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Music and Tech: Lessons From Techweek Dallas

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Techweek made themselves at home in Dallas for a weeklong stint of educational sessions with tech innovators by day and performances with music innovators by night.

It was an eclectic mix of business and entertainment, and MAX was honored to receive recognition as one of the Top Dallas Innovators in TechWeek 100.

We attended all of the concerts and many of the sessions. Here are a few of my key takeaways for artists, specifically inspired by the performances of Matt and Kim, Rubblebucket, and Wild Child.

1. Crowd Participation Can Save A Show

For their ability to get the crowd into their performance, Matt and Kim take the cake. The duo features Kim on the drums and Matt on the keyboard, but just minutes into their set, Matt’s keyboard stopped working. As Matt went backstage to fix the keyboard, Kim didn’t bat an eyelash.

Instead, she sprang off her stool and hollered at the House DJ to play a “sick beat.” She yelled at the crowd to “shake what their mamas gave them” and picked her three favorite dancers to join her on stage. The dancer who elicited the loudest cheers from the audience was promised a lap dance (yes, really!) from Kim herself. This was hands down the best technical failure recovery I have ever witnessed. It was loud, it was fun, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage.

Even without the booty shaking antics, crowd participation is innately part of Matt & Kim’s stage presence. You can’t help but want to match the insane energy they bring on stage. I found myself jumping, shouting, and grinning like a kid throughout their show.

Kim paused at one point to mention how she wishes there was a better way to connect with fans 24/7. @Kim: this exists! With our new app, artists can run contests and interact with fans with the push of a few buttons. Check out the demo.

2. Artists Who Stay True to Themselves Can and Will Be Rewarded

Authenticity is a quality musicians can’t fake, or fans would see right through them. The best performances are ones that are real and raw – offering you a peek into the artists’ hearts and minds. After all, this is what making music is about. Art is the ultimate expression of vulnerability by sharing your innermost thoughts to the world. Authenticity is something artists have, and brands want.

Kelsey, the lead vocalist for Wild Child, performs without shoes. The band dresses in casual clothes, adding to the homey and comfortable vibe the band gives off, like they could be performing for you and a few friends in your living room. This is Wild Child’s brand. It’s a brand consumers identify with and engage with because it’s real.

Brands should take a page out of Wild Child’s book on realness. In the week's keynote speech, delivered by Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian, the message was simple:

Brands need to get away from how they’ve typically messaged as an advertiser and start talking like an actual human being. This will enable them to drive more authentic experiences with their brand, which consumers crave. For this reason, artists and brands are a perfect match.

When partnering with a brand, artists can share their authentic and engaging content with wider audiences while brands can reach consumers in ways that don’t turn them off.

3. With Distractions Everywhere, It’s Important to Keep Fans Engaged

Performing music isn’t just about playing songs. It’s about putting on a show for the audience. Rubblebucket did this masterfully by using the element of surprise throughout their set, at one point dancing with a large pink tutu on stage. Near the end of their set the trumpet player, Alex, climbed on an audience member’s shoulders and was joined by his bandmates continuing to play and sing as they weaved their way through the crowd.

These surprises not only held the audience’s attention for a long period of time, but also made the audience feel more connected to each other, sharing a special moment no one else was experiencing at that time.

In an age where advances in technology and heightened dependence on social media have led us to be more isolated from each other (Isn’t it ironic?), sharing a special moment in person is remarkably refreshing. Music connects people, regardless of whether they knew each other before. Granted I might be biased – I met my husband at a concert :-).

There’s a real opportunity for artists to foster unique live experiences to drive not only ticket sales, but also to create a base of fans who become ambassadors, spreading the word about you and your music. The Grateful Dead, Phish, the Pixies, Deadmau5... these artists create a distinct live experience in which fans actively participate in the promotion and distribution of their music to larger audiences. Now is a better time than ever to capitalize on the increasing amount of consumers spending money on concerts.

Final Thoughts

Tech Week spurred the intersection of technology and music, demonstrating a strong bond between the two, as both rely on creativity and innovation to survive. Brands need to embrace the free and genuine aspects of art to keep their marketing fresh, while artists should seek new ways to engage and expand their audiences to get their music heard on a larger scale. In the end, the two are better off working together, taking advantage of the mutual benefit they can gain from embracing each other.

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