The Fray

Fred Goldring gave his teenage daughters a stack of CDs.  You know how it goes, you build an endless pile that you’re NEVER going to listen to.

And then they came knocking on his door, telling him they LOVED one of them, they were ENRAPTURED with the Fray!

They begged him to get them tickets for the Troubadour show.  At CES he ran into the band and told them his story.  They signed posters, dedicated to Fred’s daughters.  And taped a personal message for them.

A month later, the day of the show arrived.  Fred took his daughters and a posse of their friends, you know how it is with a good act, you tell all your buddies.

Upon taking the stage they did a shout out to Fred, even though he had absolutely nothing to do with them.  And then the band asked for his two daughters, BY NAME!  They screamed in the crowd, they made their way up to the front of the stage.

Oh, the show was a life highlight.

But then, not a month later, Fred’s girls informed him that they’re over the band, they’re done with the Fray.  Why?  BECAUSE NOW EVERYBODY KNOWS ABOUT THEM!

I really should stop here.  If you don’t get the point at this point, you’re hopeless.  In their scorched earth marketing efforts, trying to reach every last customer, the CASUAL FAN, major labels burn out the heart and soul of an act, its hard core fans.  It used to be different.  It took three or four ALBUMS to reach ubiquity.  And when this happened, the original fans could wax rhapsodic about not only the earlier albums, but the shows they attended, that the newbies would NEVER EVER be able to experience.  So, feeling superior, the old fans didn’t abandon the act, at least not the majority.  They were thrilled that now everybody realized how fucking GREAT THEY WERE!

The Fray is just peaking now.  And the kids who started them are done.  Is this a recipe for ongoing success?  Do you wonder why nobody wants the follow-up albums of these new acts with just a single hit behind them?  There may be sales figures, but there’s no core, no fan base.

And it translates to the live business too.  Nobody wants to see them after the first tour.  And, when their next record stiffs and they can’t even sell out clubs, they lose their label and their manager.  The agent usually hangs on, hell, why fire them, he’s not working anyway!

You say this is the new paradigm.  You couldn’t be more wrong. The new paradigm is UNDERPLAYING!  Not taking every marketing opportunity.  Not doing endless TV, not getting endless press.  In today’s tiny world you reach everybody again and again, beating them over the head until they cry uncle.  You’ve got to build slowly.  But nobody wants to do this, they want all their money NOW!

Imagine if you approached a girl in a bar and your first line was "Let’s get married tomorrow!"  And then went on to say how many kids you were going to have, how much money you were gonna make, where you were going to go on vacation, where you were going to retire.  The girl would take a hike.  Life is about the unknown, the adventure.  You want to start slowly, go on a ride.  Same deal with music.  DEVELOP the story.  Keep people interested.

Fred’s original e-mail:

Date: January 11, 2006 8:50:17 AM PST

I have two teenage daughters who are very naturally talented musicians. But of course, I am always nagging them to practice (which always seems to backfire). A couple of months ago, I brought home a stack of cds I had gotten from an A & R friend at Sony. About a week later, my daughters told me that one of the cds by a group called The Fray (which incidentally we don’t represent) was "amazing".

And they got me to listen to it and they got me hooked on the music. They have been listening to it non-stop. Then something miraculous happened. My 15 year old daughter started picking up her bass (which much to my frustration has been in her room for the last year virtually untouched between lessons) and she began trying to learn the Fray songs by playing along with them and picking them out by ear. Then she asked me to get her a practice amp so she could better hear what she was doing. Now I hear the constant low thump of the bass coming from her room.  Then my younger daughter who has been taking drum lessons (but also not practicing) started to learn the drum parts. And that has led to them learning a bunch of songs by other artists.  And they started to tell their friends about the group. And they are telling their friends.

Last week, they ran into my room screaming that they heard that the Fray was going to be coming to LA and I just had to take them. So I wound up buying 10 tickets to take them and their friends to the show in February. Then at CES last week, I literally stumbled on to the band playing at the Sony booth and was introduced to them. I told them this story. The lead singer and bass player were gracious enough to tape a short message to my girls on my little digital camera encouraging them to keep practicing.

My daughters nearly passed out when I played it for them when I got home Friday night (I also taped some of their set for them to see). And they are playing that album start to finish non-stop every day even more than before. The same thing is happening for them with James Blunt. And it seems like every day they are finding new artists and music that they now want to share with me (and I’m proud to report they have pretty amazing ears). 

But the important thing is no one is telling them they have to like it, are jamming it down their throats and telling them it’s the next big disposable thing. They are discovering quality music all on their own and running with it, with passion and excitement. Just like we did.

But these are their artists – not ours – and they want to know everything about them and share it with their friends, they want to feel ownership in them. It’s deja vu all over again, a generation later. Just like at an even younger age when my older cousin turned me on to the Beatles, James Taylor and Hendrix in the late sixties and I took up the guitar so I could learn to play those songs like those artists, my heroes, did. 

And you know what? These artists my kids are discovering are really talented and worth listening to. And I’m now learning about new music from them. So there really is hope that good music and good artists will find their fans and that this will matter and. be important and relevant and meaningful to today’s kids just like it was for us. Not just background noise. And all the stuff you and a lot of us have been describing about how things used to be when we lived and breathed our favorite artists and their music, well maybe, just maybe, we won’t have to try to explain it anymore. Because they’ll understand it all for themselves.

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.