Author: McNeal, Brian

Second Class Bluegrass Fans

I guess I never really thought of any bluegrass band having a category of fans different from other fans, as in the “A” List fans and then “all the rest.” I know that some groups will offer special bonuses for some fans who choose to join the V.I.P. Club at a premium cost but that's not what I'm talking about.

Actually this is a real scenario that absolutely occurred and probably occurs on a regular basis with many bands. I'm going to use a specific case as an example, but I'll rename the parties so as not to actually embarrass anyone on purpose. And mind you, the incident I'm going to describe did not just happen. I've purposely waited a respectable amount of time so the actual situation may not be fresh in anyone's mind.

Herschel Boatwright and the Paddlers (the non-embarrassing name) just signed a major contract in their career. They have worked hard and have been garnering the attention of the Prestige Bluegrass Agency (another non-embarrassing name) for management, booking and publicity since they want to do more than just get all their oars in the water at the same time and to keep going in the same direction. This contract signing is the equivalent of an Evenrudeฎ outboard motor on their career. Naturally, they're all excited. But this is the point where the new management team fell down right from the start.

Herschel and the band are playing a huge festival the weekend following the contract signing and they're still on top of the highest cloud when they take the stage … then right in the middle of the set, H.B. just can't contain himself any longer and tells the crowd of about 2,000 enjoying the afternoon that he has big news to share.

The crowd could tell the whole band was firing on all eight cylinders and now Herschel was going to give them a clue as to why. Ol' Hersch says … “Not only is this big for us but we're gonna let you all in on the secret … you'll be the very first in the world besides us and our families to know. We've just signed a big contract with the Prestige Bluegrass Agency and we just had to tell someone. Now the rest of the world will probably hear the news next week but we wanted you all to celebrate with us this weekend.”

The crowd gives the boys a huge round of applause. They know the reputation of the agency and they know what it's going to mean to the band and their chances for tremendous success. WOW! The crowd is excited too now and the moment is contagious!

Junior Tweeter sitting in the front row thinks this is great and whips out his 'Droid … pops up the F.B. App and posts a photo of the band he just took, along with their big news … now all of his friends know it too.

Well, this isn't national security and we're not talking about leaking the formula for growing hundred dollar bills in your backyard. But … wait … hold the phone! I'm a member of the Herschel Boatwright Super-Duper Fan Club … I've paid my dues and even bought the premium so I could be a “Super-Duper V.I.P.” and get all the perks that go with such a lofty and honored membership. And why didn't I know this great news that everyone is so excited over? … I see it on my Facebook page from someone who is a friend of someone who knows someone who used to play with the Paddlers …

WOW is right! I feel really good now??? NOT! I haven't had a newsletter from Herschel now for three months and the last one just said “... 2012 was a really good year for the band … he was looking forward to 2013 and some big things coming” … then he said, “... we should 'stay tuned' because he'd tell us more in the next newsletter.”

What happened to the next newsletter is anybody's guess … guess the boys got too busy signing contracts to remember the promise they'd made to the fans and those of us in the Super-Duper VIP Club.

Oh well … maybe the next time my dues for the fan club are requested, I'll think it over … there are a few new bands I'm excited about … maybe I'll join one of their fan clubs …

A day goes by, then two, then three and four and a whole week and then finally... there it is … right on the front pages of the Bluegrass News … a big color photo and official press statement from the new agency. Prestige Bluegrass Agency's CEO (she's more VIP. than I am) is proud to announce … and there they are shaking hands around the big CEO Desk with the official contract signing pen being given to Hersch as a souvenir.

Wait … hold the other phone … I'm still a dues-paying, card-carrying member of the HB&P Official VIP Fan Club and they haven't told me a thing yet … Well, I guess that Left-Over Salmon band is looking pretty good right now … next time Hersch and the boys are at my favorite festival I may just show him my new fan club card … the one that doesn't have his name on it but has some other band's name instead.

You just can't treat one group of people special without giving another group the brush off.

Well, Herschel, you committed the sin of pride, but your new management company committed an even less tolerable sin. They just stole some of your money. That's right, you're now paying them a percentage of everything you make and right off the bat, they failed you. You're paying them to guide you...that's what MANAGEMENT does. You're paying them to help you avoid the pitfalls. You're just Ol' Hersch, the good ol' boy with a really great sounding band. You got lucky with a lot of hard work but you're still learning as you go. It's one of the reasons you saw the need to get this big agency on board to help you.

They're supposed to be professionals and they're supposed to know how all this works. They should have schooled you in how to handle this news. You should have been a part of the team making the plans on just HOW and WHEN this news about your contract signing was going to be announced. Instead they got your signature then shoved you in the closet until it was stage time.

Hersh, ol' buddy, you still can make good music but if you stop caring about your fans, they'll stop caring about you too! Then it won't matter how good your music is unless you like to play for yourself.

I hope Hersh … that on your way up to the top, you never forget us little people down here who helped get you there. No one likes to be considered UN-important, least of all us long-time devoted fans.

Now how will Herschel and, more importantly, his new guiding management team make it up to the fans who got left behind? be continued in a future story when and if it happens.
Have a great bluegrass day and if you see any Herschels out there, tell 'em they'd better read this column.

Brian McNeal
Prescription Bluegrass

Posted:  3/23/2013

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