LAUNCHING ‘INTO the BLUE’
Part 3: With two-thirds of the album launch mini-tour fulfilled, vocalist Lou Beckerman gives an update on progress thus far, with an overview of lessons learned and experience gained…
Part 1 of ‘Launching Into the Blue’ reflected on what has been involved in the wearing of an independent recording artist/promoter’s hat to launch an album. In Part 2 we also heard from some of the band members who touched on what the experience of working on this project had meant to them. Since then we have held two very well-received launch events, both in contrasting venues and times of day.
Danny House – an Elizabethan country manor with a marvellous, classy, oak-panelled Great Hall was a joy for this evening’s Quintet (Wayne McConnell, Dan Hayman, Steve Thompson, Björn Dahlberg and myself) to play in. It was a sell-out and there was an enthusiastic audience, seated concert-style, all in their gorgeous finery for the evening (as were we!). This event was also designed to help a worthwhile cause, and some generous funding was raised for the charity (as well as the band!). Magic moments prevailed throughout.
That was two weeks ago but I still feel heart-warmed by the occasion. I’m writing this a day after Launch no. 2 which was held in another unique and special space – Brighton’s Unitarian Church – a calm oasis from the hubbub of teeming life outside. It was both rewarding and uplifting to have another full-to-brimming-over audience. Relief! I had no idea prior to the event what the attendance might be, as entry was by payment on the door and it was a weekday lunchtime (for an album that has been described as ‘late night music’!). This was a Quartet event (Wayne McConnell, Björn Dahlberg, Terry Pack and myself). It’s difficult to describe the exceptional atmosphere with our listeners so attentive and receptive. We loved it.
We have one more launch event to go: the Launch Party at The Brunswick in Hove next Sunday afternoon, 16th November with the full Sextet: Wayne McConnell, Terry Pack, Dan Hayman, Björn Dahlberg, Merlin Shepherd and myself. Reassured that this event has already sold well, I feel I can further reflect on what has worked; what I might do differently another time and how effective various strategies have been.
Now also wearing an events management hat my job has been to provide and promote an experience as well as good music, maximising on the nature of the venue and an audience that this might appeal to. It’s been enormously hard work but great fun incorporating the creative through to logistical elements. I like concepts and to focus on the three contrasting scenarios of ‘stately, spiritual and sassy’ (or ‘posh, prayerful and playful’!) has given me something imaginative to work with. However, with this comes the fine balance of making it appealing enough to attract people to attend and setting an expectation so no-one goes away disappointed.
In my view it’s important to pay attention to presentation. Sometimes we can inadvertently do a disservice to the best music by not thinking about staging or stage presence. People come to hear and see a gig when we play live. For me the stage is a blank canvas waiting for brush strokes to complement the music, and this all goes towards creating a welcoming and inviting atmosphere. We are the hosts!
I could now write a book on essentials for planning and organising a launch gig but perhaps that’s for another time! I’ll just briefly say here, from experience, that:
- Organisation, advance planning, lists (those lists!) and attention to detail pay off every time (even down to how your CDs are displayed).
- Remember: no advertising = no audience. Use all media – newspapers, radio, social media – the latter has been a steep learning curve for me but I’m beginning to enjoy it now.
- Always think of the well-being of both the musicians and audience regarding suitable venue and location.
Having said all this, the most important thing is, of course, the music! To get the balance between rehearsing until the band is so tight (to the point of constriction!) and trusting enough for the music to grow into a new phase (which sometimes only happens in performance) is central. Working with such fine, ego-less musicians who all deeply respect each-other has certainly opened-up opportunities for some unforeseen alchemy in these gigs. The choice of set list for each occasion has varied. I knew the audience at Danny House would enjoy standards as well as the newer album pieces, whereas at the Unitarian – with a shorter programme – the main focus was on our original compositions and innovative album arrangements. Both audiences were up for some experimentation…
I hope these articles will have been of interest to other independent artists setting out on this journey. With the value of hindsight I have learned just how much work is involved in conceiving, planning, funding, recording, producing and launching an album as professionally as possible. With a rearrangement of punctuation the title of this series could read ‘Launching into the blue…’ And that’s just how it is: casting this music – the fruits of much labour – out into the blue yonder. Perhaps this is the most exciting thing: not knowing where it’ll go – who will hear and hopefully appreciate it. Onwards now (well… in a while anyway…) to the next project, forewarned and forearmed. My very grateful thanks to EVERYONE involved in so many ways – from the nitty-gritty practical to general support and encouragement.
If you’d like to join us in helping to celebrate the launch of ‘Into the Blue’ on 16th November you’ll be given a warm welcome! Tickets: £7 from: www.thebrunswick.net.
CD available from www.loubeckermanjazz.com or as a download from Amazon, iTunes or CD Baby.
This article appeared in issue 32 of The Sussex Jazz Mag, available here.
[L-R] Wayne McConnell, Lou Beckerman, Bjorn Dahlberg, Terry Pack.
Photo taken at Brighton Unitarian Church by Anabel Alegre.