Steal This Idea: Franchising Rock Bands

Let’s say a band, ROCK, PAPER, ROCK HARDER, has written some good songs. They play regionally and are building a solid following up in New England. They have a CD and some merch and a Facebook page. They even have someone helping them book shows. They are doing pretty well, but they need to CAPITALIZE ON THEIR ASSETS. They need to REACH THEIR AUDIENCE. They need to go to THE NEXT LEVEL. Ladies and gentlemen, RPRH needs to franchise.

STEP 1. PUT OUT THE CALL. RPRH place craigslist ads in, say Chicago. They are seeking a particular sort of musician: Someone who is technically skilled, but not doing too much creatively. Fortunately, there are hundreds upon thousands of bedroom rockers and cover band weekend warriors waiting to pounce upon the ‘reply’ button. The toughest member to narrow down will of course be the singer. If RPRH is lucky, maybe they’ll recruit players who are already RPRH fans.

STEP 2. BUILD THE TEAM. They build a Chicago band that shares the same sensibilities they do. Personalities should mesh. These musicians do not need to dress up as nor act like the original RPRH members. There is no subterfuge in this franchise plan. The goal is not to fool the audience into thinking they’re seeing something they are not. The goal is not to compromise the art itself, it is to spread the music & make some money.

STEP 3. ROCK THE GIGS. The Chicago franchisees books their own shows under the same name – ROCK, PAPER, ROCK HARDER. They learn all the songs the same way the original group performs them. Overt improvisation or re-arranging is discouraged, but so is scripted banter between songs. Since playing music is a creative endeavor, striving for exact uniformity between one band and another will ultimately fail. The franchisee show should be relaxed and genuine. The goal is to offer an entertaining live show that well-represents the original band. If an audience member enjoys a franchisee show and later listens to some mp3s online, she should not detect too much of a difference. RPRH-Chicago buys merch wholesale and sells it at shows. RPRH-Chicago keeps most or maybe even all of the door earnings (they are, after all, putting in the work).

STEP 4. BUILD THE BRAND. Via real-life visits or Skype or whatever, the bands stay in touch. Perhaps there is a strict approach to what the franchised bands can and cannot do. Perhaps collaboration is encouraged. Maybe they all get together for a recording on the next album, or share a bill at a special overlapping tour stop (My God, who will open for who?). The original band should control the Internet/Facebook interactions with fans, but franchisees should be openly acknowledged and embraced online as being ‘part of the family.’ Maybe even include them in guest blog posts or video clips.

5. EXPAND THE REACH. Repeat in other areas of the country. Maybe try not to overlap touring regions. That might cause friction among franchise members. Never mind confusing bookers at clubs.

6. REAP THE, UH, SUCCESS. What happens if ROCK, PAPER, ROCK HARDER grows and becomes very successful? If the reputation of the band grows to the point of being recognized nationally, there are a few different options: A. National tour by original band. Every stop in a franchisee region includes the franchisees getting to play some songs, too. B. National tour of all the bands, switching off all night long. C. The same formula continues, and franchisees play increasingly larger venues within their regions until they all reach stadium-level booking (this option might get weird/confusing). D. The franchise is disbanded (pun intended) and the original RPRH rockets to stardom or one-hit-wonderdom or whatever.

7. BECOME THE GEEZERS.
In 20 years, the reunion tour will be epic. Dead members will barely be missed at all!

Positive results:
* The original band makes more money via merchandise. More merchandise orders mean larger orders and lower per-piece costs, thus increased profits.
* The original band’s music gets heard & disseminated to a larger audience in different regions.
* The original band maintains creative control.
* The franchised bands make money.
* The franchised musicians get to play out – something they may not have been doing. Even if they eventually decide to leave the franchise, they have gained invaluable live gigging experience.
* The brand grows.

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