"Some Damn Country Band"

| No Comments

The weekend after the Grammys, I was listening to a X-103.9 out of San Bernardino, and the jock, who was introducing a Silversun Pickups song, complained that SSPs had been Grammy-nominated for Best New Artist in the overall category, but lost to "some damn country band." That "damn country band" was the Zac Brown Band, who is, quite honestly, revolutionizing the relationship between artist and fan. This was made very clear to me last night, when my friend Michelle and I took a mini-roadtrip up to Santa Barbara to see them at the historic Arlington Theatre.

Arlington Theatre.jpg

In January, I started taking Music Business classes at UCLA Extension. I wish I'd taken these courses a long time ago, as they have changed the way I listen to and evaluate music, the level of appreciation I have for musicians, my concert-going experience, and have given me much to think about in terms of how technology is exponentially changing the way we live. I have a point (and it relates to ZBB), and I promise that I'll get there.

On Tuesday night, we had a guest speaker who emphasized that in this day and age where (like it or not) paying for music has become voluntary (and will become more voluntary next year, and even more voluntary the year after that, and so on), musicians must create a more "feminine" relationship with their fans - the key word being "relationship." He noted that in the past, the way people bought music was very impersonal - slap some money on the counter where a cashier who would not even ask your name would exchange that currency for a physical product, much like a guy's ideal Friday night (i.e. Consumer = Consummate = Fuck). In a more "feminine" way of doing business, a true relationship is established; for example, amazon.com not only remembers your name and address, but also every purchase you've ever made there, and suggests other things you'd also be interested in. In a "masculine" model, a fan might say their favorite band is so-and-so, but couldn't tell you the name of the last album said band put out.

The Zac Brown Band has taken this lesson and excelled at it. A typical band offers or sells "meet and greet" passes to (often) randomly selected members of their Fan Club, which usually involves standing in a huge line to shake hands with the artist, have their picture taken, maybe have an autograph (depending on time constraints and how many people are in attendance, autographs are sometimes not permitted), then NEXT PERSON! Zac Brown has turned this fairly impersonal opportunity into something extraordinary.

He has "eat and greets," as opposed to "meet and greets." Approximately 60 people were led around to the side of the theatre, where picnic tables and canopies had been set up. Zac Brown himself greeted us as we walked in, thanking us for coming. After everyone was seated, Zac explained that there would be no picture-taking or autographs allowed, and that he and his band just wanted to hang out and talk with everyone (However, if you did want an autograph, you were invited to make a purchase at the merch table - after the show, everyone who had bought some sort of merch would be allowed to get it autographed. GENIUS MARKETING.).

We lined up to eat, and were served an array of steak, pork (with sauce and rub using Zac's own recipe), vegetables, salad, cole slaw, sweet potato hash browns, etc. As you can see, it looked amazing, and tasted even better.


Zac hung out with everyone as they waited in line, discussing his three daughters, him home state Georgia, and telling we girls from LA that the Santa Barbara show would be much better than the LA show (the previous Friday) anyway. Fiddle player Jimmy DeMartini sat at our table for dinner, and again - we felt like we had a real conversation, as opposed to the quick, impersonal handshake-photo-autograph that usually accompanies such meet-n-greets.

And then of course, they put on a killer two and a half hour show (not including the time given to the two opening bands), showing off their wide range of musical influences (picture a guy wearing a Bob Marley shirt, a Hawaiian shell necklace, a beanie....and playing country music) and talent. If you ever get the chance, go see the Zac Brown Band. They're raising the bar for other bands to create a real relationship with your fans....and one that ultimately offers more financial benefit for the artist, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the fans.

Zac Brown Band.jpg

Not bad for "some damn country band."

Leave a comment