My LAUNCH Schedule aka 12 places at once!

My LAUNCH Schedule

Aka Trying to Be in Twelve Places at Once

I have blogged repeatedly about loving my job.  The one issue that keeps popping up is trying to pick what shows to attend and which bands will have to wait for another day.  Can you imagine the tantrums I’m throwing over LAUNCH with 180+ bands in twelve venues?  I am truly grateful for the high-tech help this year: the downloadable schedule from Sched.com.  Now where is that time machine?!

I will be at Lancaster Convention Center to pick up my packet and weekend badges promptly at 5pm Thursday.  I will then buy discounted tickets for Slimfit and Rusted Root in Freedom Hall and treat myself to dinner and drinks while I wait for the show to start.  Then it’s home to bed to prepare for a long, raucous weekend!

Friday I will be at LCC early to load-in for my vendor booth at the trade show.  I hope to stir some interest for the website and plan to meet many interesting people.  I also fancy myself an amateur tour guide and plan to have city maps and Fig magazines to share with our weekend guests.  I’m giving away a TV, selling Gigspots gear and handing out promo items.  The show is 10:30-4:30 both Friday and Saturday and is FREE and OPEN to the public!  Come say hi!

When the trade show closes on Friday, I’m headed directly to Marion Court Room.  I’m meeting my wife and a gang of friends there for dinner.  My musical tour starts there as well: Mark DeRose at 6pm, The Levee Drivers at 6:30, and Dana Alexandra at 7pm.  When Dana finishes, we are all headed to The Taproom.

Music is not a regular feature at Spring House Taproom so I’m digging it and want to show support.  Maybe they’ll do it more often!  Starting at 8pm, three of my 2011 favorites are performing back-to-back: Amanda Wells, Mike McMonagle and Pete Bush and The Hoi Polloi.  I would love a night where they each get 90 minutes but will gladly settle for seeing them all together.  Promoters: this would make a great line-up for a big show!  Locals: I know you love and support Amanda and Mike.  GO SEE PETE!  You can and will thank me later. Their jazzy/Latin/rock sound is inescapable and luscious!  ROCK!

When Hoi Polloi finishes, we all dash to Chameleon for The Felice Brothers.  They are the coolest, wackiest, least pretentious and most entertaining band I’ve ever seen and you never know what they might do next.  Their songs crack me up and break me down.  If you know them, see you there.  If they are new to you, Friday night at Chameleon could change your life.  You’ll definitely dance and have some laughs, anyway and you might learn something about life.

After trade show Saturday, it’s dinner and drinks with friends and then over to Mosaic’s venue.  My days of “just missing” a show by Joy Ike are over!  Music there starts at 6:15 with Kurt Scobie, an alleged piano-playing wildcat.  JD Eicher and The Goodnights follow him with some pop/rock from Pittsburgh.  Joy has won “Best Solo Artist” four years in a row in Pittsburgh and I’m thrilled to finally be catching up to her.

When Joy finishes at Mosaic, it’s another dash to Chameleon.  Lovebettie is finally playing there; I’ve been begging for them for over a year.  Folks, this is a good-time band.  Come see what Swagger Rock is all about and you will Lovebettie too!  Two other impressive-sounding rock bands follow Lovebettie: The Resort and Hot Jam Factory.  I know I will be there at least through their performances and then, who knows?  To me, the mystery of discovery is almost as intriguing as the music.  I hope to see you there!

Shows to My Left, Right and Dead Ahead

Shows to My Left, Right and Dead Ahead

Everyone knows how pumped I am this week about LAUNCH Music Conference.  But as owner/operator of Gigspots, I can’t just focus on one event no matter how colossal.  Lancaster will be swarming with great bands and fans of live music this weekend (180 bands in 12 venues) but I understand that not everyone is coming.

The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg continues to present amazing shows and this week is no exception.  Tuesday night is Lucero and J. Roddy Walston and The Business.  Wednesday night is a very special and intimate performance by Colin Hay of Men at Work.  Thursday night, Cabinet is back to play and to release the live cd they recorded at Abbey Bar last winter.  Saturday night, they have The Aviation Orange and In Wilderness.  That would be a month’s worth of highlights at some places but it’s just a typical week at Abbey.  The season pass I bought for $100 was the best investment of 2012!

Philly is always happening and this weekend is no exception.  Something new debuts this Saturday: Center City Jazz Festival.  Also debuting this weekend is the XPN Film Festival where movies about music and musicians take center stage.  Those are two good reasons to visit Philly and spend the night as they say.

NEPA has it going on this weekend with a performance by Bob Weir (Grateful Dead) at the Kirby Center.  If it wasn’t for LAUNCH, I’d be headed to River Street Jazz Café in Wilkes-Barre this Thursday night.  Playing that night are Jahman Brahman and Ol’ Cabbage, two incredible jam bands.  On Friday, for $15 I could park at the Jazz and hear a solo set by Mike Miz while I dine.  That same $15 would get me transportation to and from the Kirby Center and admission to two sets of Jam Stampede after the Bob concert.  Jam Stampede is the Dead tribute band featuring Miz and they are spot-on!  Saturday night is The Statesmen:  a new, all-star, funk/jazz collaboration from NYC.  And Sunday is the Rock the Wall benefit.  We love the idea of musicians lending their talents to make the world a better place for those less fortunate.  We love River Street Jazz Café!  Maybe hippies really will save the world…

Speaking of hippies and saving the world:  I think The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, PA might be considered headquarters.  There are no weekends except LAUNCH when I wouldn’t rather be there.  The food, the beers and the music scene are peerless.  Thursday they have St. Anyway, a “stompgrass/roots” band for FREE.  Friday night is Jahman Brahman for $5.  Saturday night is Michi’s alt/rock/pop (also free).  Sunday starting at noon is the Jazz Workshop and Brunch.  Musicians from all over stop by to jam and entertain while you dine.  It’s been that way for over 500 Sundays!

I spend a lot of time travelling to see shows in my job: but not this weekend!  LAUNCH is bringing it all to me, including two of my favorites from my hometown of Pittsburgh.  Pete Bush and The Hoi Polloi appear at Spring House Taproom Friday and Lovebettie rocks the main stage at Chameleon Club Saturday.  I hope to see you all there!  Get yourselves a weekend pass and also see Rusted Root, The Felice Brothers and Texas in July on the cheap!

Here Comes LAUNCH!

I just about spent myself writing my blog for Fig Lancaster this week!  LAUNCH Music Conference is this Thursday through Sunday and I couldn’t be more excited.  Check out their website, check out my website, book a room at Lancaster ArtsHotel and come on down!  Mention Gigspots when you book your room and save 10%.  Come visit me at the trade show and say hello.  You might win a TV!

http://www.figlancaster.com/archives/18001/prepare-to-launch

If you have never seen Fig Magazine, it’s time.  In it you will find hundreds of more reasons to come visit!  See you this weekend!

Happy Birthday Gigspots!

My site was launched April 18, 2011.  I am very proud of how it looks now and how it has grown.  I hope you have enjoyed the show and I thank everyone who has helped me, encouraged me and offered constructive criticism.  It has been a wonderful learning experience and I feel more confident that I can help you find great music experiences.

I’m a pack rat by nature.  I get it from my mom who lived through the Depression and has never thrown away anything.  I also belong to an art group: The Airy Hill School.  I can’t paint or sculpt like those guys but I make a mean collage.  Here’s a view of my office wall.  I can’t describe how much fun it’s been to see all these shows and meet all these people.  I will tag everybody I can but count on me adding more later!

stubs and fliers

Thanks for the shows!

A Telling Tuesday

As I prepare to make the most of LAUNCH Music Conference in ten days, I have a million things to do and some decisions to finalize.  What should I display?  What will be my “pitch?”  Should I have free giveaways?  Should I have merchandise?  How can I make the biggest impact?  How can I help the thousands of people who will be visiting Lancaster to find their way around and enjoy themselves?

In the midst of all this, I have made some very interesting new connections.  I also had a visit from a favorite cousin I rarely get to see.  All of them wanted to know the same thing: what is Gigspots all about and how does it work?  I hoped that in telling them, I could figure it out myself.

Gigspots is all about helping people.  If you have a band, I can promote you on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and my website for free.  I can help you find an audience and help create buzz wherever you are about to play.  I will share all your events/gigs and I will make public any videos I shoot of your performances.  That means you can download them and use them however you wish.  As you approach a gig at a venue I work with, I will be posting videos to show people what they can expect from your show. You can use my Facebook page as your band’s bulletin board.

If you have a venue, count on me to help you draw a crowd.  I grew up in the restaurant business.  My father had two sayings; “It’s about pennies,” and “If you have good help, everything else will take care of itself.”  I want to be your good help.  I know your budget is tight and there never seems to be enough time.  A profile page on my website will have a big return for a tiny investment.  In fact, right now I am building pages for venues for free.  Does that fit your budget?  I can build and maintain a page that has your location (Google mapped), bio, pictures, menu, links to all your social media and your calendar of events.  You can post your daily specials if you like.  It’s all about helping you show off your place in ways that a print ad will never achieve.

If you are a fan of live music, the arts, travel, dining or all of the above, Gigspots is your site.  I hope to be your answer when you ask, “Who’s in town tonight?” or, “I wonder what’s going on with that band?” or “I wonder what venue X is really like?”  I am doing my best to find and offer you discounts on tickets, travel, dining, lodging and anything else that might be part of your experience.  Right now, you can save 10% on a room at The Lancaster Arts Hotel if you mention Gigspots when you book your room.

I do all this and more.  I am discovering new ways to help people and new services to offer almost daily.  Let me tell you, running a business is work.  But this is a labor of love!

What’s Your Day Job?

What’s Your Day Job?

It always catches me off-guard when I’m chatting with a band and they bring up their “day jobs.”  I forget that many of the musicians we enjoy at night have lives, families, jobs and the myriad other obligations that we all face.  Teachers, IT professionals and tradesmen lead the list of occupations for musicians I have interviewed but they come from all corners.  It seems that music allows them to bridge that left brain/right brain gap between productivity and creativity.

People often ask me what my days are like in running Gigspots.  Learning is still my number one priority.  As a teacher, I was discouraged from joining many social media sites.  Think about it; when you see the words “Facebook” and “teacher” together in a headline, you know the story is likely to be ugly.  In one year, I have gone from not having a Facebook account to spending 5-6 hours daily checking up on my various social media accounts.  It’s a pretty steep learning curve!

I joined Facebook to help plan my 30th high school reunion.  As the concept for Gigspots became a reality, I created a page for my business (www.facebook.com/gigspots).  I began by Liking every band, venue and organization that I enjoyed and Sharing their events.  My list has grown substantially and I spend hours helping to promote all the music and art events in our area.  Please continue to post your events on my page and to share your feedback, pictures and links.  I will give them my attention and share them.

I go to a lot of shows and when I get the band’s and venue’s permission, I video them.  I created a YouTube channel to post the videos and have shared almost 250.  I probably have another 100 unposted and I continue to shoot.  Here’s a link to a recent favorite: The Kalob Griffin Band playing a new song, “Cut Me Down,” at MilkBoy Philly:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRe1RJwEQGY&feature=plcp&context=C456d41aVDvjVQa1PpcFPbCIVSLTGcFylB79lXgJQZrwf7gwq1zO8=

I am always searching for new bands to help.  If you know a band or are in a band that would like me to shoot a show, please reach out.

Bands can always create a free profile page on my site.  There they can post links, pictures, bio and upcoming shows for the calendar.  Part of my job is supporting the bands and making sure their gigs are posted.  I have introduced bands to each other for potential sharing of gigs.  I also have had great luck connecting touring bands with venues whose calendar suddenly has a void or finding gigs for bands on their “travel days.”  For instance, a Pittsburgh band may be playing Philly Friday and NYC Saturday.  A gig on Thursday or Sunday could turn the trip from a break-even venture into a chance to find a new audience, connect and broaden their reach.

The worlds of Facebook and YouTube haven’t proven as scary or mind-numbing as many people warned me but learning the ins-and-outs continues to challenge me.  I would welcome your advice!  I am currently working on some recent good advice: organizing my YouTube channel into Playlists and adding more pictures to my Facebook page.  If you don’t think that’s a job, come help!

Time Machine or Jetson Car?

What would you give to be in two or three places at once?  Would you fly one of those rocket cars like they had on The Jetson’s cartoons?  This is another weekend in the Lancaster area where either a time machine or a Jetson car would help me a lot.  There are four great shows to choose from tonight and it’s only Thursday!

Mike McMonagle has been doing some small acoustic shows at Quips once a month and tonight he’s joined by another crew of excellent players.  It’s a fun little joint with excellent food and pint specials every night.  There is no cover charge.

Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company (Harrisburg) has local greats Buzzchopper opening for new-wave folk-punks The Front Bottoms tonight.  I’ve heard their music on WXPN and it’s infectious fun with a real bounce, all the while using mostly acoustic instruments.  Their sound is very unique and I’ll bet they go nuts playing live.  This show is $10 but I bought a season pass so I could get in for free.  What a great investment that pass was!

At The Cove in York, My Rural Radio.com presents one of their featured artists every Thursday.  Their website features over 400 indie artists or every genre of music.  Trust me, when they decide to showcase somebody on Thursday, it’s worth the trip.  Or don’t trust me; go to www.myruralradio.com and see for yourself.  As for The Cove: the beer list is extensive, not expensive and the brisket melts in your mouth.  It is absolutely my favorite new place to eat in York.

At The River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains, PA is The Giants of Leisure.  Tell me that’s not a great name for a band!  They bill themselves as “blues-funk-rock rowdies.”  Who wouldn’t want to see that?  I know The Jazz is 2.5 hours north of Lancaster, but I’m headed that way anyway.  And it would only take five minutes in a Jetson car anyway!

So…no Jetson car and no time machine are the realities holding me back.  I could choose one somehow: proximity, price, posse I’m likely to draw.  But the other reality is that I am choosing NONE of the above.  Why?  Well, music isn’t my only hobby and loud isn’t my only kind of fun.

Trout season opens in the mountains this weekend and the family has a property just outside of Williamsport.  My faithful dog Prudence and I are communing with nature this weekend: and some hard-fishing, beer-drinking, bonfire-burning pals of mine.

Yes, I will also miss great shows here Friday and Saturday nights (including Toy Soldiers at DipCo OUCH!). But I will be a better listener for it after some time in the water and under the stars.

 

Look and Feel Younger! Be Happier!

I went to a lot of shows in my first year running Gigspots.  I hadn’t really thought about it but  damn, there are a lot of fit, stylish, happy people at concerts!  What makes me say this?  One trip to Wal-Mart, K-Mart, the bank or my local grocery is all it takes.  I know about that “People of Wal-Mart” YouTube but nothing compares to seeing that side of life in person.

My dad lost his sight the same year I was born.  In all my life, I never saw my dad judge someone by their appearance.  “They all look the same to me,” is what he would say.  It was a valuable life-lesson and one I try to adhere to.  As a teacher, it was invaluable to me to treat every student the same no matter what they looked like, how they dressed or how they wore their hair.

How is it that people in nightclubs and lounges seem to fall into the happier, healthier segment of the population?  It certainly isn’t their diet.  Have you seen the portions of food our restaurants serve?  Everyone knows alcohol is loaded with empty calories.  Even if beer and wine in moderation offer healthy benefits, moderation makes rare appearances when the bands don’t come on until 10pm.  A buzz might enhance your mood but it’s not going to trim your waistline.

I’m no scientist but my research leads to one conclusion.  Socializing with music boosts your metabolism and your mood.  When it leads to dancing, so much the better.  Throw in some food and wine and you have recreated all the purest, most basic pleasures that mankind knows down to its earliest biological roots.  Food; shelter; companionship; entertainment.  It’s the work of the Muses.  It’s the gathering of the tribes.  You connect in ways that humans have enjoyed for 10,000 years and it makes you happy.

So go get a burger and a beer at your nearest open mic night.  Spend the $5 to get into a club with live music and a dance floor.  Do this three times a month and watch the frown lines fade and the flab melt away.  OK: no guarantees on the last one and no, it doesn’t stop hair loss either.  But you hate going to the gym and what do you spend on that every month?

 

Futures and Investing in Music

I Swear I Don’t Hate Technology!

Are any of you out there saying, “Why does this guy blog about ‘technology leads to crimes’ and ‘records were better than mp3’s’ and ‘we should listen to the radio’ and ‘kids today blah blah blah?’”  I really hope that’s not the voice you’re hearing.  I am an expert at almost nothing and have no intention of telling you how to live your lives.  I am not a cranky old ex-teacher but I do miss the students.  I started Gigspots to serve the young and the young at heart.  Yes, it’s ironic that I use social media to suggest that people get away from their computers and go socialize at musical/cultural events.  I don’t hate technology.  The internet has made the world my classroom and I love being a student more than I ever loved being a teacher.  But you won’t catch me confusing “virtual” experiences with real-life experiences.

There are two trends with computers and hand-held devices that worry me, though.  One is the enormous trend of buying music one song at a time.  The other is ear buds.

I get that if you like a song, you want to own it.  I bought lots of 45’s in my day.  One song is affordable.  But are you investing in the music or just something to have?  My daughter and all my former students have thousands of songs and can make great playlists just like we made mix tapes 30 years ago.  What I don’t see is relationships being built between consumers and artists.

I think part of it is the lack of opportunities for young people to see the artists they like in concert.  Hip-hop and rap music is fun to dance to but how often will they get the chance to see these artists live?  In Lancaster you never see hip-hop concerts except once a year at LAUNCH.   You can draw your own conclusion as to why that’s true but I think it’s a shame.

What artists have sold albums versus singles in the last three years? Adele and Taylor Swift.  Why?  I think it’s because their songs are accessible to a wide audience and that young people identify with them.  They are story-tellers.  Most hip-hop and rap artists do their best work when they’re talking about themselves.  You might like the beat but you can’t identify with the message.  Who is going to sell a ton of albums this year?  Bruce Springsteen will.  Everyone can identify with being frustrated about our government and our economy and Bruce can really tell a story.  Plus, his concert tickets are affordable and fairly distributed.

What’s my beef with ear buds?  I certainly worry about hearing loss but I can’t make a case for it after all the concerts I’ve attended.  I do wear ear plugs now.  No, my issue with ear buds is that they isolate the user from their surroundings.  Is this the only way people can get some privacy these days?  I’m glad that everyone carrying and listening to music today isn’t carrying a giant beat-box like we used to.  Can you imagine the noise from that?

Go to a concert.  Meet the musicians you admire and buy a cd from them at the show.  It wasn’t that long ago that Adele was playing free concerts at World Café Live and Taylor was giving away cd’s on the streets of Nashville or playing as an opening act at country music shows.  How invested would you be if you were there then?  Who knows where the next star will be born?

You May Be a Winner!

You May Be a Winner!

I get to do more than go to shows at LAUNCH this year.  After one year of building Gigspots, I can afford the time and money to have a vendor booth.  I’m looking forward to thousands of musicians and music-industry types milling around me, looking for something cool to check out.  I want it to be Gigspots.

I know I need something to draw attention and it won’t be my looks.  My friends who attend these kinds of things regularly say I need a killer giveaway.  “People always flock to the booths giving away cool stuff” they say.  I saw some great examples of this at the Tri State Indie Awards in February: drink cozies, key chains, stickers, music download cards, etc.  They were all cool and free to me, my favorite price.  One of my favorites was a pair of retractable audio ear buds.  Here’s what they might look like with my logo on them.  But if I need 1,000, that’s $4,000 I would just give away.  If I could afford that, I would. That’s 10x my budget!

Then I thought, I could buy 100 and give away a pair every 15 minutes.  That would make 100 people happy and get my logo on the streets.  But how would I choose who gets a pair?

My brilliant wife came up with this idea; raffle one big-ticket item.  She attended a big business conference where one company was raffling off a portable printer the size of a paper towel tube.  All you had to do was drop your business card in the hopper.  Lots of people were standing there checking it out and the business rep had their attention to talk about his business.  What was her idea for a prize? A flat-screen TV!

My wife is brilliant and the idea works on a lot of levels.  I could put a big “Win Me!” sign on the TV and use it to display my website.  As people come over to see the screen, I could be collecting their band/brand/venue info and talking up my site.  A TV is a great prize and it would draw a lot of attention.  There are downsides to this plan, though.  Only one person wins.  My logo is not displayed.  I have to drag the TV in/out of the vendor area and I have to hope the winner is present or I have to ship it to them.

A compromise could be to raffle off the ear buds: say, one pair every 15 minutes.  Would it be enough for people to give up their contact info and stick around?

I sure could use some advice!  If you are reading this, want me to have a good conference and want to be a winner, share your thoughts on my vendor dilemma.  Maybe you have ideas that would work better than what we have so far.