By Jeanine Black – Director of Marketing and PR Services
As an avid music fan, I’ve probably been to between 100-150 live shows, including a few festivals. My first concert was in 1985. I was in seventh grade and I went to see Cyndi Lauper at Blossom Music Center with a friend, whose sister had won a limo ride to the show and backstage passes. Yes, I got to meet Cyndi! It was certainly an awesome first experience. And needless to say, I was hooked. Thirty-three years and many, many shows later, I’m still hooked. In fact, I see more shows per year now than I ever have. (This is mostly because I see lesser-known indie-rock bands that don’t cost a fortune and that play intimate concert theaters for a pretty cool, up-close experience.)
Truth be told, live music is my therapy. Aside from it being a lot cheaper and way more fun, there is nothing better than completely losing yourself in a song and forgetting who you are for even a brief moment. Live music takes me out of my own head and lets me enjoy a few moments of pure bliss, when I am truly living in the moment. My awe of musicians comes not just from their talent to make music, but their ability to affect people.
But it’s not easy. There are many things that need to come together to make a live performance a great one. As I’m not a musician, I can’t speak of the most intricate, technical aspects of a live show, but I know the basics. The band has to be engaging and on its game, in tune with not only each other, but with its audience. The crew has to be fast and efficient. The lighting has to be thrilling, and, more importantly, effective. And the sound needs to be perfectly planned and engineered for the band, the venue and the anticipated crowd, adjusting as they go for an optimal experience. When it all comes together, the audience, as well as the band and its team, walk away satisfied.
But if something is off, the experience can be ruined.
A week ago, I attended my first concert of the year. It was Portugal. The Man at the Cleveland Public Auditorium, i.e. Public Hall. If you don’t know who PTM is, they’ve been around since the mid-2000s, but most recently gained attention for their “pop” song, “Feel it Still,” which won them a Grammy. (They are anything but a pop band, but whatever, I do love that song, so I’m happy for them). Anyway… this was the third time I had seen them. It’d been eight years since the last time and I was hyped. I love their new stuff, their old stuff and everything in between. It was a great start to the season… or so I thought.
See, originally, they were to play at the Cleveland Agora Theater, a much smaller venue and one that I personally love. Because of construction, the show was moved to the Music Hall and then at the very last minute, it moved to the MUCH bigger Public Hall (the Agora’s capacity is 1,800; Public Hall is 10,000).
I’m not a sound technician, so I know almost nothing about how sound engineering and acoustics work; however, I know good sound from bad and this was bad. It broke my heart. My guess is their equipment isn’t set up for such a large venue, resulting in an unbalanced system and heavy distortion and echo. Regardless of the reason, the performance was messy.
The majority of my concert experiences, by far, have been positive. You see, the sound isn’t a consideration when it’s good – you don’t think about it because it’s part of the experience. But when sound is bad, it’s very noticeable. The band may be perfect, but the delivery is all wrong.
That got me thinking (yes, finally, I am getting to my point!): Marketing communications and public relations are very similar, in that when they are done right, they are seldom noticed – it just works. But when they are bad, they can be very bad. Audiences can easily point out tone-deaf social media posts or campaigns targeting the wrong demographic, and then, the message falls short of effective.
Like a concert, a marketing campaign has to be carefully planned and executed. Our clients are the bands and we are the backstage support, making sure they look good, sound good and are getting the right message to the right people.
The word “amplify” is used a lot these days in marketing and communications. To amplify is to broadcast a message, loudly, right? Taking my concert analogy literally, musicians use amplifiers to boost their sound. And it makes sense for marketing, too. Marketing should amplify your message, so that your audience hears you. But, in my opinion, amplification is just one part of the equation. Being loud is simply not enough. You also have to consider:
- The venue – or marketing vehicle – you use. You must figure out which one best meets your needs, budget, goals and objectives, as well as the size of your audience.
- The characteristics of your audience. Different audiences have different likes, dislikes and demographics, and you need to know how to talk to them and what to say.
- Your ability to stay flexible. You have to be able to pivot when something unexpected happens (such as when your original venue is moving to a much bigger arena at the last minute).
Like a good performance, a marketing campaign should be a well-oiled machine that starts with planning and thorough preparation. It should leave the audience with an awesome experience they will never forget. If they have this experience, they will be hooked – and it will go a long way toward building loyal fans.
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