First there were the Grateful Dead. Then there was Phish. From rock and roll, bluegrass and folk music, to grunge, punk and hard rock – even through to electronica, techno and other sub-genres, there have always been superstars. These few, lucky groups and artists have done for years – decades – what businesses now are just beginning to address as a powerful form of community building. They’ve created and fostered the mythical superfan – and they did it by the hundreds, sometimes by the thousands.
The idea of musicians having a culture isn’t a new one, but in the late nineties, the idea of professional musicians playing pre-produced musicwent from big to huge. Entire sub-cultures popped up in electronic music. Jungle, house, trip hop – dozens of varieties. Each had its own following, but one of the larger groups which has had the most visible bleed into the world stage at large has to be Trance. Melodic, heavily blended music has an effect on a wider majority of people in certain settings than other forms of audible entertainment do. Because of this, and the charisma of the DJ culture, trance music has sustained a wider following longer than many of the other zeitgeist artforms of the early oughties.
How does this apply to successful business? Simple; the forms used in every single set, by just about every successful trance DJ can be transferred to the business patterns of many successful businesses.
First, choose your venue.
Very few DJs choose larger houses or stadiums to play in. They know their business, they know the kinds of environment they want to foster. Smaller clubs, encouraging exclusivity and personal connection are a mainstay of the DJs weapons of presentation.
Next, you play with the crowd.
You won’t see too many DJs failing to move along with the music. They dress like their crowd does, move like the crowd does and, on the rare occasions they speak to the crowd, it’s with a We’re All in This Together tone. The DJ is bringing the crowd along for a ride, and the crowd loves it. The separation from behind the decks to down on the dance floor is physical, but not – as in other performance environments – emotional or even spiritual. there’s a different kind of connection beind made.
Learn the power of the build-up.
If a trance set lasts two hours, you can be certain the first fifteen minutes will be almost a third the volume of the remaining show. One of the hallmarks of trance is a slow progression from melodic to heart-pounding speed. Some tunes range from as few as 60bpm up to 300bpm – a massive change to address. A good DJ knows how to play with the pace of the sound, to make sure everyone pays attention, and no one notices the shift. When the whole dance floor is moving at the same pace, the change from 60bpm to 300bpm will be more emotional than audible.
Find the transition point.
A 12 inch record lasts about twelve minutes. That’s not a lot of time, really, considering the pace at which the music moves. Often, with the exception of the first record played, there are as many as four minutes of overlap between tracks – which means four minutes of two songs playing over each other, four minutes focused on a single tune, and four more minutes to get into the next tune before a record runs out. Any DJ worth her salt will study her music, know every beat, and know exactly where to make the change. The music never stops often the audience is completely unaware of the complex dance being performed and, if you’ve done your job right, every piece matches up perfectly. Two hours begins to feel like forever – until it’s over. Then it feels like it wasn’t nearly enough.
Enjoy the Silence.
When the best shows end, there’s often a moment of stunned, confused silence in the crowd. Hearts are pounding, faces are flushed. The tension between DJ and crowd – and, depending on the venue, within the crowd itself – can be staggering to witness. the crowd wants more, and the DJ is withholding… Until the next show. The DJ knows, as will many of the veteran participants, that this is the best part of the entire night. The transaction is over.
If you make yourself aware enough, just as the dancing stops, you can look out over the crowd and watch the faces. It’s easy to see who’s enjoyed the show, who’s ready to leave, and who can still hear the music.
Do you see who can still hear the music? Those smiling fools, barely keeping still, too excited to look around, eyes glazed in wonder over what just happened. Flushed, still by force of will only, ready to jump back into the swing at a moment’s notice. The ones whose eyes scream Encore une fois! barely contained.
If you’re aware enough to pay attention and properly identify these faces, see these few lucky people for who they are, you’ve just done something businesses everywhere have been scrambling over themselves to do for the last few years.
You’ve just witnessed the birth of a superfan.