I came across The History of Future Folk on Netflix a little while ago and I decided to watch it. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the movie, and I think every musician should consider watching it, because there are some great takeaways for independent artists.
A Brief Discourse on Niche Marketing
It seems as though many musicians shy away from niche marketing. I think this might be because artists equate niche markets with small-time.
In a broader sense, a niche market is defined as a subset of a bigger market, where products and services are developed to satisfy specific consumer needs.
From that perspective, we could call every musical genre a niche market, because they are each smaller pieces of the bigger music consumption pie. However, for some, that definition might be a little too loose. After all, if you are in a rock band, you’re one among many. Rock may be a subset of music, but it’s a pretty massive subset.
What if you had circus clowns playing hard rock on a stage rigged with pyrotechnics and a light show? Yes, I am referring to KISS. Most people probably wouldn’t refer to them as a niche band anymore. However, we do have to consider the possibility that they wouldn’t be as recognized as they are if not for their brilliant branding and the fact that they were a little different from any other rock band that came before them.
Does everybody like KISS? No.
Were they always as popular as they are today? Of course not.
So, in essence, they started as a niche band. Based on the previous definition, KISS exists in a subset of the rock market. Some people might call it glam metal. Still, they had to build their fan base from scratch, just like every other musical act out there.
In short, if you are skeptical of niche markets, relax. Creating a niche could be as simple as taking a pre-existing genre and presenting it in a new way that’s uniquely you.
The reason I bring up niche marketing is because I believe Future Folk is a great example of a niche band.
What sort of music do they play? Bluegrass and folk. That’s it? Why yes, except they adopt alien personas onstage, and they tell jokes about taking over the planet. They also wear funny-looking black and red alien costumes. They essentially wear red buckets on their heads too. Brilliant!
Why is that brilliant, you may ask? Because it’s duplicable.
In other words, they’ve created a movement that their fans can easily follow. Anybody can wear a red bucket on their head and identify themselves as a Future Folk fan. Anybody can yell out “Hondo!” By the way, planet Hondo is where the Future Folk are from, and they often use it as a catchphrase (and it is usually met by an enthusiastic “Hondo!” from the audience).
Would this work as well for a duo that didn’t actually play great songs? Maybe not. However, it’s the combination of the humor, the music, the costumes and the catchphrase that really makes it all work.
You may have heard Derek Sivers talk about how to start a movement. That is essentially what the Future Folk have done.
The Profitability of Niche Markets
No one would really be interested in niche markets if they weren’t actually profitable, right? Well, that depends.
Some people might be in it for the money. For those people, maybe mainstream success is appealing. Maybe pleasing everyone should be their prerogative. I don’t believe pleasing everyone is even a remote possibility, but it is possible to create a massive fan base and gain mainstream recognition. If that’s what you want to do, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Some people might want to play for the sake of the art and the enjoyment that comes from creating. Maybe they could care less about how much money they would make. There’s nothing wrong with that either.
Either way, let’s put to rest the idea that niche markets aren’t profitable. That’s a ridiculous notion. If you see an opening that should be filled, fill it. There’s no telling where that could lead you. It may work, and it may not. How is that any different from not creating a niche?
On the night of December 29, 2013, I drove out to Canmore. Because I live in Calgary, I have easy access to the mountains, and Canmore – a town nestled in the Rockies – is a mere 70-to-80-minute-drive from where I live. It is a bit of a “tourist town” (not as much as Banff), but it’s still a nice getaway, even for a few hours.
I went out there to read for a while, reflect on my goals, and plan for another week. I have found that getting away from the distractions at home (which is essentially my workplace) helps me to concentrate better. I had a very productive planning session.
I must have arrived in town shortly before five o’ clock, so I knew that by the time I left town, it would be dark. I had also gone out to Canmore a week previously, so I knew that I wanted to take the back route back into Calgary. Even though it’s a longer drive, I find it quiet and relaxing. Moreover, the main highway is often overflowing with weekend traffic, and I usually try to avoid that.
So, when I started heading back, the back route was quiet as anticipated. However, it was also very dark. I was able to use my bright lights for the most part, but of course they had to be turned off any time I passed a car on the opposite side. I went slow, took my time, and did my best to keep my eyes on the road.
Unfortunately, the inevitable happened. A car passed on the opposite side, and for a brief moment I was blinded. I soon recognized an animal coming quickly coming towards me, but there was no time to react. I collided with it. It could have been a cow or a deer or an elk. Based on its size, I think it was probably a cow or an elk.
I immediately went into shock, and I wasn’t sure what had just happened. My car kept on running, so when I started to calm down, I knew that I had emerged unharmed. I began to realize that I probably did little more than annoy that beastly animal, which probably would have totaled my little Nissan Altima if I had hit it head-on.
Apparently, I had hit just the animal’s head. As I would joke later, somewhere out there, there is a cow or an elk with a really sore neck. As you can imagine, the beast left a rather sizeable impression on my windshield and took the side mirror mount right off. All things considered, the situation could have been much worse.
It’s important to take some time to learn from your mistakes. I guess I could write this situation off as an accident or an external circumstance beyond my control, but I’ve decided to see it as an opportunity to learn.
I think the main takeaway here is to avoid procrastination. There are some situations where procrastination doesn’t wreak havoc on your life, but then there are other cases where the consequences can be much more severe. In general, procrastination is not a good habit to get into.
Here are a few things I could have done beforehand to prevent this occurrence:
- I could have cleaned my windshield. That may have helped me see what was happening on the road a little better.
- I could have replaced my windshield. As you can probably imagine, I did end up having to do this a little later, and guess what? I can see much better through the new piece of glass than I was able to before.
- I could have had my eyes checked. I have noticed that I am not able to see quite as clearly in the distance as before. Night driving has also proven somewhat challenging. I have been a little tight with money since becoming debt free, but this is one of those situations that could end up costing me more at the back end than it may have cost me at the front end had I done things a little differently.
- I could have taken a different road. Even if I was able to see a little more clearly, I’m still not sure that there was any way of avoiding this accident. I wanted to take the back road because it’s a relaxing drive and there is little traffic, but I could have taken the main road like everyone else. There probably would have been less chance of me hitting an animal.
Some Final Thoughts
For those who work long hours on different electronic devices, here’s a little tip that will help you save your eyes. Not only that, but it will actually help you to sleep better at night too. Just remember to install it on all of your electronic devices. Depending on the device, you may need to find a different app or similar app.
I’m sure many of you out there are already aware of it, but some of you may not be. The app is called f.lux. It’s a lightweight app that runs in the background, and it will automatically take out the blues or the “cool” colors on your screen as your local time approaches sundown.
Of course, this isn’t great for graphic design or color-sensitive work, but there is an option to disable it for an hour, so all is well.