So, I’m having coffee with my friend Danny this morning, and we start talking about Black rock. I reiterate my interest in bringing more of an audience the music, not necessarily figuring out better ways to market bands to the audience. He then states—and I’m paraphrasing badly here:
“You gotta find a band. The only way that’s going to happen is if there’s a band to rally around.”
This makes sense, particularly if you look at the challenge from a traditional marketing standpoint. After all, having a focal point, be it a band or an individual artist, creates a simplicity of message, something that Chip and Dan Heath talk about as necessary for an idea to really be “sticky”. For example, is it a group like J*Davey, who blew up on the streets and is about to make their major label debut?
But, focusing on an artist or band is tricky. How do you find someone that a good mass of people will like and support? That could be easier than you think. An article in yesterday’s NY Times Magazine indicates that “hits” are not just an accumulation of a significant number of independent choices. It’s not just about impressing individuals with your talent. Rather, everyone who likes, say, Justin Timberlake (the article’s example), is to some extent influenced by others. So, you can’t predict what will ‘stick” based on what’s worked in the past. As the article points out, companies involved in the culture industries try this all the time and their failure rate tends to be high.
While I’m not willing to discard this path of inquiry, I do suggest we put it aside and think about the problem from a different angle. In the case of Black rock—multifarious as it is—a vibrant community exists. Hell, if you just count the time the Black Rock Coalition’s been in existence, it’s a community that’s been growing for over 22 years.
My point is that what’s needed is something that will bring galvanize this community, speed connections between the various “cells” of this network, and register on the general market’s radar. What’s needed is a call to action, a reason to transform a community into a movement. The single artist/band is vulnerable: They become another piece of clutter in a hyper-crowded marketplace, and are left to navigate the medium of culture on their own. But a single artist or band backed by a movement can capture the public’s imagination.