Why Would You Pay Money To Meet a Human Being?

(One bands take on longevity in the music business and trying to treat fans better)

Photo by Cole Kiburz

As we prepare to take off on our “Modern Nostalgia” tour later this month we have been reflecting on the last 11 years of our band, and thinking how things feel more exciting than ever. A lot of that feeling comes from the creative freedom to do whatever we want, knowing it will be supported by those who listen to our music. Our fans carry us from one album to the next. It’s surprisingly simple. We have built a relationship with our fans that has not only helped sustain our career but has been crucial in getting to the next level. It all stems from the idea that if you are a fan of something, you shouldn’t have to go broke supporting it.

Let’s take it way back to 2007. Our band left Phoenix to play some self-booked shows on the east coast. It was our first time away from home playing music, and some shows didn’t even happen due to shady promotion or just lack of tickets sold. We didn’t care. For us what was important was being out on the road and trying to get in front of as many people as possible, show or no show, we just wanted to play music and meet anyone who was interested in our band. I learned a lot on that tour.

I learned how to survive on gas station food, I learned how not to unhitch your trailer if you’re parked on a hill.

2007 — Our first tour!

I learned how to thank somebody for paying attention to our music. I guess my point is, we set out to meet people and we met people. Some shows I met 4 people. Other shows I met 40 people. It was the first time in my life someone ever approached me and asked me to sign my name on a piece of paper. Whether or not we knew it at the time, this was a very important step for our band. Up until this point, the only interaction we had with our fans was on the internet. We would spend hours every day responding to comments and interacting with fans, but in the end that could only take us so far. The tangible, in-person connections we made on some of those early tours made a difference. I can say that because even today I meet people every night who tell me in great detail what I said to them the last time I was in town. I might not remember every detail, but they do. I know that what we say is important to them. At this point in the story, you could hit fast forward all the way to today and I know for certain at any point in that 10 years you could hit pause and see us standing outside after a show shaking hands and taking pictures.

But let’s just fast forward to the first major support tour for our band. This tour really opened our eyes. The shows were massive, we were selling a good amount of shirts, and having the best time. As things went on we started to notice something. These well-known bands were charging money for a meet & greet. A lot of money (on top of buying a t-shirt, another 20 bucks or so) just to get a quick 5 seconds with the band and then off you go. This is where things can get a little divisive. There are two ways to approach this. I’m going to break it down.

First, okay, I get it. The music industry is in decline, everything is on fire, oh my god nobody is buying records anymore, what do we DO? The common answer these days would be to impose a tax on the fans. Let the fans pay more money for tickets, merchandise, and let’s charge some money if they want a photo with the band. You are adding yourself (a human being) into your list of available products. Think about that. Pay money, meet me (or us). Congratulations, you have become a human being with a price tag. You now find yourself saying “We could never do this without our fans” and you are absolutely right. If the fans stop paying these premium prices, you can wave goodbye to that comfy tour bus, to those experienced crew members, and probably to the long-term survivability of your band.

2016 Vans Warped Tour — Free Meet and Greet

Now let’s take a second and think about this from a different perspective. What is the long-term goal? If you want to be in a band for a really long time, why not take a second and think about how decisions made now can impact your career down the line? If only there was a way to give away a little more of yourself up front to ensure your fans feel satisfied, loyal, and a part of something bigger. Maybe there is. Maybe that’s what we did. We kept doing the same thing, every single night. Headlining or supporting, we’re outside talking to fans for as long as we can. That’s it. They’re telling their friends about it, their friends are coming with them the next time we come through. Shows are getting bigger, the fan community is getting bigger, we still tour on a bus, and I’m writing this article on my high speed internet connection that I pay for in the house that I own. My point is that you don’t have to pass the cost of declining album sales onto your fanbase. You have to get creative.

“We have personally walked the line in front of The Vans Warped Tour from our first time on the tour and every time since. You have to work harder. You have to let your ego go and do the work regardless of the classic rockstar image that band’s try portray. To date, we have sold over 20,000 albums directly to fans in only a handful of summers on the tour.” — Pat Kirch

Left: Garrett Nickelsen 2009, Right: Garrett Nickelsen and Kennedy Brock 2016 at The Vans Warped Tour

In 2015 we announced the “Free for All” tour. The idea was that anyone who ever wanted to see us play music could come. No strings attached. Show is free, all you gotta do is show up. We felt that if your financial situation allowed you to listen to our music but not to see it live, you should at least get a chance to do both. We had to get creative with venues and locations but in the end the tour happened and it was one of the best tours we have done. The best part? There is no excuse. If you’re a fan and live close enough, all you gotta do is get yourself to the show. Not only were we gaining the respect of our fans, but we were reaching outward in ways we could have never achieved before. CNN wrote about what we were doing as if doing something for free was some groundbreaking achievement. All the while, we were ensuring that (as long as we put on a good show) these people were going to come back and support us in the future. And for us, there was no pressure. We were having fun. There wasn’t some ticket price we had to live up to and we could get away with thinking a little outside the box.

I think at the end of the day, it’s all about how you approach this thing. There is nothing wrong with being in a band and wanting to make money at the same time. What really matters to us is the real, tangible side of things. People shouldn’t have to spend a ton of extra money on tickets, or to meet a human being. We want our fans to feel like they are a part of something big, and that they won’t have to go broke supporting us. The support we’ve received has allowed us to bend the rules and do things the way we want. It has led to artistic creativity as well as longevity. So yeah, if you’re in a band and want to know more about how we pulled this off, you can talk to us in person if you want. We’ll be the five guys standing outside after our next show, for free.

-The Maine

Come see us this fall on The Modern Nostalgia Tour with Dreamers and Night Riots! Tickets are on sale now at www.themaineband.com

10/ 24 Los Angeles, CA
10/25 Sacramento, CA
10/27 Salt Lake City, UT
10/28 Denver, CO
10/30 Lawrence, KS
10/31 St. Louis, MO
11/1 Chicago, IL
11/3 Cleveland, OH
11/4 Buffalo, NY
11/5 Huntington, NY
11/7 Worcester, MA
11/9 Philadelphia, PA
11/10 Baltimore, MD
11/11 Norfolk, VA
11/12 Raleigh, NC
11/14 Nashville, TN
11/15 Atlanta, GA
11/17 New Orleans, LA
11/18 Dallas, TX
11/19 Austin, TX
11/ 22 Phoenix, AZ
11/24 Anaheim, CA ⠀

Listen to our new album on April 7th! http://www.8123.com/themaine