Posts Tagged ‘CD’

A Marketing Mark

December 12, 2013

Wednesday December 11th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

I tried to come up with a rough estimate of the total number of people I’ve performed for in my entire lifetime, but it’s almost impossible to be anywhere close to accurate. If I had to guess on a round number it would have to be right around a cool million. It gets confusing, but let’s explore.

I began performing standup comedy in November of 1983, but that was once a week for maybe 40-50 if I was lucky. It took a while to get going, but by 1985 I was working steadily in comedy clubs six or even seven nights a week. That’s how most clubs ran then, and stage time was easy.

I worked year in and year out, even when I had my various radio jobs around the country. I was always diligent about getting on stage, and even though it was often a five to ten minute guest set I still count that as performing. That steady unfaltering consistency lasted roughly through 2010.

The last three years have been much slower, but it’s been that way for everyone. Few clubs are open six or seven nights a week as was commonplace in the ‘80s, and all too often my work now boils down to a weekend. Sometimes it’s only one night of that weekend. It’s just not like it was.

Some shows I’d perform for 30 and others 300 – sometimes on the same night. If I had to pick a number to average it out, I wouldn’t have a clue. Let’s just throw out 100 as a round number to start with, and multiply that by roughly 250 shows a year. Sometimes it was even higher, but for the most part that’s probably pretty close to how many it was the years between 1985 and 2010.

That’s 25 years of averaging around 250 shows a year for roughly 100 people each show. That adds up to 625,000 people, but who knows if it’s accurate? What if the average was 150? It may or may not be closer to reality, and that would bump it up to 937,500. That doesn’t count the two years it took to get up and rolling or the last three years where I did still work as much as I could.

And I’m not including any of the radio or TV I’ve done. I’m just counting live standup comedy performances, and to the best of my backwoods figuring capabilities I’m somewhere close to the one million mark of those who have seen me perform live. Out of six billion, I’d say that’s low.

Not only is it low, it took a lifetime to achieve it. Granted, I was told that the audience on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” reached about two million viewers. I don’t remember who told me that or even if it’s accurate, but that’s what I heard. I also was told our weekly number of listeners when I was on the morning show on 97.9 ‘The Loop’ in Chicago was around 250,000.

I’ve been on the Bob and Tom radio show six or seven times, and they allegedly have several million listeners in roughly 200 US markets. All these numbers don’t mean much, and I have no way of getting a realistic head count so I won’t even try. I’ll just say I’ve been around the block.

The point I’m trying to make is that my goal is to get $20 from all of these people. That could be a ticket to a live show, a CD, DVD or all three. Maybe it’s a t-shirt, baseball cap, fishing lure, codpiece or any other bauble or trinket in any conceivable combination. Live shows are fine, but merchandise is what shoots income over the top. All the great marketers are documented masters of “back of the room” sales, and I intend to be right up there with the best that have ever lived.

It’s not just a matter of hauling around a bunch of random doo dads though. I think there needs to be some thought put into it, and the products have to have something that sells them. I guess it could be called a gimmick, but I don’t want to rip anyone off. I want to find what sells a product and do just that. I have no idea what that is right now, but I intend to find out sooner than later.

Say my first estimate of 625,000 people was accurate for argument’s sake. What if I had begun selling a lot earlier than I did, and gotten $20 from only 10% of those people? That’s still the tidy sum of $1,250,000. Even after taxes, that would be a nice little chunk of change to have handy.

I started selling CDs in 2003, only because people were asking me for one. I did sell some, but also gave away a whole lot too. I thought it would get my name out there, and it has. I get people sending me emails saying they had a friend loan them my CD and now they’re a fan. That’s nice.

‘Nice’ doesn’t cut it however. Would it be that difficult to get their email address and put them on a mailing list? Not at all. Then they could find out where I’m performing, and maybe it would even be in their area where they’d come out and see me live. If I had other products, they may be so inclined to buy some or all of those as well. I have missed out on literally millions of dollars.

I remember having the idea to record an album back in the late ‘80s. NOBODY back then was selling anything once again with the exception of James Gregory and I have always respected his vision. Comedians used to poke fun at him for doing it, because they were ‘purists’. Right. Those ‘purists’ were too busy guzzling booze, snorting cocaine and chasing waitresses to be marketers.

I was never a partier, but I also never focused on my business either. I had more than my share of other problems to worry about, but had I been smart I would have done that album when I had the idea. Nobody was doing anything like that then, and even though it likely wouldn’t have been very good I bet I could have sold some just because I had it. It would have been worth the effort.

Brad Tassell is from my comedy generation, and he wrote a book called “Hell Gig” about what it was like to live on the road and do comedy. Nobody else had a book then, and I always thought Brad was brilliant for writing it. He sold them after shows, and I bought one out of respect for his effort. He was far ahead of his time, and it’s still available today. Find it at http://www.streetjoke.com.

Heywood Banks is another terrific marketer from the standup world. At last count there were 6 t-shirts, 9 CDs and a book available on his site at http://www.heywoodbanks.com. Actually, he’s from the music world but crossed over into standup many years ago. Most comedians are poor at sales.

James Gregory is a self admitted ‘salesman who tells jokes’. He’s another all star marketer that used standup comedy as his sales base. His site is http://www.funniestman.com, where you can buy his products 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The internet has only made the great marketers greater.

Larry Winget is a master marketer in the speaking world. He’s got a ton of books, and I always see his emails announcing a new one. His site is http://www.larrywinget.com. Dale Irvin is another one who has released a collection of books. I believe his total is 8. Count them at http://www.daleirvin.com and sign up for his ‘Friday Funnies’ email and/or video. That’s another brilliant hook he’s known for. I have plenty of stellar examples to follow – now I need to make my own mark as a marketer.

It wasn't at first sight, but I'm growing to love marketing - or the 'business' side of my 'show'.

It was far from “at first sight”, but I’m growing to love marketing – aka the ‘business’ side of my ‘show’.

Hopefully, this will be the response I get.

Hopefully, this will be the response I get – figuratively and literally.

The Cost Of Doing Business

March 3, 2013

Thursday February 28th, 2013 – Chicago, IL/Fox Lake, IL

   Ah, the good old “cost of doing business”. That’s the money that never really gets replaced, but always ends up finding a way to drain the wallet of the self employed entrepreneur. It’s always a chunk of change that comes due out of the blue, and no matter what anyone tries to do to weasel out there are only four words that are ever able to solve said problem – “Pay at the window.”

I’m talking about a legion of unfun expenses like licenses, taxes, insurances and other non sexy necessities that end up eating the majority of anyone’s profits. If I didn’t have to physically get to my gigs and could still get people to pay me I’d be sitting pretty right about now. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. If I don’t show up, I don’t get paid – and it’s expensive to get there.

I remember reading a proverb years ago that said “An empty stable stays clean – but there is no income from an empty stable.” I don’t know why I’ve been able to remember that for years while important information flies through my brain like mosquitoes through a key hole, but I totally do.

These were the kinds of thoughts that were bouncing around in my head early this morning as I sat in my car waiting for the tow truck to pick me up after my show at Zanies in Chicago. I didn’t have anything to do but sit there with my education, wondering how in all of life I ended up here.

Times like this are ideal for reflecting, even if the reflections aren’t always flattering. I’ve been struggling my entire life to catch a break in show business, and I might have caught one had I not been distracted by so many flaming darts that flew out of nowhere. Those tend to redirect focus.

I did what I did, and I am where I am, and tonight I wanted to be anywhere else. The tow truck finally showed up about 12:30am, and of course my AAA account expires at the end of February each year so that was $85 I’d love to be able to use for something else out the door immediately.

The tow truck driver was very pleasant actually, and he was fascinated by the fact that I was a comedian. I wouldn’t have told him my occupation, but he immediately noticed my ‘URANUS 2’ license plate and started asking questions. It always gets attention – even when I don’t want it.

He said he’d been driving a tow truck fifteen years and never encountered anyone even close to having celebrity status, so to him I was a big star. We talked about a lot of things on the way and that made the drive go faster, but it was still after 2am when he dropped me off at the fix it place.

I gave the guy a copy of my CD and DVD and his eyes popped out of his head like he’d won a new Cadillac. I don’t think he was faking, but even if he was it made me feel good after the long night I’d been through. At least SOMEONE treated me like I was important, and I was grateful.

I made the right call and it ended up being the alternator. With parts and labor, installed it cost $267 out the door and it’s running great again – for now. It was running great all the other times a major repair was needed, and I’m about tapped out of cash. Too bad for me, there’s no guarantee the transmission won’t seize up tomorrow. Welcome to the world of the cost of doing business.

Catching Up Late

December 23, 2012

Wednesday December 19th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   It sure didn’t take much for technology to pass me by. For as geeky and nerdy as I can be about a lot of things, gadgets have never been of much interest to me. I couldn’t care less about playing video games, even though it’s a multibillion dollar industry worldwide. It just never grabbed me.

‘Pong’ was my first exposure to that world, and I have to say I was less than impressed. I know that was the dark ages and they’re light years ahead of that now, but I have absolutely no interest in getting caught up. My time is limited as it is, why do I need to blow away virtual space aliens?

I probably should also know a lot more about computers than I do, but that doesn’t interest me very much either unfortunately. I could have probably made a nice side income fixing computers or designing websites, but I just never went in that direction. I chose something stable – comedy.

It’s laughable how dumb that choice seems now, but that was what interested me so I chased it and excluded everything else to the point of being embarrassingly deficient in having knowledge about things millions of others have known of and used for years. I’m a self made ‘techno-tard’.

That being said, I finally broke down and bought myself an iPod a few weeks ago. I’d meant to do it for years, but I just never got around to it. My music tastes are mostly old school funk, and I have plenty on CDs, cassettes and even 8 tracks. I felt no pressing need to get all 21st century, but I’ve been doing a lot of exercise walking and I wanted to upgrade what I listen to while I do it.

I did it on the cheap as I tend to do, and went to a pawn shop near my house and scored one for $80 with tax out the door that will more than meet my current needs.  The guy who sold it to me was right about my age, so at least I didn’t feel totally humiliated by having a teenager mock me.

I’ve been experimenting with it for a couple of weeks now, and I love it more every day. I like the fact that I can burn only the songs I like and leave the rest off so I never have to hear them as long as I live. Everyone knows what it’s like to buy a CD and like only one song. What a waste.

I have a ton of CDs that I only like a few songs on, and I’ve been feverishly building myself an outstanding collection of tunes tailor made for me. Music radio stations are in trouble because no program director on Earth can choose what you like better than you. I’m enjoying the freedom.

I’ve got all my Parliament/Funkadelic CDs loaded in as well as everything else I like including stuff I really haven’t listened to all that much. I hope to add and subtract over time and develop a broader musical scope. What amazes me most is the amount of songs I can pack onto this thing.

My current count is 2518 songs, even though not all of them are going to stay there forever. I’ll keep farting around until I get more familiar with the process, but that’s a lot more songs than I’ll probably need in about six lifetimes. When I worked at The Loop in Chicago, I was told the play list hovered around 400 songs, with some getting shuttled in and out to freshen the pot from time to time. It may be late, but I’m catching up at my own pace. What’s next, a daisy wheel printer?