Monday, January 4, 2010

How to Be a Star

Have you been to a concert? There are usually two acts. The opening act and the star. The opening act has got to be the toughest gig there is. Long before the opening act goes on stage, they were offstage, listening to the crowd grow restless. The crowd is chanting for the star of the show an hour before he goes onstage. Hardly anyone is there to see the opening act. No matter how great they are the audience is there to see the star of the show, and usually they paid the big bucks to see the star, not the opening act.

When the opening act goes out on stage, they are met with a audible letdown from the audience. The opening act can hear it, they feel it, and it is tough to not acknowledge that they are a second to the star of the show. Yet, they walk out onstage, full of enthusiasm. They perform flawlessly, even flat out, to an audience who isn’t there to hear them. They smile and give it their all and yes, sometimes they get booed off the stage, no matter how good they really are. It isn’t their fault. They are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are playing at someone else’s party and are the unwanted guest.

They are there in hopes of attracting a new following. Perhaps a few of the audience will buy their music from iTunes or at the music store. Perhaps someone will like them well enough to become part of their posse and tell others to listen to them, “Hey have you heard so-and-so? They are really great!”

On the other hand, the star of the show, has the audience in their hand. People paid to hear them play. The applaud the star when the band members walk out onto the stage. They sing along with the star’s every word. When the star holds the mike up in the air and points it to the audience they finish the lyrics.

Two years ago, I met a beautiful young woman at a coffee shop in Austin, Texas. As I sipped my café latte I watched her enter the front door and step to the counter to order. She was dressed as a rock star and she exuded star quality. She appeared to be in her early twenties and I wondered how anyone so young could be so self-confident. Austin is the Live Music Capitol of the World, and there are a dozen musicians in every coffee shop in town. Six of them are working as the baristas and the other six are there to put their postcards on the community bulletin boards in hopes of snagging a few audience members from the assembled patrons.

As the young woman turned away from the counter, she had a smile on her face. As she walked across the room she noticed my obvious stare and held her hand out as she stated, “Hello, my name is Kimberly Freeman with One-Eyed Doll.” I hadn’t realized I had been staring. Actually, lost in thought was more like it. But, Kimberly was not going to allow this to get in her way, she was a star and acted like it. Entering the coffee shop was like going on stage for her and the patrons were her fans even though she had never met them. She pulled me into the crowd of her fans and embraced me as a long lost friend or perhaps her next biggest fan, which I was to eventually become.

I repeated the name of the band as a question, “One Eyed Doll?” Kimberly didn’t waste a moment to give me her elevator talk. It was a two-person band, her (the One Eyed Doll) and her drummer, who played heavy rock and would be performing at Club Elysium that evening at 9 pm. She reached into the bag slung over her shoulder and produced a professionally printed color postcard, which showed a photo of her onstage, on her knees with her Fender Stratocaster in hand. I promised I would be there. Kimberly seemed a bit shocked as my white hair gave me away as senior citizen and obviously not a regular at Club Elysium, a punk, goth and heavy rock dance club in the Sixth Street Entertainment Zone of Austin. When she asked if I knew where the club was, I acknowledged that I had been there before and would most certainly be looking forward to her act.

That night, I went to the club early and sat at the bar having a drink while I waited for Kimberly to go on stage. As the moment neared I moved to the front row so that I could enjoy the show without having to crane my neck to see around the crowd that was starting to fill the club. Most of the attendees were milling around in the back of the club even as Kimberly walked out on stage. She was met with about twenty people sitting in the front rows of the perhaps 100 chairs. The other eighty people were still milling around in the back talking and drinking.

I realized that Kimberly was the opening act. As she started playing, I was blown away by her expert guitar playing, but it was her voice and the words to her original songs that excelled. This girl could write and her voice was mesmerizing. By the third song, the crowd at the back had grown in size and in volume. The twenty of us were actually turning our heads to see if we could get their attention and embarrass them into being quiet.

Kimberly noticed our discomfort and before she started the next song, she sat down on the front of the stage with guitar in hand, she leaned over and spoke in a soft voice, not unlike the storyteller at a children’s book reading and said, “Don’t pay any attention to those people, I am singing to you guys. You are my audience and I am going to give you a very special concert tonight.”

And she did!

During the South By Southwest (SXSW) show a few weeks ago, Kimberly was a headline act. She was the star onstage and wowed the audience with her own songs and attitude.

The questions to be asked is why are some individuals stars and others opening acts. What differentiates the star from the opening act? How do you get to be a star?

Its simple!

1. Be very, very good at what you do. Educate yourself – gaining the knowledge to be the very best your community, if not the world.
2. Market yourself to a very small audience that views you as a star – not the opening act.
3. Grow that audience through continuous marketing efforts.

I became an instant fan of Kimberly Freeman’s One Eyed Doll. She is not only the best songwriter I know, but she is a star. She exudes knowledge of her craft and it shows on stage and off. She doesn’t try to be an opening act. Bottom line – she is a star and I bought it.

Be a STAR – not the opening act!

About Kimberly Freeman

One-Eyed Doll is the Austin, Texas based power-rock-duo led by guitarist and singer Kimberly Freeman. Freeman's wild stage antics, theatrical presentation, tough guitar chops and acrobatic moves have earned her unprecedented recognition in the world's live music capital.

The duo is backed by drummer PJ Evans: AKA NUMBER THREE. Previously a career movie actor, Three joined shortly after the production of the January 2007 release, "Hole".

From 2007 to 2008 with the release of the debut album, Freeman's community cult following exploded into a global fan base, setting a new standard for the modern guerrilla DIY business structure.

The duo released their most prolific and decidedly popular work to date, "Monster" in November 2008, once again under the precise hand of veteran producer Jason Sewell. The new album debuts, to the triumph of their inherently eccentric following, Kimberly's signature dark and heavy hits, "Fight" and "Monster" blending seamlessly with radio pop style ballads like "Brief Candle" and "Pretty Song".

Rumors have another album being planned for production, alongside several solo releases by Freeman in 2009. Visit her website online at