Tag: Bruce Hornsby

Individual Practice for Strong Teams

Individual Practice for Strong Teams

I chose my current role at Showpad in large part because I wanted to play a specific role on a strong team. The opportunity to join a team of peers, who are experienced in their own fields but share a common goal is what you might think most Exec teams look like, but many are complicated by formal or informal hierarchies. I was thrilled to find a real “Supergroup”-like opportunity in Showpad and am thrilled to be coming up on my first year of service.

Early in my transition to the job, and really fresh in thinking about what a great team looks like, I had the blind luck to find myself on an airplane seated next to a member of my favorite team (band), Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers. Yes, as I approached my row, I spied the incomparable guitar hero Gibb Droll sitting in the same row indicated on my ticket (YES!). 30 seconds later, I also realized I was wearing the tee shirt from his gig the night before (NO!). Gibb was generous with his music chat and gave me the gift of insight into the work needed for the band to create the ecstatic and totally unique musical experience production that the bring every night.

Noisemakers: Chad Wright, John Mailander, Bruce Hornsby,
John (JT) Thomas, Gibb Droll and JV Collier
The moment Gibb realizes he’s been seated with a superfan
who has a lot of questions

The magic of seeing Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers is that every show is different. You can go (and I have) to 4 shows in a week and see no songs repeated. Fans bring requests on pieces of paper brought back to Bruce before the show that may inspire the night, but what becomes the setlist is always different & co-created between the players and the audience. There were times in the early days where I could actually feel adrenaline & stress by looking at the band members as they tried to read Bruce’s beautiful mind as he skips though his catalog, old Americana classics, jazz & classical music and weaves them all together live. It is both stressful & awesome <strawsome?> and, even as an audience member, I am never more awake or dialed in than when this goes down on stage.

The most surprising insight from speaking to Gibb at some length was the rigor with which he practices on the road. He typically practices 5+ hours a day while touring just to be dialed in enough to be able to improvise that night. Being professional means practicing your instrument individually so you can be sharp enough to improvise with your team when it matters most. Being there for the team means having spent time in the woodshed alone to heighten your skills and bring more to your position on the team – not coasting in for 3 hours of glory and heading back to your room to chill.

And so, as I find myself rounding out my first year as part of team Showpad, I am reflecting on what I can do to sharpen my skills to show up for the team in an even more meaningful way – thinking through not just Customer Success theory and my experiences, but what it means to be at this exciting stage of technological impact to what great Customer Experience in the very near future. It has never been more true that standing still will be tantamount to being left behind. And thus, off to the woodshed I go….

The WOM It Is

The WOM It Is

bruceonpiano3I like to think of myself as Bruce Hornsby Superfan #1, but I know it to not be true (that would be Si Twining of Bruuuce.com).  That being said, you can comfortably place me in the next tier of fandom down the line.  Through the years I have seen Bruce in many different type of configurations – solo, with an orchestra, with the Range, etc, but there is no party like seeing him with the Noisemakers.  This is why I happily schlepped to Red Bank, New Jersey to see the full band at the Count Basie Theater (site of my first live Steve Winwood at the tender age of 20) last week.  What struck me about the show was not just how musically remarkable it was, but how many best practices of word of mouth marketing the Noisemakers experience exemplifies.  Its part of the magic that makes folks like me come back show after show, year after year.  Here they are:

Co-Creation – 5 minutes after the theater doors opened, the stage was covered with cards, letters and notes with heartfelt requests of favorites, standards and covers for Bruce & the band.  He read some of the notes on stage and, while he jokingly responded to someone yelling an arcane request “we’ll play what we like”, he definitely made a point of letting the audience shape the show.  The fact that every show is different drives nerds like me to research setlists and hit multiple tourstops.

Transparency – There is no rockstar or even jazz virtuoso posturing.  Bruce chose to play the highly-requested Harbor Lights solo and explained that it was because the band hadn’t played it fully orchestrated in so long that they would be rusty.  He also apologized in advance for 1 tune that wasn’t good in sound check, but they needed to get used to playing it live (still sounded great).  And for the first time I’ve ever heard, he ended the show saying “I know times are tight and I really appreciate you all coming out”.

Surprises, Mashups, Inside Jokes – Bruce performed a live debut, played the dulcimer (which I had never seen him do), and pulled off a couple of song mashups that were headscratchers even for me.  The encore was technically 1 song – Mandolin Rain – but jammed through pieces of the lesser known Shadow Hand, Halcyon Days and the Dead song Black Muddy River for those hardcore fans hanging on every note.  Another little fun shoutout was a Sopranos nod with “Got Yourself a Gun” during an earlier tune.  Newcomers may not even notice, but there is an element of discovery makes repeat customers feel lke insiders.

Remember Your Roots – 10 – 15 years ago, Bruce regularly also had a live feature where he invited women on stage to dance to Rainbow’s Cadillac.  I even found a video of this happening at his show on millenium eve – memorable because the weight of the women broke the revolving stage (and yes, I was there).  Listen for the chorus of “Women are Smarter” in the song.   I hadn’t seen him do it in a while, and as the picture at the head of this post shows, he brought it back because “they finally got the stank back on it”.  That’s Bruce on top of the piano playing the accordian.   Another example of honoring roots is Bruce always playing The Way It Is, End of The Innocence, and Mandolin Rain.  This is that moment of recall for those who may be less familiar with his work and a chance for him to really push the envelope on how he twists and turns 20+ year old tunes.

Give it Away Now – If you love something set it free.  Bruce’s new record company has just put up a complete livestream of his new album – 5 weeks before release.  Will it stop me from buying the real thing?  Far from it.  It gets me excited now and has me making more concert plans.

All of the above principles give me a real, multidimensional story to tell about Bruce.  Are you feeding your customers’ hunger for conversational capital?

Where’s your brand AT?

Where’s your brand AT?

I am a huge, dorky, proud Bruce Hornsby fan.  You may say “as in THE RANGE?” and I will just sniff and bore you with Bruce’s phenomenal career milestones since the Range went to pasture nearly 20 years ago.  I had plans to go see Bruce a few weeks ago, but the show was canceled due to Hurricane Hanna.  While checking his site yesterday in hopes of identifying another date I can make this year, I found this:

Bruce's tour map locator

I’m sorry – what?  “WHERE ARE THE LOCATIONS BRUCE IS PLAYING AT?”  Did the webmaster need to go this far out of his way to ruin the construction of this sentence?  How about the simple “Where is Bruce playing?” There’s no need to bring locations into this and certainly no need to abuse a perfectly good “at” by forcing it to dangle at the end of the question.

But, does it matter?  Does your brand suffer for using incorrect or inappropriate language to communicate with your core audience?

While I was mildly perturbed about the situation, I decided to reach out to a true grammar authority – Jennifer Goff, formerly “Grammar Police” at Brains on Fire – and ask her if she thinks good grammar matters.  In fitting style, she put it better than I ever could:

How you say something can be as powerful as what you say. Good grammar/spelling/language,

however you want to look at it, it’s the lowest common denominator of communication. And when I come across a person or a company or a brand that hasn’t taken that minimal time to just proofread, it makes me wonder what other details they’ll miss in my relationship.
Bruce, your music sounds just as sweet.  I will still follow you all over tarnation.  But please, remind your communications team that they should be vituosos in their own right and live up to the high standard set by you and the Noisemakers.
***AMENDED*** Please see below for an awesome comment from the Bruce Hornsby webmaster.  What better quality is there for a brand than the willingness to listen to your customers and make changes?  Come to think of it, didn’t Bruce write:
gonna be some changes, changes made
can’t keep on doing what i’ve been doing these days
look in the mirror I see a clown’s face
gotta take it off, gotta get myself straight
Hornsby Shares Clutter-Free Holiday Gift

Hornsby Shares Clutter-Free Holiday Gift

When I say I am a Bruce Hornsby fan, I do not say so lightly. I have been a fan for more than half of my years on this earth and, because of the web bringing niche audiences together, there has never been a better time to be a fanatic. The live shows will make you a convert – there is never a setlist, always improvisation, and songs from the BH catalog get sewn into the Dead, classical, bluegrass, and folk – no 2 shows are the same. Like most jam band followers, Bruce fans are hungry for news of setlists and live recordings. I frequently visit the definitive fan site and, less frequently, check his official site.

Bruce Christmass GreetingThe holiday update of the official site is indeed worthwhile. Instead of just writing a holiday greeting to fans (in fact the photo in the greeting is laughably bad with lots of closed eyes), Bruce & his band gave fans what they really want – a collection of live tracks from the summer 2007 shows that are downloadable FOR FREE for a limited time. Bruce makes a few live shows available for purchase each year at Bruce Hornsby Live, but surprising diehards with free tracks recognizes that we’re in it for the music and will keep us engaged in the long droughts between live experiences. My guess is that this will also get some folks thinking about buying even more.

If you haven’t heard a Bruce track since “The Way It Is”, download Disc 1, Part 2 and check out “Gonna Be Some Changes Made”, or Disc 2, Part 1’s “Fortunate Son -> Comfortably Numb”.