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The Hipster Problem

(I write this post with the utmost of love. I am, and probably always will be, a hipster. I'm just built that way.)

I'm guilty of it.

I liked Kings of Leon before they got famous.

Aha Shake Heartbreak and Youth and Young Manhood blew my mind. I found em by accident too. I stole what I thought was a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club CD from my sister (these albums didn't have any text on the disc). And I spun those two albums for two months straight, memorizing every world. I even went out of my way to evangelize them. I use my car like a preacher uses a pulpit; anyone unlucky enough to get a ride from me would be subjected to me espousing the benefits of these super-awesome, under-appreciated Tennessee brothers.

Some years passed.

I heard Kings of Leon as muzak at my grocery store right as I was picking up my deodorant (extra-strength).

I felt a pit in my stomach. I couldn't like them anymore.

I'm a part of it. This is what's known as The Hipster Problem: the same people who will initially lift you up will hate you when you get "too big" (a arbitrary classification).

Right. Wrong. Doesn't matter. It happens. It's the way they're (I'm) built.

So what do we do? Cater to them? Give up on going big? Ignore em? Hire a hitman to personally punch everyone who dislikes the direction your art is moving?

Since the last option is too expensive, lets look to business and psychology for the answer.

New music is essentially the same as the creation of a new technology. Using the tools of the past, a brand new form is created. Whether it gets adopted or not depends on millions of factors: quality of product, marketing, market environment, salesforce, reliability, bad weather shutting down supply lines, etc... Same for music. The best band in the world doesn't necessarily win, if their live show is lame they might not get a chance that they so deserve.

Check this.

Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle model from wikipedia's Technology Lifecycle article.

Where do y'all think Hipsters are?

Boom. Innovators.

In the tech world they're the people who wait 8 hours in the show to buy the newest phone for $600 even when they know it'll be $400 within 3 months. In the music world, the hipsters brag about seeing/hearing this totally unknown three piece polka-core band out of a suburb of Nowhere, Texas. What's important is the newness, not necessarily the product.

The story you tell yourself about your life is a huge influence on how you act on and react to the world. We consciously and unconsciously write and rewrite our histories to suit the main character of our autobiography.

So if we want to connect with someone, all we need to figure out is the story they tell themselves.

Let's think. Imagine you're an actor given the role of playing someone who considers themselves an innovator. What kind of story would an innovator/hipster tell themself?

-"I'm a taste maker."
-"I can see quality long before anyone else."
-"I'm more sophisticated than the later-adopters."
-"These skinny jeans look rad."

Sound reasonable?

When a new find (tech, band, fashion) is discovered, the most important step is showing off the find to those around them. The subtext of this is something along the line s of "Once again I, the tastemaker, have found what is fantastic and next. Now tell me you're impressed." (I do this one all the time. I wasn't kidding about using driving my car all the time to force people to listen to music I think is fantastic and next). This is how they (I) reinforce the story.

Groovy! People who live to evangelize our music! But should we focus everything we do on the Hipsters?

Hell no.

Remember, the stories revolve around the "searching" and the "identifying oneself as a tastemaker through identification of new bands". Once you become ubiquitous, that emotional connection might fizzle.


Some fans are more connected to the idea of your band then your band.

Soooo where does this leave us?

Hipsters are useful early on. Listen to them then. As you get bigger, they get less important as more commited fans begin to spread the word of your band not the idea of your band.

You're not selling out if your band gets bigger. It means your not appealing to the 100% Hipsters.

That can be a good thing.


That's why we listen to music. That's why we do anything.

We want to feel emotions.

Dig past the lyrics, riffs, stories and muck behind the music you listen. What emotions connect with you?

Here's what I've found true for myself:
  -Metal: indignation, motivating anger, workouts
  -Singer/Songwriter: detached musing on the quirkiness of the world
  -Rap: heartache, workouts
  -Country: desire to simplify life, comfortable solitude
  -Jazz: relax while feeling smart and refined
  -Post Rock: reminiscing about the past, deep thought

The only thing good art needs is to stir up emotion, positive or negative. Do not be afraid to make daring choices that push people!

If you do not risk doing something that some people will hate, you will never do anything that people love.

Your art must touch people. If it doesn't, you are a crappy artist.


Write for One Person

That's it.

Imagine a person, your mythical "Perfect Fan". Who are they? Where are they? How do they view life? What are the struggling with? What are they looking for?

Now write for them.

Be specific. Don't just write a song about a girl that broke your heart. Believe it or not, there's quite a few songs like this! Write a song about a girl that dumped you a week before graduating college because you would refuse to go to frat parties because you'd rather stay at home and bake bread. Sure, that story won't connect with everyone, but the few people who get it will feel like you wrote the song just for them.

The surest way to connect with nobody is to try to connect with everybody. Leave the "everybody" for major label pop royalty. It's better to connect with one fan on a personal, spiritual level then get 10 listeners who are ambivalent about you. Which of these groups is gonna support your music?


How To Design a Flyer

BLAOW! Back from break, ready to drop some knowledge.

Good flyers make me wanna hug whoever designed it and bake them fresh chocolate chip cookies. Bad flyers piss me off. You want some chocolate chip cookies?


Eye Catching- Everyone's got a built in noise filter. Without it, we'd go insane trying to pay attention to everything at once (Jonas Brothers). So it's mostly a good thing.

But you're fighting it too. Be different. Be vibrant. Be worth my attention.

If all the punk-rock bands have 8x10 color collage style posters, do a 4x6 black-and-white postcard with vectorized film noir style & swarm a wall with em. Get past the noise filter.

Readable- I'm looking at you black metal. Yes, it's brutal. Yes, it's the most ultra-violent goretastic evisceration scene on a poster ever (eye catching? yes), but if you can't read the relevant info 15+ feet away, no one will bother finding out about you. Your flyer will be put in the mental file as "cool artwork" not "hey I gotta see this show". You wanna make your show easy to attend.

Where Are You Promoting?- Where will your flyer be going? Handouts? Car windshields? Bathrooms? Brick walls? Lockers? Consider this when choosing your shape, design, and colors.

-Posting on gray walls in downtown? Don't make a gray flyer!

-On cars? Think about the weather. If rain is coming, don't use paper flyers! (Guilty). Hot weather? Don't use laminate cards, they fuse to the windshield! People will associate scraping it off their windshield and being pissed off with your band. Not good.

-Taped to walls? Make sure you have enough space on the borders so the tape won't cover up the info! (Guilty)

-On school lockers? Great idea, but you might have a run in with the administration after one campaign. Save this method for an importnat gig, coat every  locker in the school with a poster, then when "the man" comes down on you say, "My bad, I'll never do it again."

Then market the fact that your music was banned from school. Hell yes.

Know the market- There's more to "where" than just place. Think demographics & people.

We, a heavy metal band, played a battle of the bands at a rich, private, Methodist college. Not many metal heads, possibly hostile crowd and judges.


Get it?

Placement Creativity-  Use a little thought when playing flyers (remember the noise filter?). Go as unconventional as you feel you can comfortably get away with. If there's a wall with a face painted on it, stick flyers on it in the shape of a happy face! (Did it)

Other places I've stuck em:
  Lunchroom freezer / fridge
  Inside paper towel dispensers
  Magazines at a book store
  Bathroom in the shape of a pentagram (Metal!)

INFO-  Yes, I do need to emphasize this. If your flyer doesn't have all the relevent info, it's useless. It must be easy to go to your show and easy to become a fan.

You need:
  At least one website to hear music
  How to get tickets
  Other (Drink specials? 1/2 off if you dress in a toga? Groupies in free?)

Always remember:
The purpose of a flyer is to bring someone to your show.