How Do You Get to Red Rocks?

photo credit: Nicki Bult Lamprecht

There’s an old joke…

A tourist in New York stops a guy on the street and says, “Hey, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

And the guy replies, “Practice, practice, practice…”

Last week I got to perform on stage at Red Rocks Amphitheater, to a crowd of somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 people.

Well, me — and 300 of my closest friends. 😉

For anyone unfamiliar with the venue, Red Rocks is a natural outdoor amphitheater formed from the red sandstone that also makes up the otherworldly landscape of Garden of the Gods here in Colorado. It’s world-renowned and often cited as a place that huge stars and bands long to play. Groups like U2, The Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam, and more. For Coloradans, it’s even more special.

How does a content marketer get to perform for a paying audience at Red Rocks?

Well, I belong to a community choir, and we (along with several other choirs, including my daughter’s kids’ pop choir) were invited to back the group FACE Vocal Band at Red Rocks.

It was, in a word, incredible. Can you call something a “bucket list” item if you would never have added it to your bucket list in the first place?

How do you get to Red Rocks?

So how do five guys from Colorado get to headline one of the most sought-after venues in the state, maybe the country not once, but twice?

How do they have the clout to be able to invite three other local bands to open for them and around 300 amateurs to join them on stage?

How do they pull off setting a Red Rocks record for most album sales in a single night?

Practice? Sure. These guys are incredible.

But it’s a bit more than that.

You see, one of the FACE guys, Stephen Ross (the tall, self-proclaimed “man-prano” of the group), is also my choir director, and he’s shared some inside baseball with the choir about how the band works and how they got to Red Rocks twice in two years. And it struck me how these guys are running a small business, doing and struggling with all the things any small business has to struggle with.

(Though, I would wager a guess that I sign far fewer autographs…)

Turns out, the way you get to play Red Rocks… is to write something like a $35,000 check and book the venue.

Seriously.

I was kind of shook by this news. I assumed there was some gatekeeper, some board of something or other at Red Rocks that invited different acts to play there. I assumed you had to be a star to stand on that stage and play to an adoring crowd of paying ticket holders.

And, for sure, you do. They couldn’t possibly sell 6,000 tickets if they weren’t stars, weren’t popular, didn’t have fans.

But there was no gatekeeper there to tell them yes or no.

Sounds to me like if you’ve got the money, honey, Red Rocks will give you the time.

I got two big aha moments out of learning this information.

The gatekeeper is in your head

First: the gatekeeper might be in your head.

Think about it; how many times do we, as business owners and entrepreneurs, think to ourselves, “Well, I’ll never be able to do that… I’m not good enough to…” — however that sentence ends.

Maybe you want to publish a book, or make a physical product, or start a charity, or speak on a big stage — or, hell, perform at Red Rocks — but you’re worried that the powers that be, the gatekeepers, will never give you the go-ahead, never bless your dreams, never give you that validation you think you need to move forward.

But what if the gatekeeper is only in your head?

You don’t need an agent or even a traditional publisher to have a bestselling book any more (just look at me). You can start a Kickstarter to launch a product, or a Go Fund Me to get a charity going. And, as it turns out, sometimes you just have to be willing to invest if you want to speak or perform on a big stage.

The FACE guys don’t have a label. There was no big management company negotiating for them or writing that check.  They have Patreon subscribers that help them foot the bill for studio time, albums, music videos and more, and a legion of dedicated fans around the world. They sell albums and merch, they get paid to perform, and they have a music academy that runs the choir I belong to and others (I don’t know if the academy and the band share revenues) — and that’s how they were able to make this big investment.  Twice.

Did they have to be successful to play Red Rocks? Absolutely. (That, or have a trust fund and be willing to play to an empty house…)

But did they have to wait for someone else to tell them they are successful enough to play Red Rocks?

Nope.

Your people want you to succeed

Second, I was reminded of something Tanya Geisler says a lot combined with something I heard over and over at the Digital Summit this yearyour people want you to succeed and consumers are more loyal to brands with values they share. 

Two years ago, the first time FACE played Red Rocks, they raised around $30,000 from ticket sales to fund a grant that supports music education in Colorado. That’s right: they didn’t play Red Rocks with the sole purpose of making bank on tickets, they did it to raise money to give back to their community. That’s also why they invited local Colorado bands to open for them and why they invited 300 of us to sing on stage with them.

And this year, they’re doing it again.

So the first takeaway from this is that their fans want to see them succeed. That’s why they have an active Patreon community and why they can respectably fill a venue the size of Red Rocks.

The second takeaway is that, while they don’t have solid numbers from this year’s concert yet, Stephen shared that they raised over $3,000 with a text-to-donate campaign alone during the concert. That tells me that their people share their values and resonate with their brand story about music education.

Their fans want them to succeed, and they want to be a part of their mission to support local music and music education in Colorado.

That’s a big deal, and it will take them far.

If you can find that natural, organic intersection between your (business) values and your customers’ values, that is worth a lot. At the Digital Summit, several presenters shared statistics that consumers are many times more likely to do business with a brand that agrees with their values. They’ll even happily pay more than a competitor if they perceive that supporting the brand demonstrates their values to the world.

Those of us who bought tickets to see FACE at Red Rocks had already donated to music education just by buying a ticket — and they told us so several times over the course of the evening. Yet people were willing to collectively donate thousands of dollars more to the cause. Because they want they guys to succeed and they resonate with their values.

They’re offering us not just an awesome concert experience, in one of the most beautiful natural venues in the world, under the gorgeous Colorado sky, but also a feel-good opportunity to demonstrate our shared values.

So, how do you get to Red Rocks?

Practice, yeah.

But also confidence, belief, big dreams, strong values, and good business practices.

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