Rock $15.47
Autolux Pop / Rock $15.28
As Tall As Lions Pop / Rock $14.68
Alberta Cross Pop / Rock $13.96
The Album Leaf Pop / Rock $13.87
Adler's Appetite Pop / Rock $13.77
The Antlers Pop / Rock $13.70
Athlete Pop / Rock $13.22
Ana Sia Dance / Electronic $12.64
Avi Buffalo Pop / Rock $12.42

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thinking of a music Startup? Do your homework and prepare to be shocked

Below is an article I read today on Digital Music I found it very interesting and insightful! As someone who has been in the music business for a decade plus it never ceases to amaze me how quickly the business changes and the instant affects those transformations have on businesses of all sizes that operate within our field. Many people have asked me should I start up my own record label, publishing house, or recording studio, and I always say you have to do your homework and research.

The aspiring entrepreneur cannot just jump into bed with the first idea that comes across their mind (even if it’s a born and raised musical thoroughbred) who is championing for the coveted six figure plus multi-album record deal…those days are dead and gone unless you are already a star and making things happen. The rest of us have to pay our dues. To any aspiring artist, band, or individual who is looking to be the NEXT BIG THING in this industry take your time, do it right, pay, your dues, and most importantly know who your competition is, understand how your proposed product is going to fit in the market and what will set it apart from others already out there in the world so, you can exploit the market inefficiency.

Take a look at your local markets, the World Wide Web, and the latest advancements in technology and how people are leveraging it. If you do not constantly keep on top of this you will fall victim to companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and the like who are gaining more and more muscle every day in the music and entertainment field. Ok…enough of my dry, boring, and mundane lecture/rant and on with the SHOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Who really has the power to kill your music startup? It used to be the major labels, but that's so 2006. "Index Ventures will put a lot of money into music," said Vince Bannon of Getty Images at Canadian Music Week. "But they won't touch anything involving the major labels or licensing."

In other words, they figured that part out! And if Spotify dies while waiting for UMG's signature, then it's their own damn fault. Because the 'major label problem' was isolated and identified years ago, and investors decided they wanted to make money, not burn it.

Actually, this problem gets easier over time. Because every year, the majors become less powerful, and the ice slowly thaws on a heinous licensing process. But the power of companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and the ISPs continues to expand, and so does their power to destroy your music startup - or even fully-grown company - overnight.

Take Apple and its in-app subscription fees. Maybe Apple will spare the music companies, maybe they won't. But the fate of countless subscription startups depends on which side of the bed Steve Jobs wakes up on. That type of power makes the majors look like Smurfs.

But it's not just Apple. The 'finish them' button also belongs to behemoths like Google, cable companies and ISPs. Over the weekend, one executive at a major cable and internet property told Digital Music News that small switches in Google's search algorithm have had profound impacts on his business. And, if a major cable provider changes its mind about its lineup, people are getting laid off - tomorrow.

And let's not forget Facebook. One of the hottest startups of late is RootMusic, and currently, the Facebook environment is friendly for nestled music apps. But what happens if RootMusic blows up, and dominates music on Facebook? Will Zuckerberg change his mind, overnight? Do you want to invest in a startup with that level of vulnerability?

Well, it turns out that plenty of companies - very successful ones - are living with it. Tunecore is one example: this is one of the best-performing digital music companies right now, yet Apple could erase their middleman niche in a weekend coding session.

Oh, easy to say it won't happen. But the competitive environment is so intense, so quick-shifting, that no one can really predict these things in advance. So maybe it's just another risk to assume and weigh, and part of the game. But in many ways, it sucks: because we live in their world now.

Paul Resnikoff, publisher, reporting from Toronto.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Vibes Are Being Gathered

The Gathering of the Vibes lineup has been announced, and I've got to say, I'm kind of sad that I didn't put any thought or effort at all into trying to go to it. Like, if I even thought once over the past few months, "Hey, maybe I should look into going to the Gathering of the Vibes this year"...or even "Hey, the Gathering of the Vibes is, in fact, happening this year"...then I would be much happier than I am right now. John Butler Trio, Taj Mahal, Elvis Costello, Jane's Addiction (??), Further and .moe are all parts of this festival, and also happen to contribute to all things good in music. Which I support.

Also on the bill are Dark Star Orchestra, Levon Helm, and The McLovins. Gotta love a band that is young enough to name itself after Superbad, and also, they're dirty...(check them out covering "You Enjoy Myself" by Phish... bad considering they are like 16 years old. But my favorite part of this lineup is .moe. I saw .moe last year on Halloween in Albany, and other than the fact that it was in Albany, it was great show... John Entwistle skeleton body suits and all. (In case of missed reference, check it)Anyway, .moe kills it. So I'm pumped for everyone that is going to see them at the Gathering of the Vibes.

Also, if you want to gather with some vibes of your own, check out Plectrum's Saint Patrick's Day Showcase at the All Asia Bar in Cambridge this Thursday, March 17th at 7!, featuring Ridden, Fifth Element, Wicked Blue, Jason Labbe, Andy O'Brien, and special guest Dan Rodman.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"To Suck It And See"...?

That's not a come on...nor is it the name of a questionably legal "spa"in the sketchy part of town. "To Suck It And See" is the name of the new Arctic Monkeys album that's going to be released on June 7th, 2011. Arctic Monkeys just revealed the release date, and the fact that they are making a new album, AND the new single, "Brick by Brick", in a very under-the-radar-but-still-cool-because-its-underground-and-sticks-to-their-roots kind of way. I love when new albums come out. I get really excited for a long time until it comes out, then I listen to it, and am usually disappointed for a while. But then I listen to it more, and start to like it, and validate my pre-release excitement. It's a really bad way to listen to new music, I know, but it works for me.

But the thing that has me most excited for this album is, no surprise here, the title. Because I'm all for artistic expression and blah blah blah, but I love a band that can just put things out there because they're funny or because they go against the acceptable norm (and no, I'm not talking about lady gaga wearing meat type stuff, that would fall under "artistic expression blah blah blah") but this is the band that put out an EP called "Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys", who have managed to expand and grow while still keeping to their original roots, and who's observational lyrics basically narrate a typical night out in clubs/bars and make fun of everyone that takes everything too seriously. Don't know what I'm talking about? Listen to songs like "Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured", or "From the Ritz to the Rubble" and tell me that you've never had those type of experiences when going out on the weekend. So I'm excited for this album. I'm also excited for them to play at the House of Blues on May 19th (you should prob get tickets right now). I just wonder what the second meaning of the album title is...because knowing them, I'm sure it means something more than what it is?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Live Nation, Entertainment, and Charlie Sheen Oh My!

What is this world coming too?

The current move by Live Nation to strike a deal with Charlie Sheen has me pondering. Is this a brilliant move to capitalize on what could translate into millions of dollars in revenue, or is the largest live music promoter in the country taking so much of a hit financially that they are desperate to find anyway to make money. I think the answer is somewhere in the middle.

Charlie Sheen is a very interesting “basket case” who continues to somehow capture our attention and infiltrate our daily lives like an infectious disease. Who is “crazier”…Live Nation or Charlie? No doubt, LN will make a large profit on the exploitation of Charlie’s over the top behavior however; they really have only a narrow window of opportunity. History has shown us Charlie’s radically exuberant exploits comes and goes in cycles (very typical to that of your traditional bipolar) with long periods of manias and periods of lows.

The mainstream media and paparazzi do not help this situation either. The more attention you throw at Charlie, the stronger he becomes. My thought is “stop feeding the beast!” if you leave it well enough alone it will go away and then we will be cured of Mr. Sheen.

Charlie is dummy, and he definitely has some very smart people working in his corner. His “marketing and branding” strategies take a page out of the Conan O’Brien playbook. Sheen is fired, joins the social media world and thus amassing a large amount of Twitter followers in a very short time, etc. LN wants to create Sheen merchandise including T-shirts, mugs and other items bearing his new catchphrases like "winning" will be for sale along with the possibility of a live tour. I am confused because this is a live music promotional company what do they know about clothes.

This is the pulse of the music and entertainment business…..still want in?

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