Last night I read an article about Five Guys Burgers.
In case they haven’t come to you yet, Five Guys is a chain similar to California’s fabled In-N-Out, featuring fresh ingredients and few options. They don’t implore you to have it your way, they do it their way. However, Five Guys does allow you to choose from a modicum of toppings, a veritable no-no at In-N-Out, whose options are off the menu and only known to aficionados who demonstrate their membership in the club by ordering "animal style" or "four by four" burgers. You can’t even get milk at Five Guys. Why? Because kids hate milk and the proprietor wants kids to see a visit to Five Guys as a treat, with absolutely no concession to mommies and health, just pure, unadulterated indulgence.
Want one yet? Even the writer gave up his vegetarian status to indulge. He couldn’t resist the hand-formed beef patty on the artisan bun.
They serve a plethora of fries, even list where the spuds come from on a chalkboard.
And it took twenty five years for the family to get it right and the chain is burgeoning, even Coran Capshaw is in on the deal, possessing franchising rights in many states, hell, even Irving Azoff owns one in the West Valley.
Not that most people know that. Not that that’s relevant.
Then again, hasn’t Coran’s empire been built on the most authentic act of its era, the Dave Matthews Band?
Yes, the key to Five Guys Burgers’ success is authenticity. They quote this guy Jim Gilmore, co-author of "Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want". He goes on and on about the "texture" of their operations, but all you need to know is:
"The Murrells also shun national advertising campaigns, which they find fake, and instead rely on word of mouth. When President Obama moved to the White House, a Five Guys staffer suggested sending him a T-shirt. ‘That’s cheap!’ Murrell shot back. Playing coy worked, and soon Obama, trailed by TV cameras, stopped by a store. He ordered a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, fresh jalapenos, and mustard – a classic example of Five Guys’ formula that sells 2 million burgers a week and was named Zagat’s ‘best fast food burger’ for 2010."
And that’s why Five Guys is a runaway success and most musical acts have the shelf life of a doughnut. You perfect the product, you let people come to you, you play for the long haul. Publicity is passe. If you’re great, the public will find you. Everything you knew in the nineties is history. People can smell the hype, they’re craving authenticity.
Authenticity means you know how to play.
Authenticity means you don’t dance on stage, unless you’re spontaneously inspired, choreography is taboo.
Authenticity means you write your own songs.
Authenticity means you don’t go on morning television shows.
Authenticity means you know fans are first.
Authenticity means you know without your fans, you’re nothing.
You write and sing from the heart because you have to, not because you got an MBA and want to get rich.
Yes, the public is craving something real. And we’ve got a whole industry built on not providing it. The music infrastructure is teetering because it’s built upon a foundation of crap. The only acts people want to see with consistency tend to be over fifty, who did it right back then and can tour until they drop, which they’re gonna.
Sure, there are exceptions. But don’t you get it? When you co-write and polish to perfection, when you get a clothing line and consider yourself a brand, when you hype perfume and refuse to be honest, never saying a negative word, you’re working against yourself.
The public craves authenticity. According to the Oxford Dictionary, that’s an adjective meaning:
1 of undisputed origin; genuine
- based on facts; accurate or reliable : an authentic depiction of the situation.
- (in existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life.
Let authenticity be your credo. Know that like Five Guys nothing great’s an overnight success. Get the formula right before you try to grow. And don’t change who you are once you’ve broken through, be humble and original, retain your rough edges, every concession to the mainstream works against you.