Someone sent me an article that asked successful CEOs what they would rather do if they weren’t in their current positions. Doctor? Lawyer? Indian Chief? No, everyone wants to be a rock star. Guitar Center has built an enormous business selling guitars and amps to musicians and wannabes who were raised on 60’s & 70’s rock and roll and want to live the dream for themselves. Some of these folks find satisfaction in learning to play their new instruments and some give up after a lesson or two. But I’ll bet odds are that the overwhelming majority of them never reach rock star status.
For years and years my musician friends and I have been playing in garage bands and getting gigs at bars and festivals. But regardless of how much fun we’ve had, none of us have become rock stars either.
About six years ago, Phil, Andy, and I, all members of different bands, were at a local Irish pub when Andy suggested we start a new band together. After all, he reasoned, we all play instruments and we all write music. Why not start a new band to play our original songs?
“Who else will we get to play in the band?” I asked.
“The usual suspects,” Phil answered.
For the next three years, The Usual Suspects played gigs around South Florida and developed a small but dedicated following. We built a set list of about 50 original songs and worked out the harmonies and arrangements. The band was truly a labor of love and we loved playing together.
The next natural step in our growth was to record a CD, so we spent the next two years recording, mixing, and producing 16 of our original compositions. Thanks to digital technology and the talent of my bandmates we did almost everything ourselves and finally created a very professional product that we’re real proud of.
Along the way we had to change the name of our group. Needless to say, the trademark wasn’t available for “The Usual Suspects” and being in a band with three attorneys and a paralegal (and a distribution manager, by the way) meant we had to have all our legal ducks in a row. After hundreds of name suggestions, someone came up with “The Southbound Suspects,” and thanks to my decades-long love of The Allman Brothers, that worked just fine for me.
Next it was time to name our CD. We also went through scores of titles and couldn’t come up with a solution everyone could agree upon. It got so frustrating that I finally suggested we make the album eponymous. “Eponymous?” one of our members asked. “Eponymous is a stupid name. Why don’t we just use the band name instead?”
I couldn’t argue with that logic. “The Southbound Suspects” it was.
Besides our songs, our CD offers something unique that I think is perfect for today’s fans. We’ve recorded an album of music created by baby boomers for baby boomers. Our songs tell the stories of our lives, from memories of cross-country trips we made in our twenties to staying in love after the kids are gone to the dream of buying a mid-life crises Harley Davidson.
While the music industry hasn’t yet woken up to the burgeoning baby boomer demographic (80 million Americans who control 70% of wealth in the U.S.), today’s distribution technology makes it very easy for us to put our songs directly into our consumers’ hands. And even though our website isn’t quite finished, you can already click on the following links and sample and buy our album on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.
Truth be told, none of us believe we’re really going to become rock stars (okay, I think one guy actually does). I’m not even sure that everyone in the band would be willing to give up their day jobs to go on tour to support the album if we got the shot. But there’s an enormous opportunity to sell our songs to other performers and generate income, notoriety, and the chance to present the other songs that aren’t on our CD.
Will any of this happen? Who knows. The point is not whether the dream will become a reality but how ubiquitous technology has completely democratized the opportunity for self-expression. From consumer-generated videos on YouTube to home-recorded CDs to this blog, the barriers to entry have been eliminated. There’s now no excuse not to tell your story or sing your song.
Old world institutions such as publishing houses, movie studios, and music labels that used to control the distribution of art and ideas have seen their competitive positions erode with the onslaught of technology. The creative world has only begun to wake up and take its rightful place creating content. After all, everyone wants to be a rock star.