Mellencamp, The Allman Brothers and Top Spin

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Singer, songwriter, musician and activist John Mellencamp has written an interesting commentary in the Huffington Post about the decline of the American record business. He makes the point that in the past, artistry and recognition were elements built up from the street - musicians created a strong local following, often in their own towns, which in turn, became the basis for their growing popularity. Local labels recognized the local talent and the media followed the interest brewing in their own markets, to build a lasting foundation for bands' growing careers. In later years, major labels acquired the local labels and while the big guns had a fiduciary responsibility to their stockholders, they completely forgot the essence of what made their business work - bands building popularity from the local market up, was the key to success.

Now, with a broken business model, Mellencamp accurately assesses, it's “every man for himself.”

One band that is bringing a local perspective into living rooms everywhere is The Allman Brothers.

Every year, at the start of spring, The Allman Brothers set up a residency at The Beacon Theater in New York City. The band has played over 179 shows there. Band and venue loyalty has brewed a certain type of cult following that has created an indelible association between the two, like James Brown and the Apollo, and The Ramones and CBGB's. This year not only marks the twentieth anniversary of The Beacon Run in New York but also the fortieth anniversary of the formation of The Allman Brothers. There are fifteen different shows of the band at The Beacon. Each show has a different set list and the band has added different guest performers each night, including Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, Sheryl Crow, Buddy Guy and members of the Grateful Dead.

Derek Trucks of The Allman Brothers figured out a way for fans see the shows, even if they couldn't come to the Beacon. Dedicated Allman Brothers fans can go to the newly launched site (that's m-o-o-g-i-s) to watch each of the band's shows at The Beacon Theater. For $125, fans get a front row seat in high fidelity to each of the fifteen Beacon Anniversary shows. Users of Moogis are thrilled with the results. It's gotta be the next best thing to being there.

And for the bands who want to reach their fans, but don't have forty years of experience to do it, good old fashioned digital marketing is still the best way to connect the dots. Top Spin, a digital marketing company, has created tools to help bands develop their fan base. It all really Marketing 101, but in a digital form, using widgets and drivers to find and meet consumers. Top Spin believes the bands of tomorrow begin today, so they've partnered with the Berkelee School of Music to teach bands, managers and agents how to market effectively, using the Top Spin model of course.

Bands and artists willing to be the marketing agents for themselves stand the best chance of longevity. But in reality is, regardless of whatever marketing spin they use, outstanding live talent is the greatest marketing tool of all.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Banner image: The Allman Brothers Band live at the Beacon Theatre, March 9, 2009. Photo: David Atlas