And they said that no act ever broke on the Internet.
The old paradigm was to have a radio hit and then sell tickets. But this doesn't work so well anymore, look at all the Top Forty wonders who can fill the House of Blues, or can sell a few thousand tickets for a year and then…nothing. Who wants to see Vanilla Ice?
The hits might have the glamour, but the money is in perennials, the Radio City Music Hall Christmas show, Cirque du Soleil…they never date and once is not enough. Sure, there are stars with enough hits to tour forever, but there aren't many. But the most successful acts touring with a bunch of well known tracks realize it's less about hearing the hits than the vibe. The emphasis is on being there, experiencing something that can only happen live. This is where rote re-creations of radio hits falters. Truly live is a one time event, never to be repeated. You don't feel like you got someone else's show, but only your own. In other words, you had to be there.
You had to be at Straight No Chaser's show at the Wiltern last night. The audience was neither hipsters nor those following the flavor of the moment. It wasn't an industry crowd but regular people, who wanted value for money, who were not eager to be ripped off but were willing to spend for an evening of entertainment.
Straight No Chaser was very good. Their show was well-written, it evidenced heart and was comprised of some of the greatest music of all time. The music is the glue, the penumbra is the attraction.
When they sang "Tainted Love", you were brought back to the eighties, when new wave obliterated AOR and radio was never the same.
And even a hard core rocker would tap his feet to "Stayin' Alive". Come on, remember John Travolta walking down the street eating two pieces of pizza, one on top of the other?
Yes, Straight No Chaser is a celebration of music. "American Idol" is a contest. And they're very different. A Straight No Chaser concert is not about drama, rather it's life-affirming!
And the people loved it. They provided a standing O. Spontaneously. Because they dug it that much. They got every one of their less than fifty dollars worth and I'd be stunned if they didn't come back, to hear new music and new stories in the future.
The YouTube Christmas clip went viral. That led to Craig Kallman signing the band and the Agency Group repping them for live appearances.
They've got no radio hits, but enough TV appearances to infect people, PBS has paid off especially well. And despite the Atlantic deal, it's not about records, it's about the show. It's about going to the gig and experiencing the power and joy of music.
There's no trickery, no fakery, no auto-tune, no image. Just well-rehearsed numbers sung by people with good voices. Ain't that a concept!
Everybody thinks it's about hits. Call up the usual suspects, run the results up the flagpole. That's a game you can play, but it's very expensive.
If you want to make it today you've got to think. You've got to be willing to reinvent the wheel. And the best place to start is the road. A live gig can't be stolen on the Internet and in this era where everybody's constantly in front of a screen, it's refreshing and exciting to go to a show. Assuming you can get a ticket and it's priced reasonably.
Straight No Chaser can work for thirty years. It's the Mannheim Steamroller/Trans-Siberian Orchestra formula, but it's not beholden to Christmas. Hell, Straight No Chaser played all summer in Atlantic City.
And is now on tour doing boffo at the b.o.
It may not be sexy. It may not be in "Entertainment Weekly". It may not be fresh.
But it's good. And it makes money. And you can't argue with that.