|Ben Bridwell and me|
Be willing to go the extra mile for your audience
Ben walked out onto the stage on Monday and said, "I lost my voice and had to cancel yesterday's show in Chapel Hill. I hated having to do that, and I refused to cancel another. I'm not gonna sound great but I'm gonna power through for y'all. If I suck you can ask for your money back (laughing)." Ben has a very unique, strong voice and it adds a very memorable touch to his band's songs. Everybody wanted to hear it on Monday night, but given that we weren't going to be able to, we all admired him making the effort to play on. He clearly cared about the people who wanted to see his show and had to work really hard to pull it off, and the people there watching that night all gained a lot of respect for him because of it. By the way, he also re-scheduled the show that had been cancelled for Tuesday night, and drove back to Chapel Hill the following day to perform it. He was clearly really upset about having had to cancel it, and rather then offer empty promises of "I'll re-schedule soon" he literally turned around and drove back the very next day. You can bet the people in Chapel Hill were as impressed with his effort as we were here in Charlotte.
Don't take yourself too seriously.
Ben made fun of his voice ("Y'all get to here the 95-year old version of me singing tonight"). He made jokes about himself ("This is the dumbest song I've ever written"), and, when he was telling a story and there were some people talking loudly in the back of the room and an audience member made a loud "Shhhhhhh!!!!!" to attempt to quiet them, he looked at the offenders and said, "Nah man, I'm just rambling about stuff, y'all go right on with what you're doing back there. It's all good. Let's just keep this fun."
Now here's a rock star who has every right to have a bit of an ego and take himself very seriously, perhaps get pissed that some people would have the nerve to be loud while he was telling a story, yet he was as laid back about it as a guy who was on the stage for his first time ever. He's got humongous talent, but he's self-deprecating and doesn't take himself too seriously. A good balance and a good way to break down barriers with your audience.
Remember people's names
My four-year old son loves one of Band of Horses' songs, so I bought a poster from the show that I planned to hang in his bedroom. As I walked to my car when the evening was done, Ben was standing in the street with some of his crew. I was surprised to see him a few feet from me and figured, "Why not thank this guy for a great show?" I approached him and he turned his attention directly on me. We shook hands and he asked my name. After telling him, I asked if he'd sign the poster for my son. Over the course of a couple of minutes, Ben said my name several times. "Wil, I'm happy to sign this for your little guy." "Wil, I appreciate you being here tonight." And so on. Then, after I stepped aside and was talking to my friend, Ben walked over and said, "Wil, could I borrow your pen for a minute?" and then "Here's your pen back, Wil."
This guy had no business caring about what my name is. He knows he'll almost definitely never meet me in person again. But I believe Ben either has a gift for remembering names, or he simply understands what occurs when you meet somebody the first time and start using their name as you speak to them. They notice. Especially if you are a damn famous rock star! Think about it though. When somebody you've just met starts using your name as you talk, you tend to like the person a little more than if he seemed like he forgot your name instantly. When you remember people's names, you validate them. You make them feel important, even if for just a brief moment. It's a powerful skill, and one that leaves an impression.
Ben is used to playing in front of thousands (or tens of thousands) of people. On this brief tour his audiences will perhaps average around 100 people. So let's say he plays in front of a total of 1,000 people in the next couple of weeks. He could easily convince himself not to make the extra effort to play when he doesn't feel well wasn't worth it. Or he could let his ego get in the way an expect his small audiences to hang on his every word. Or he could forget the name of every person he meets.
But Ben understands the importance of doing these things because he genuinely cares about his fans, and he probably understands that the 1,000 people he plays for on this tour will go from being fans to being rabid fans. Fans who will no doubt spread the word. Look, I doubt anybody else from the audience but me wrote a nine-paragraph blog post about what we witnessed, but I'd be willing to bet that all 75 of us went home that night planning to tell people about how absolutely impressed we were with Ben and the experience he created for us.
We rely mostly on word-of-mouth to grow Schedulefly, so I hope we can always do these three things with the small number of people we interact with every day. We don't want their brief period of communicating with us to be just ok. Or average. Or similar to the what happens with every other business they interact with.
No, we want to create a small number of rabid fans every single day.