Founder and CEO of el-live Productions
Greetings from Bangkok. I’m here at Spasso, an iconic restaurant/bar at the very iconic Grand Hyatt Erawan. It’s beautifully located as it is connected to the Erawan Shrine which houses the statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. A little tidbit of history for you!
Now if I’m not mistaking, Spasso has been in full swing for the past 29 years. How many bars do you know that have lasted this long? It’s actually older than many of our musicians. Picture this: behind me is “the wall of fame”… these are photos of every band that’s ever played here since the inception of Spasso, including a couple of me with a few of my bands. I’ve performed here 10 times in 9 years, each time from 4-6 months depending on our other band’s rotations. Thailand, Grand Hyatt Erawan, and Spasso are truly like home for me – even my son was born here. Another tidbit of history.
So I’m gonna take you on a bit of a tour so try to picture it in your mind’s eye. Now Spasso may seem a bit small, and even humble by day but man you should see it at night once the dinner service slows down, they dim the lights, turn up the background music a bit, and the stage starts to come alive as the lights shine on the beautiful velvet backdrop. The evening crowd starts to arrive – ladies and gentlemen dressed to the nines. This place gets packed wall-to-wall with people who are waiting for live music with great anticipation. They’re dying to dance, to people-watch, and to be seen. It truly pops with electric energy. We’ve experienced many extraordinary evenings here.
Today I got together with my buddy Jarius (Huffaker) who’s the Band Leader of Pulse, presently performing at Spasso for the next few months. He joined us four years ago, he’s worked very hard, shown leadership qualities, and today, he’s running one of our most successful bands. I saw the show last night, and they were fantastic. I was really happy to see them in action. Today, as we always do following a performance from the previous night, so he and I went out for a great Lebanese lunch. We caught up on life, had some laughs and then, it was time to talk about the band as a unit, and about our theme of the day which I’m about to share with you: “It’s About The Audience”.
When we get together after our lunch, we talk about the band and everything to do with the show. I share my observations from the previous night, and then, they share with me their joys, challenges, frustrations, pretty much everything and anything that’s on their minds as individuals and as a band. From there, I give them pointers. We work on fine-tuning every aspect of our collective concerns to make everything better for ourselves but most especially, for the audience. The happy audience, happy owners, employed musicians.
Obviously, from my perspective, and doubtless many musicians agree, once you hit the stage, only one thing should matter and that’s how to keep your various audiences entertained. I cannot stress it more. When you think about it, It’s actually our reason for being. They are the reason why we fly our bands all over the world.
Think about it. We’ve all seen musicians on stage that are completely oblivious to their audience’s reactions or lack thereof. In all of my years of experience, and sometimes we learned the hard way, you do not want to lose the pulse of the room that you’re playing in. That’s entertainment suicide. Cause once you lose your audience, it’s really hard to get the club-hopping again.
Some musicians say: “Well my job is to worry about the music”. Of course, the music is key but you’re really supposed to worry about the music when you prepare your material, and when you bring it all together during band rehearsals. That’s when you iron out the kinks so that when you perform, it should be smooth sailing, exciting, and easiest for you to focus on your fans. Perfect practice makes perfect. It’s like Apple worrying about the iPhone after it’s hit the shelves. They do their worrying from the inception of the design all the way to the final product from the factory, once it’s launched, that’s it, and it’s too late to worry.
Now, if you don’t care much about an audience, you can play for yourself in your basement, for friends and family, cause even if you suck, they’re gonna love you anyway. But in our business of entertainment, when you hit the stage, it’s about the audience. So if you want to make music your business, the first thing on the agenda? Make the audience happy.
True story: I remember seeing Herbie Hancock and Jack DeJohnette about 25 years ago in Montreal, Canada. At one point in the show, Herbie grabbed his Keytar and he slid on his knees from his piano all the way to center stage as he kept on playing – the crowd went absolutely crazy. In that one instant, he created what we call, a show stopper. He had great fun doing that, and by doing so, he lit up the room. Maybe Herbie knew something that no one else noticed. Herbie thought that it was time to add some fuel to the fire. Very smart move from a great Veteran. We are after all in the party, feel-good, “make somebody happy” business.
On many occasions, bars lose customers, money, and eventually close shop. Why is that? Well, no one seems to be enticing clients to come back. As entertainers, it is most definitely our job to make them stay and to make them want to return time after time. This is also how you become, in great part, the reason for your club’s popularity and I promise you that in the end, you will reap what you sow. Sometimes we wonder why some club owners turn to DJs for the job. That’s because DJs have managed to find a way for people to have fun song after song – don’t get me wrong, they can be boring too, a few wrong mixes and they stand to lose the dancefloor as well. But I’m certainly not here to dis them because we too have DJs on our roster but as a live performer, I wouldn’t want to give up my stage to anyone.
In closing, I ask you to think about this: the process to success starts with perfect preparation, perfect band practice which we call “dress rehearsal”, that’s when you put all of the ingredients together for an exquisite recipe that you will confidently serve your audience night after night. You keep them coming, the club makes money, they pay the band, the beat goes on and that’s how it works.
Hey, It’s free economy at its best. So next time you pick up your bass, drumsticks, guitar, mic, or whatever, think about what magic you can deliver to your audience because if you don’t, your career stands to have a short life span. That’s my observation anyway. Well, as always, my intent is to render these tips helpful to you. Now if you have any feedback, let me know and hey, go out there and make somebody happy. Signing off from Bangkok.