This article kicks off a series of short summaries of business books, applying them to your business in global music. After all, if you have made it to DubMC, chances are you want to know about the mechanics of commerce as it applies to music across cultures. We start off with The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore.
The basic tenet of the book is that as a society our marketplace offerings evolve from commodity (a coffee bean), to product (bagged coffee at the super market), to service (a cup of coffee at a diner), to experience (learning a new language to order your coffee beverage, a realm of scents, the opportunity to see and be scene on colorful overstuffed furniture, merchandise you can wear, and, at one time, music for you to hear and possibly purchase). Your five dollar venti skinny mocha latte is not just a drink. You've also paid for an experience. As the realm of recorded music has not only become commoditized (yes, that's what it's called if your recording is sitting in the i-Tunes library selling a few times per year for $.99), but free-ified, note that the economic engine of music is tipping towards live performance; which is more of an experience than listening to a recording. And even in the realm of free music -- whether condoned by the content creator or ripped and posted on a peer-to-peer network -- for many, the recorded music listening activity is more of an experience these days, shrouded in online interaction, conversation, and sharing of information/emotions/identity.
The authors present the thought that any business (and I would include artists, labels, presenters/venues, agents, etc.) can profit more from offering an experience instead of only a product (a recording) or service (a performance with little context or interaction). That is, if you can differentiate yourself from others by tapping into all five senses, creating memories, and/or offering something personal, isn't what you have to offer more valuable? And if it is more valuable, people are more likely to buy, or buy more frequently, or pay more.
Pine and Gilmore say that staging experience is not about entertaining customers, it's about engaging them. Entertainment is only one form of engagement. They developed two dimensions of creating experiences: Absorption (mental) versus Immersion (physical) and Passive Participation (watching/hearing) versus Active Participation (doing). If you were to draw these two spectra as a "t", the realm of experience would be divided into:
- Entertainment (passive/absorption)
- Educational (active/absorption)
- Escapist (active/immersion; meaning, greater immersion than entertainment or education; think Disney World or virtual reality)
- Esthetic (passive/immersion; meaning, viewing fine art or the Grand Canyon; or, watch, don't touch)
The writers reccomend that businesses "theme the experience." This is a great tip when conceiving a recording or a live show. They say a theme should: Alter the recpient's sense of reality. Affect the recipient's sense of space, time,and matter. Integrate space, time, and matter into a cohesive whole. Create multiple places within a place. Fit your character. If it is not a good fit, it's not believable or credible. The authors write, "A poorly conceived theme... gives customers nothing around which to organize their impressions, and the experience yields no lasting memory."
The authors have many other compelling concepts along these lines, but here we have enough to play with for our purposes. So here are some questions to provoke how you might change the way you do things with this new knowledge and concept:
1. What feeling do you want people to have when they hear your music?
2. What can you offer beyond the music -- the notes and rhythms, the lyrics, the actual performance -- so that fans have a more full experience?
3. What themes for your next recording would help people be drawn further into your music? What narrative can your album tell? How will you augment that narrative beyond the music?
4. How do you use visual elements (album covers, artists photos, concert posters, giveaways, t-shirts, stage lighting, video or slide projection) to create an experience for your fans? How are those visual elements tied to a larger theme or narrative?
5. What online tools do you have access to right now that can engage fans or potential fans in the realms of education, entertainment, immersion?
6. What is something you can do that no other musician/label has ever done to create the ultimate fan experience?
1. How can you help the artists you present augment the fan experience?
2. What standards could you convey about themes, narratives, visuals, etc. to the artists you present?
3. How are the physical spaces you use to present artists curated to immerse audience members further into the experience?
4. What information or resources could you provide to audience members before, during, and after the show to engage their senses and create memories?
5. How could you engage merchandising to create a further fan experience of an artist's theme or presentation?
6. What tools could you use online to increase interaction between fan and performer, or between fans and othr fans? What other interactions could fans/audience members have that would strengthen their connection and experience of your venue/brand?
Global and cross-cultural music has an advantage in creating experiences for potential fans in that there is a cultural wealth that can be tapped to engage people, whether they are fans "from back home" or fans who want to learn more about and experience "the world." Even artists composing and performing in the continually emerging hybrid music forms have an opportunity to create first-time dialogues/interactions or engage people in ways that shift their realities. It does not need to be explicit or academic. It can be done in more subtle or even in physical ways. Many traditions in the realm of "world music" are steeped in interactive traditions like call and response, improvisation, and ritual music. Why are we not engaging the audiences of today in these traditions -- or hybrids of these traditions -- that bring audience members further into the fold? Activities as simple as explaining a ceremony a rhythm or melody is drawn from or humorously telling (oftentimes translating) the story of a traditional lyric, augments the experience. Music is not a universal language. That's like saying language is a universal language. Music is a language, but each form is not universal. And it often needs translation literally and culturally. Giving audience members a context or better yet an experience will keep them coming back for more.
DubMC.com is the brainchild of Dmitri Vietze and is sponsored by rock paper scissors, inc., global music publicity firm.