Yesterday, I started to talk about pro bono work, the reasons, and the outcomes. In particular, I want to tell you about our experience helping a great group of lads who call their band, porterdavis.
I met guitarist Dan Barrett a few years ago. He was teaching a group of kids, including my daughter, at a summer rock camp. Dan’s a very likable guy. A great communicator and reader of people, Dan has no problem commanding the attention of four squirming would-be rockers just a easily as he conveys the A-minor pentatonic scale to an old Stevie Ray Vaughn wanna-be. These days, he and his business partner, Geno Stroia, own Red Leaf School of Music.
When he’s not teaching music and running his music school, Dan is playing guitar and singing for porterdavis. In porterdavis, he, Mike Meadows (percussion) and Simon Wallace (harmonica) have developed quite the loyal following. They play gigs all over Texas, the Southeast and the Northeast. Recently, they’ve showcased at South by Southwest, and other music festivals in the US and Canada.
Dan, knowing what The MAD House is all about, asked if we wouldn’t mind talking to the band to see what we might recommend to them as they try to grow. Here’s the Case Study (composed by MAD Brandologist Charla) that came from that and subsequent conversations with porterdavis.
Getting to the Root of the Matter
Austin, Texas isn’t called the “Music Capital of the World” for nothing. If ever there was a place for a talented group of musicians to call home, Austin is definitely at the top of the list. And by 2004, the band members of porterdavis had decided it was time to live where the magic was happening. Over a four year time period, the band successfully built a loyal fan base throughout Texas and parts of the Southeast. They regularly booked shows at hot spots around Austin and received invitations to play at national festivals. Things seemed to be moving along nicely. The only problem was the band members were ready to take porterdavis to the next level—give up their day jobs to live the dream—and they had no idea how they were going to make it happen.
Well, almost no idea. They did knock on our door.
The first thing The MAD House set out to do was understand the hopes, goals, and dreams of each individual band member; and how those related back to the group as a whole. Our goal was to discover how each member personally defined success, how far each was willing to go to achieve that success and most importantly, if they all wanted the same thing.
In addition to surveying the band members and the band’s manager, we also developed a questionnaire for the fans. The results revealed beyond a shadow of a doubt that the fans were a dedicated bunch. They told us what they loved about the band and how they describe porterdavis’ music to others. And like most good research does, it provided great insights about how the fans connect and engage with the band.
Once all of the research was completed and analyzed, The MAD House invited porterdavis in for a meeting of the minds, better known as, a MAD Whiteboard Branding Workshop. The first thing to hash-out was the fact that neither the band members, nor the manager and fans, knew exactly how to describe the music of porterdavis. There were a handful of favorable adjectives and music genres being used, but the band needed something that summed it all up. The brand descriptor that came out of our session for the music of porterdavis was “American Roots and Blues.”
Several wipes of the whiteboard and a few dried-up markers later…
Beyond needing a brand descriptor, porterdavis required some heavy duty brand planning. Together we outlined a one-year, five-year and ten-year plan. We took note of all utterances including a request for a big tour bus, “nibbles” and drinks backstage, and Rick Rubin or Lloyd Maines to produce their next record. Every last word was important to creating a plan that was right for the band. By the end, we had talked about what they wanted to happen, discussed how they could make it happen and assigned somebody to make sure that each task got done.
And the planning begot the new album, sort of.
More realistically, the planning put some urgency to the band to finish writing the music for their new album and to develop a realistic list of potential producers. Austin does tout itself as the “live music capital of the world” – you’d think there would be some talented producers close by. And there are. A few weeks later, porterdavis secured accomplished musician and producer Gurf Morlix as their first studio producer. With the album in full production mode, the band asked The MAD House to create a new logo that would solidify their debut. We loaded up a creative brief with insights from the research phase and then unleashed MAD creatives to develop a logo representative of a band known for dishing up some truly original “American Roots and Blues” music.
Yes, things are just starting to happen.
And we truly believe that they will continue to happen for porterdavis. The use of “American Roots and Blues” in interviews, press releases and in conversations with fans is starting to get traction and become a more widely used descriptor for their music. Austin Music Awards recently awarded porterdavis the 2008 “Best American Roots” band in addition to awards in other categories. And last but not least, the plan for the new album is in full-on development mode and is due out in September of 2009. In working together, porterdavis, Demaris Entertainment and The MAD House will continue to create new opportunities for the band to achieve success.
More to come in Part 3, next week.