Thursday, July 31, 2008

Creating the LAME Studios Concert: Part 3

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lots of people helped out in various ways

lesson #4: everyone involved deserves to have a say.  for a 2 hour event, a lot of preparation and cleanup was required, and a lot of people helped out.  if people weren’t aware of or didn’t believe in the long term vision, i would not have their support.  people wouldn’t spend the afternoon baking vinyl records and molding them into bowls if the activity wasn’t worth their time.  they wouldn’t stand by the popcorn maker ensuring that nothing burns.  they wouldn’t drive in a couple days after the event to mop the floor.  they wouldn’t lug all 4,000 sq. feet’s worth of furniture back to its original position.  they especially wouldn’t lug that heavy furniture if they were by themself (thanks cyndi!).

just because they believe in the event and are willing to bust their butt doesn’t mean i can abuse their hard work.  no, i value and appreciate their effort, and i do whatever i can to express that.  sometimes that can be some money and a sincere thank you.  sometimes that can be a handwritten thank you card and fresh flowers.  sometimes that can be dinner and time spent together.  sometimes that can be a coupon to a massage parlour, to work out the soreness accumulated from physical labor.  the tricky part is that i risk being perceived as flippant with my thanks, or that i don’t value people enough for their effort.  i guess my rule of thumb is to do more than necessary to express my appreciation, rather than guess what’s “enough” and assume the floor mopper got the appreciation she deserved.  Shane Claiborne, a Christian who wrote down “professional lover” as his occupation on a high school alumni survey, said something in his book that i’ll never forget.  he believes that Christians have lost the desire to “love creatively.”  if all Christians went above and beyond in the way they showed their love and appreciation for others, whether these “others” are Muslims, homosexuals, pro-choice advocates, or terrorists, Christians would have a very different reputation than they have now.  Christians would be naive optimists, always believing that human beings are fundamentally good, even though there’s evil in the world.  sure, i don’t understand why there’s evil in the world, but i sure know how i can respond.

so back to lesson four, that everyone involved deserves to have a say.  i didn’t do the best job of keeping everyone in the loop.  after all, before i can form an opinion about anything, i need to at least be involved.  i didn’t involve everyone to the degree that they should have been involved.  involving people takes time, and often times i misjudge my time and rush things.  in retrospect, i should have spent more time with everyone involved and asked for their opinion.  great ideas come when people put their minds together, and ideas come to fruition when everyone believes in them and naturally acts on them.

Posted by Nehe555 on 07/31 at 10:11 PM
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Creating the LAME Studios Concert: Part 2

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the LAME crew setting up the sales booth

the third lesson was KISS: keep it simple, stupid!  it sounds so simple, yet it’s so difficult to pull off sometimes.  in his interview on the “live at abbey road” television series, john mayer talks about his hit single, gravity, and how he struggled to hold on the the KISS principle.  he explained that as the musician who wrote the song, he was well aware of how sophisticated the song could be.  anyone who knows john mayer knows that he’s a phenomenal guitarist, and he could easily fill songs with line after line of blistering guitar riffs.  but mayer fought his own tendencies and sought to strip down and simplify the song, and the end result is a simple, yet beautifully effective song.

while organizing this concert, i felt like john mayer.  i knew that i could really pull off something stunning, with spotlighted mannequins modeling LAME t-shirt designs in chronological order, as a sort of history exhibit.  i could have brought in an expansive concert lighting rig because i know how to run lights.  i could have multi-track recorded the live music for later mixdown at one of the music studios i know.  i could have brought in an elevated stage for the VIP seating area so VIPs would have a clear view over everyone’s heads, and i could’ve brought in stanchions to surround the whole rig.  servers could have taken orders from VIPs and delivered it straight to their section.  i could have added a lot of STUFF to improve the concert experience, but i held back to keep things simple. 

by keeping things simple, i could cut costs and reduce ticket prices, thereby freeing up attendees to spend their cash on merch and food.  i knew that i couldn’t pay the bands what they deserved, so i at least structured the floor plan to funnel traffic by the bands’ merch tables, in hopes that people would buy band merch.  the floor plan worked well, because the area in front of the merch tables got plenty crowded.  i know LAME sold a couple dozen shirts, which gave them a profit.  i didn’t dip into any of the merch sales; the artists received 100% of the money from their own sales.  i was tempted to take a percentage cut out of their merch sales, but i knew that if i was the artist, i wouldn’t like that.  so i didn’t do it, nor will i ever do it.  by keeping everything simple, i saved a lot of gray hair and i was able to sleep well at night because my brain wasn’t focused on developing and implementing new ideas.  and if any ideas did come up for the future, i always keep a notebook and pen by my bed to write them down.  then i can sleep.

Posted by Nehe555 on 07/30 at 11:45 AM
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Creating the LAME Studios Concert: Part 1

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one company, three bands

facebook marketing is viable!  i’ve been experimenting with marketing strategies targeting certain demographics, and because facebook is well connected with grand rapids college and high school kids, i centered my marketing campaign around this online tool.  i invited my friends at LAME Studios to merge their company launch with my concert, and they put some serious work into getting the word out.  i’m very grateful for the work they did, and i’m looking forward to the next collaboration because we know we’ll do even better.  LAME Studios was started by local high schoolers, so they really got the word out to their high school friends.  as expected, a lot of high schoolers showed up, but the number that showed up was still less than the confirmed guest list on the official facebook event. 

that leads me to my first lesson: mass invitations don’t produce as accurate results as speaking with someone in person and asking for confirmation in a facebook event invitation sent later.

LAME Studios and their friends put in a lot of hard work on promotions, which freed me up to ensure that the experience was great.  that wasn’t too difficult; i can just imagine myself as one of the concert-goers.  if i went to a concert, what would i expect?  affordable tickets, great performances, great music by bands that i liked, water that doesn’t cost $5 but is free like it should be (i hated how some venues turn off their water fountains so people are forced to buy drinks… people just get annoyed and drink from bathroom faucets), good food priced reasonably, and good sound.  i gave it my best shot, and i know i came up short on a few things. 

so, the second, multi-part, lesson: first, popcorn should not cost $3, even if it’s a heaping bowl.  we didn’t sell a single bowl of popcorn.  second, we had great drinks that were priced at $1 for a tall glass.  good value, yum yum, many purchases, will do it again.  third, we had two ticket options, online pre-sale e-tickets for $3.50 or pay $5 at the door.  although pre-sale tickets were cheaper, only 4 people bought them, while everyone else paid at the door.  i know that over 30 people visited the link to purchase tickets, and my guess is that no one bought any because (1) the ticket dealer wasn’t a reputable one like ticketmaster, so they thought it was sketchy, or (2) they weren’t given a credit card payment.  i highly doubt that number 2 is the reason, because i picked the dealer because they accepted credit cards.  so i should either find a reputable ticket dealer that doesn’t rip buyers off (like ticketmaster does with absurd service fees), build a reputation with my ticketing system over time, or just scrap cheaper pre-sale e-tickets and get everyone to buy at the door.  actually, i just remembered this technique by a battle of the bands promoter somewhere.  bands are given a stack of tickets, and they must sell a minimum to play the show.  promoters are also given stacks of tickets to sell.  we skip ticket dealers that charge ridiculous service fees, fans and buyers get cheaper tickets, bands know their friends will show up, and the venue can pay the staff that ensures a hospitable environment.  everyone wins.  food for thought, and i may adopt this strategy in the future.

because of the lessons i’ve learnt, i can almost guarantee a better sophomore effort.  in the meantime, i’m reflecting on my freshman effort and crying over my mistakes.  well, i’m not crying, but i’m not afraid to admit that i failed financially; i lost a substantial amount of money (i won’t reveal the amount because my parents will read this and they’ll think i’m broke, which will lead to a phone call where they’ll want to send me money, and then i’ll refuse their generosity because i want to stick it out on my own and learn from my own mistakes, not because i’m proud, but because some lessons need to be learned the hard way to really stick), but i know that money isn’t everything, and what’s more important is the experience.  from preliminary feedback, people had a blast and really enjoyed themselves.  i need to remember that the core of live entertainment is ENTERTAINMENT, not “let’s milk as much money as we can out of the crowd.”  i don’t want that kind of reputation as a concert-promoter, nor do i want people helping me out to be linked to such a reputation.

Posted by Nehe555 on 07/27 at 03:29 PM
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Friday, July 11, 2008

Website Release: A Live Recording of Dean Windemuller

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click the above image to visit the site

in a previous post, i leaked an audio widget featuring live recordings of my artist, Dean Windemuller, at Four Friends Coffeehouse.  now the entire concert can be downloaded for free, and the website also features photos from the content.  i also need your help.  the site has a poll where listeners can vote on the song they think should be Dean’s next single.  i can’t release too many details, but we’re speaking with a music company that can pair Dean with a grammy-award winning producer.  we’re not sure if the deal will go through, but we need to anticipate moving quickly if it does.  anyway, please visit the website, check out the songs, and vote for the next single.

Posted by Nehe555 on 07/11 at 08:46 AM
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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Local Spotlight: Woodland Mall

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where almost every middle school and high school kid shops

Woodland mall is a half mile south of Calvin, and although it’s not the largest mall in the city (Rivertown mall in Grandville is larger), it’s got everything most people need. Well, except groceries. But people living in the dorms don’t need to worry about that because they have dining halls. Only us old blokes buy groceries and cook food.

Clothing? Check. American Eagle, Banana republic, j crew, etc. it’s the center of American fashion. And because it’s American fashion, none of it fits me *sigh*  Maybe if I gain 50 pounds and grow 4 inches taller, I can move out of the children’s section.

Movie theatre? Check again. The world’s most movie obsessed culture has a Celebration Cinema at Woodland mall. however, this cinema’s special; it shows past movies for a mere $3. I watched 21 there not too long ago. Cool movie, but I don’t really have the attention span for most movies.  The whole idea of sitting there for 2 to 3 hours makes me shudder a bit.  I just want to DO something productive and make the fun happen, not sit back and let directors dictate what’s fresh and exciting through formulaic Hollywood plotlines.  oh, here’s a spoiler for 21… it’s a happy ending.

Posted by Nehe555 on 07/03 at 09:53 AM
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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Things That I Do

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the largest tracking room, which houses the electronic kit

there are some days when i just shake my head in disbelief.  one weekend, dean and i went on a lil road trip to meet with my friend and his boss, who founded a music company in the region.  the company’s going through a relaunch, so i can’t really give out any details (such as names and locations).  they’re currently in soft operations mode, and i think that means they’re fully functioning but not officially launched.  anyway, part of the music company is a fully-functioning recording studio, and because dean is looking to record new material, i decided to introduce him to the studio to see the facilities and meet the operators.  we had lunch, chatted about life, then let the operators do their thing as they gave us the tour.

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thousand of dollars in about 4 square feet

we ended up sitting in the control room comparing their work to the mixes from other major studios in the area, mackinaw harvest’s studios and river city studios.  and for reference, i threw in one of the songs i was well familiar with, which wasn’t produced by any of these studios.  the song was very well produced because the group performing it had money to blow.  sadly, i can’t remember the song title, but i remember the group… ‘n sync.  so here we are, jamming out to ‘n sync on the board that mixed ricky martin’s breakthrough album.  like i said, sometimes i shake my head in disbelief.

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shipped up from miami by a grammy award-winning producer

Posted by Nehe555 on 07/02 at 04:16 PM
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