This week I attended Marketing United, a yearly marketing conference put on by Emma, the email marketing company based here in Nashville. There were a number of dry, number driven sessions, but I was totally surprised how many sessions went beyond the numbers to remind marketers, whose lives are so often filled with numbers and maximizing return on investment, and sales, and impressive metrics, that marketers do not deal in numbers.
Debbie Millman, host of the podcast Design Matters, was there to lead a session that on its face was about branding and purchasing habits, but at its base was about the desire in each one of us to find a way to connect with others. A brand is a flag that says something about you when you wear it, and sends a message to everyone around you asking, “are you on my wavelength?” That’s my own paraphrase of her message, anyway, and it made me think about how this happens with music.
A couple of years ago I was at a Full Moon Pickin’ Party, a regular summer event at Percy Warner Park, just southwest of Nashville. This event is designed to be something of an event for traditional bluegrass pickers, but anyone who brings one of the qualified instruments gets a discount and gets in the door. There is no playing test. No one is making sure you can play Cripple Creek, Blackberry Blossom, or Shady Grove. So what happens is that some outsiders get in. In this instance, while most of the circles of musicians were doing their best Bill Monroe, Stanley Brothers, or Ricky Skaggs there was one small group off to the side. Instead of the classic bluegrass repertoire, this group of mostly late teens and early twenties boys were playing Avett Brothers and Old Crow Medicine Show.
It’s easy to dismiss them and say that they don’t get it. It’s easy to say they’re ruining the spirit of the event. But they’re here. They brought their acoustic instruments just like the rest of us, and they came to play the songs they love. Like the rest of us, they came hoping to find some strangers who answer the question, “are you on my wavelength?”–and they found each other.