Collisions at the Corner of Art and Commerce

How you do anything is how you do everything

Friday, June 20, 2008

How you do anything is  how you do everything

You may think that some shows are not particularly important - and some may not be - but you should play every show like they all are vital.  As a bass player, I’ve played plenty of crappy shows, and I’ve had to struggle to remind myself of my own advice here - it’s *not* easy.  But its worth trying to follow.  

I’ll try to illustrate this with a true story from my past.  There was an amazing band from Portland OR called The Crazy 8’s.  I first got exposed to their music as a dj at WRAS Radio in Atlanta in 1985 or so.  I was really stoked that they were coming to do a show at my university.  When I got to the venue I  was blown away to see that the band almost outnumbered the audience.  But you would never have known that from the performance that they gave.  It would have been very easy for them to phone it in that night, and I probably wouldn’t have blamed them for doing so. But that’s not what they brought to the stage that night - they played to 25 people like they were playing to 2500.

They went on to make several more really great records - and in a few year’s time, I was doing A&R for Sony, and tried really hard to sign them.  Not solely because they played one of the best rock shows I have seen - (which still holds true to this day 23+ years later -  and I’ve been to a metric boatload of shows) - but the attitude, energy and work ethic that was on stage that night  along with their continued musical development let me know that they were worth pursuing.   That show let me see what they brought to the mix besides great songs and a tremendous work ethic - it showed that they loved what they were doing, which is a vital quality.    They were an amazing band - ahead of their time in many significant ways - the ska influenced music was a few years before the explosion of that sound onto the airwaves.  In my opinion, they were far better than most of the bands that did make it in succeeding years.  They also built a career and infrastructure on their own, their own record label, and devised a host of inventive marketing and promotional ideas to launch their releases.   Even then,  artists were creating their own record labels and building their own careers, but the Crazy 8’s version of this was is a model that is even more effective now with the Internet and allows such great control of the growth and longevity of a career.  

While the law of averages suggests that it’s not likely that you’ll play that many shows with future A&R reps in the audience, the point is that you never know *who* will be there, and what your listeners will take away from your show and share with others.   A die hard, dedicated fan with a passion for sharing your music will likely mean more in our present world than an A&R rep ever could. You can be sure that I told everyone I knew about the Crazy 8’s and that show for the next few years way before I ever got into A&R.  And that’s the real point of the story.  You’ve got to be building fans with every performance, and every interaction - this is about more than just what happens in performance.  While the example above details a show, the idea I’m trying to get across is just as applicable to a conversation or e-mail exchange - albeit with perhaps fewer decibels - but the idea translates the same - how you do anything is how you do everything.

updated: 11 years ago