The problem with the singing cowboy wasn’t that he hadn’t gotten permission (he asked me, after all) but that I wasn’t anticipating it, and I hadn’t gotten enough information to make an informed choice.
Sarah and I recently took a trip out to Arizona for a little R&R, and on our way out of town we couldn’t resist stopping by our favorite western restaurant, the Big Texan. This place serves real buffalo meat burgers up with vittles and old-western charm, but it’s real claim to fame is a free 72 oz. steak to anyone that can eat it in an hour or less. The Big Texan’s just the kind of tourist trap that’s perfect for kicking off a vacation.
The day we stopped in there was a weather-beaten old cowboy serenading tables with Hank Williams tunes. Not surprisingly I love music, but I hate it when it’s being played 6 inches from my face while I’m trying to wolf down a sloppy buffalo burger. Sarah hates being put on the spot even more than I do. We hunkered down in the booth and kept eating.
Halfway through the sloppiest buffalo burger we'd ever eaten we heard “afternoon- would you like a tune?”. I looked up in shock. The Hank-hollerin’ cowboy had been on the other side of the restaurant less than 5 minutes ago. I thought I had time. Time to prepare. Sarah was staring at me like a rabbit caught in a fence, eyes wide, telepathically shrieking “I just want to eat in peace. Just say no, JUST SAY NO.”
I turned to him and said, “that’d be nice”.
To be continued. . .
I realized recently that it takes me about an hour to write an okay song. If I bust my butt, I can write a good song in about two hours. If I want to write a great song, it takes between 3-5 hours of concentrated work. To write one of my best songs ever, it takes writing about 10 of my great songs (3-5 hours x 10 songs = 30-50 hours).
As musicians, we’ve become jaded about using the term “marketing”. Many musicians won’t even admit to using marketers, because it might indicate that we’re selling out, pandering to the masses, or even worse: being commercially successful.
I love Arby’s roast beef sandwiches. When I see those shiny Arby’s coupons wedged into our apartment’s mailbox, it practically starts me drooling.
The mail was a little late this week, and since I used up our coupons from last week, I decided to go online and scrounge. After digging deep into Google, all I found was a disappointingly corporate page touting the greatness of Arby’s roast beef, and a stingy coupon worse than the ones I got in the mail.
This blows my mind. Arby’s has a fan (me) who’s so dedicated that he’ll search through dozens of websites looking for coupons, on his own time, using his own computer, that’s he’s willing to print using his own paper and ink. And instead of being rewarded for my crazy dedication to beef, I’m being punished with a crappy coupon and a lot of corporate-speak.
It doesn't have to be this way anymore. Imagine if Arby’s fired their current advertising agency, and started rewarding it’s loyal customers instead of penalizing them. They could eliminate all print ads overnight, and instead start writing a super-low budget blog about beef.
The blog would talk about meat, pitch new products, and offer amazing coupons every week. They can afford to offer genuinely great deals now, since they’ve stopped forking over tens of millions of dollars on advertising each year to interrupt people who aren't interested anyway.
Arby’s could encourage workers all over the country to get creative and whip up new sandwich recipes, instead of just slicing meat all day. If they came up with a great combination, Arby's would sell it for one day only at the store as a special. Each week, one winner with the best single-day sales in the country would be submitted on the blog for voting. Each month, there’d be a new winner and stores would offer it nation-wide. And the Arby’s employee who created it would get a healthy stock option or scholarship, their choice.
Why won’t this happen at Arby’s anytime soon? It involves top-down change. And that terrifies the leaders of a company as large as Arby's. If things don't work immediately, there’s just too much money on the line to lose, and the brave managers that are responsible get fired. And this is how so many big companies work: barring a sudden crisis at the company, no one is going to realize the ship is sinking until it’s too late.
We don’t have that excuse. If you’re a musician, you’re the president, middle management, marketing director, and chief burger flipper in your company. We’re in control. And we don’t have the luxury of pretending the old ways are always going to work. Be bold- start a blog. Interact with the people that love what you do. After all, it's doesn't take anything more than some time.