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When is a gimmick not a gimmick but, an opportunity to connect with fans?

Posted: March 10, 2023
Seminole High school was part of a national college tour arranged by our US booking agent (The William Morris Agency), who came up with the idea in conjunction with a major sponsor “Babe Ruth Bar” confectionary, who covered all the expenses of the tour. We thought it would be a great way to get our music across to the youth of America, coinciding nicely with our latest release at the time, the “Love an Adventure” album (US version) and single “Funky Town”.

Some of the gimmickiest attempts at attracting attention or publicity has been tried. Many of them have been so transparent that they were epic fails. Often these attempts are made my agents or organizations that do not have an extensive background in Advertising or Marketing. Some result to gimmicks because, they classify marketing solutions as expensive, and unproven. There is a belief that you follow the tricks of the trade that has worked for the competition. In the Millennial generation, there seems to be an endless supply of Marketing tools and or gimmicks. The latest craze is to use social media platforms such as Tik Tok. Unfortunately, it is one of the gimmicks that work. It isn’t because of its dynamics. There isn’t anything about it that is dynamic. It reflects a limited attention span. Audiences do not have the attention span to read, or to spend allot of time getting to know true talent. They rather watch then read or listen.

I have worked in the Marketing and Advertising arena for over 30 years. In each of the industries, I have witnessed the tricks of the trade. Some of the ideas were ingenious. Others just flopped and were a waste of time, money, and energy. Directly related to the music industry, there have been some very intriguing or fascinating tools or platforms to capture the attention of consumers and fans. Many ideas are stale, and without merit. Which could be reasons why some artists fail as well. If you are a talented artist, and you want to succeed in the music industry, avoid gimmicks. Attempts to cheat or disguise your marketing investments will only fail you in the end. Fans are not blind. They can see right through gimmicks. Regardless of how much they like you. If only, artists were more innovative or creative like the bands of our past.

The bands or artists of decades past, connected with audiences because they were genuine. They enjoyed performing, and it was their reward for producing great music and talent. Yes, there was a measure of marketing involved. Afterall the band still needed to sell albums. Back in the day, when you said album, it truly was a vinyl album. No such thing as streaming or digital downloads. Even more reason why connecting with audiences became so important. The same methods for interviewing haven’t changed much. T.V., radio, and magazines are still a viable source of marketing. Though there is one thing, that artists and bands from the Millennial generation will never be able to experience. That is, engaging your fans directly from a high school auditorium. There are so many rules and regulations in place, that prevents this from happening in the Millennial age. This is done for good reason. There are safety issues involved. The protection of young fans is important. No one will disagree with that. Performing before large teens in a high school auditorium will never be repeated. It is possible that an independent artist or band will gimmick their way into a high school auditorium but will never happen with a band as well-known as Pseudo Echo. Even for 80s generation, these kinds of performances were unheard of. At least in the State of Florida. I am going to guess, that many of the Millennial generation have not heard of Pseudo Echo, unfortunately.

Thus, you may not be able to grasp just how important this type of event was. It will be forever etched in my mind, as one of the best examples of fan engagement ever to be performed. During the 80s most bands were looking to have their spot-on MTV. It was important to have your music videos played on MTV during the 80s. If your music videos were not on T.V. than you were not considered relevant. At least within the U.S. market. Music videos were always popular in the U.K. despite MTVs popularity. Pseudo Echo were always able to reach the populist without having their presence felt on MTV. However, they increased in popularity when their song “Living in a Dream” hit the market. Many music fans wondered where this band came from. It seems that they were an instant hit, and they came from no-were. This was only the reality for those that didn’t know anything about bands outside of music videos. Pseudo Echo existed before the launch of MTV. With such hits as “Beat for you, Destination Unknown, and His Eyes”. The kid next door didn’t know about them, until “Living in a dream and Funky Town”. Both were top 10 hits.

Pseudo Echo performs at the Seminole High School Auditorium.

It was 85-86 and Pseudo Echo was climbing up the charts and increasing their fans by record numbers. The launch of the song “Funky Town” was an instant hit among many fans of pop music. The alternative crowed was always inspired by Pseudo Echo, so when the news of an actual performance came up, the entire High School was overwhelmed with excitement. It would be an epic performance, and one never forgotten by 4 friends that literally burst through the doors of the auditorium for a chance to have a front seat view of Pseudo Echo. These 4 friends had their own pop / alternative icons. From the Cure to OMD. However, it was the alternative sound of Pseudo Echo that bound these 4 friendships. Each one of us were aware of the earlier sounds of Pseudo Echo. Each of the songs were going to be very familiar to our ears.

The only requirement to get into the doors of the auditorium was a library card. Can you imagine that? The value of the library card was equal to a passport. If you didn’t have a library card, you weren’t considered a citizen of Seminole High School. At least for that day. I can recall some of the students were chanting “Funky Town….Funky Town”!! I thought that they were so uneducated. Of all the songs they could be screaming for, it was just the one that they heard on the radio. They had no idea just how privileged they were, and that no other artist or band of their caliber would ever perform at a High School. I don’t even know if Pseudo Echo was ever paid for their performance. Did it matter to me then? No, not at all. I was under the impression that they were doing it for FREE and for the love of music. Did they get paid by the school behind the scenes? It didn’t matter. Not to me, and not to the friends that were with me that day.

It was the most amazing opportunity to engage fans, and to make memories that would last a lifetime. I am 52 years of age, and I haven’t stopped talking about them. Out of the friends that went with me, I continue to speak to one of them to this day. Each time we get together, there is always room for a Pseudo Echo conversation. It usually starts with “Do you remember that time when they performed at Seminole High School? These are just a few paragraphs that describe an overwhelming number of emotions for a band that made a huge impression.

I have represented hundreds of artists. Even interviewed some of the most talented musicians. I probably can’t remember the conversation from any of the interviews. However, I will never forget the impression Pseudo Echo made on us that day. It all started with some creativity and a strong desire. This is just a small sampling size of what you can accomplish, when you avoid the gimmicks, and just focus on what works. Giving back to your fans, will always win out over the strongest marking concepts.

An interview with a marketing genius. Brian Canham (lead singer of Pseudo Echo).

Guitar Thrills: I want to start by thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to interview with Guitar Thrills Magazine. When I start my interviews, I take the time to think about what fans may want to know about the artist. This time it is a little different. After decades of listening to your music there are plenty of questions that I have. There are some questions that my friend has as well. She will probably be made at me for not consulting her. However, she will have to get over it. ☺

My first question involves the Seminole High School performance? I know it has been a very long time. Do you remember it at all? If so, do you recall getting paid? What made you decide to perform for such a small audience? Considering that you are used to playing before larger crowds.

Brian:I can’t recall exactly each individual show we did but Seminole High school was part of a national college tour arranged by our US booking agent (The William Morris Agency), who came up with the idea in conjunction with a major sponsor “Babe Ruth Bar” confectionary, who covered all the expenses of the tour. We thought it would be a great way to get our music across to the youth of America, coinciding nicely with our latest release at the time, the “Love an Adventure” album (US version) and single “Funky Town”.

Guitar Thrills: I know that you had different band members over time. Do you recall the reasons for breaking up with the original group?

Brian: The lineup we did that US tour with was version two or three. As young kids barely in our early twenties, we were all growing at our own rate with our ideas differing and shooting off in all directions, so as cliché as it sounds, in all incidences of changing members it was due to “musical differences”. From the conception of the band, Pseudo Echo was always my baby, so the changes weren’t too disruptive.

Guitar Thrills: What were some of your first impressions breaking into the MTV scene back in the early 80s? You were already producing great music and videos. Did you think that this is your moment to make it big in the music industry?

Brian: As youngsters we were all starry-eyed and welcomed any success that came our way. The medium of the “video clip” via music television was perfect timing for us, having a strong visual image and some bright colorful video clips.

Guitar Thrills: From what I have read, some of your earlier influences were Duran Duran, Ultravox, and Spandau Ballet. These are some great bands. So, your influences were spot on. All three of those bands were talented. One of the comparisons that I would make between Duran Duran and Pseudo Echo is your ability to transition throughout the years. You were able to adapt your sound to what was happening that that moment. There were many talented bands that were not so successful at making that transition in my humble opinion. It is extremely difficult to be an alternative band and transition into a pop oriented one. However, Pseudo Echo was able to do it effectively. A challenging decade for many bands was the 90s. That is when you saw bands breaking up over the direction they were headed. While the original band members didn’t stick together, you were able to maintain the Pseudo Echo brand. What has been your recipe for success through-out the decades?

Brian: I would say the recipe for success is being true to oneself, and never being too complacent about where you are. I would constantly try to view the band from an outside perspective but nonetheless staying true.

Guitar Thrills: Let’s go back to how you got your start as an artist. Did you have family that encouraged you to take up music? Did you have a family member already involved in the music industry?

Brian: My father was a jazz musician, and as a youngster growing up in a household with four older brothers, my father encouraged us all to try our hand at an instrument, so there would always be a drum kit or guitar, and even Dad’s brass instruments around. Turns out I was the last hope and the only one who took to music, much to my dad’s joy.

Guitar Thrills: I have provided PR and Booking for artists all over the U.S. and even overseas. I have come across a different generation of individuals that do not have appreciation for the artists that have paved the way for them. Some may feel that it is ok to have success handed to them. That it’s a rite of passage. What are your thoughts regarding that mind-set?

Brian: Nothing should be handed to you. I think creativity comes from within and is best left for the creator to discover that. It is a different world these days with reality shows and competitions broadcast internationally, effectively winning your career, as opposed to getting out there, starting a band, doing the hard yards, playing shows, building an audience, and making an impact that leads you to securing a recording contract. That all took years and perseverance. A lot of that has gone these days.

Guitar Thrills: At the introduction of this topic, I mentioned the importance of Advertising and Marketing. Some of the concepts for Marketing have changed. While some remain the same. What strategies have been beneficial for you?

Brian: Connecting with our audience through social media has been a big part of our marketing approach. We learn a lot about our audience, and more importantly our audience learns a lot about us ... who we are, what we stand for, our integrity and consistency.

Guitar Thrills: I think that it is cool that you have changed the how your fans see you. As I mentioned before, it is important to keep reinventing yourself. Otherwise, there is a huge fan base that you miss out on. Where did you come up with your ideas? I see some similarities with country music artists.

Brian: I don’t so much come up with ideas about our image. It’s more a natural evolution, and over time it has become truer to who we are. Things change in our lives, relationships, circumstances etc and therefore the evolution continues accordingly. What I’ve felt was me twenty years ago may not be me today, and what I am today most likely won’t be me in another twenty years. I see life as a one-way journey, and for each change there are new experiences, and I wish to experience as much as I can in this life.

Guitar Thrills: I have worked with tons of country music artists. Many of them had different variations of the country genre. There is country pop and country rock. You even hear a mix of country and rap as well. Do you follow any country music artists? If so, which ones have grabbed your attention?

Brian: I tend to not pigeonhole music by the genre, particularly for my personal listening. I grew up listening to such a diversity of artists, from the Eagles to Led Zeppelin to Jose Feliciano and to the great film composers like Bernard Hermann and Gerry Goldsmith. Music to me is to be enjoyed. The genre doesn’t really matter. It’s just what does it for you.

Guitar Thrills: What are your future plans? Do you have any new releases that you would like to talk about? Where can your fans come and see you perform?

Brian: We have an Australian national tour slated for later in the year, as well as an “Ultimate” Collection of Pseudo’s best works (music & video) including some new recordings of songs which have been a big part of our live shows, previously never released. Additionally, I have been working on a solo album which will enable me to branch off from the traditional Pseudos’ brand and will be something I will tour as well. As much as it has been a strange couple of past years, we managed to release quite a few albums, old and new, and one even rediscovered, which had been lost for some thirty years (“1990 The Lost Album Demos”).

Guitar Thrills: That is awesome. We will continue to keep track of your career. You have no reason to give up now. You been making a success for decades. I swear I am forgetting questions to ask. But it is probably a good thing, since you have a busy schedule. Maybe we can create an opportunity for another interview soon. Would that work for you?

Brian: Sure…

Guitar Thrills: Excellent. I look forward to it. Thanks again.

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