busted on the back channel

Palma Violets

A few weeks ago @plesserchick and I went to the 7th Street Entry for a concert to see the U.K. band Palma Violets along with the New York band Guards who were the openers. I’m not sure how often I get into it here on the blog front, but I go out to see more than my fair share of live music — probably in the range of five or more shows per month. (I’m not trying to appear boastful — while I think this is more than the average person, this isn’t nearly as many shows as my wife or friends attend.)

During the last few years, I’ve noticed that concert etiquette has changed with the increasing popularity of smart phones and social media such as Twitter and Instagram. It’s pretty much the norm to see people on their iPhones posting Tweets or pictures from the concert. You also see folks that seem to just ignore the concert altogether while they’re texting or checking out Facebook, but for the most part it seems that concertgoers are using their phones in the midst of a performance to share out something about that moment.

So…with all that in mind, during the aforementioned performance by Guards, I was standing quite close to the front of the stage when I decided to break out my phone to send out a Tweet. While doing so and looking at the screen on my iPhone, I suddenly felt something pushing down on my hands. What did I see when I popped my head up? It was the lead singer of Guards with his guitar stretched out in front of him with the headstock of the instrument tapping down on my phone. And this was all in the middle of a song being performed mind you. He was looking straight at me with a disparaging look. I have to admit that in the moment itself I was kind of embarrassed. Although I was busted for being on the back channel of Twitter, clearly the singer thought that I was not paying attention and just using my iPhone to distract myself. That wasn’t my intention, but I could see why he saw it that way. After this went down, some of my friends did have a few laughs at my expense.

As the evening went on, I started to think about the incident and how it actually was a lost opportunity for the band. If you think about it, all of those people at concerts that are tweeting about a band or sharing pictures on Instagram are basically marketing on the band’s behalf. To all of their friends. For free. This made me start to think how some bands could do a better job of embracing this. For example they could do little things like thanking the concert goers for posting pictures from the shows to their social networks. Or instead of stenciling their band names on their road gear they should stencil their Twitter handle or hashtag.

Yes, these may be silly examples but any brand marketer will tell you that they would LOVE to have customers that were so passionate that they were actively and willingly marketing on their behalf. One of the things that I love about music is that it can be so enthralling that you can’t help but lose yourself in the tunes. Bands and artists should take this notion and flip it on its head. Instead of just being focused on what their music does right then and there, they should also start thinking about taking it to the next step: impressing your fans so much that right there that they want to tell hundreds of people about the experience they are having at that very moment. Getting others to market on your behalf is pretty damn close to the holy grail, so why not try to encourage it as simply and kindly as you can?

(Photography courtesy of Shuttersmack Photography + Design.)

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