What I Learned – Chris Isaak at Chateau Ste Michelle

(This post is part of the “What I Learned” Series, in which I share things I picked up during different events and experiences.)

It seems like Chris Isaak has been around since I first learned to turn on a radio. He has a song that any casual music fan would recognize no matter where it was playing, a few that casual music fans would recognize. But if you are like me, you’d be hard-pressed to name 5 Chris Isaak songs if your life depended on it.

Chris Isaak also plays at Chateau Ste Michelle every year. It’s a beautiful place to see a show, but what could get 5,000 people to plunk down $50 every year for the same show, to see a show they’ve probably seen before?

Isaak split up his show by engaging in long conversations with his audience. He comes out in crazy sequins on his coat. He introduces his bandmates, sharing how they’ve been together for 32 years. He tells stories that seem like they are coming off the cuff, not some sort of pre-rehearsed monologue. By starting the show with an attitude of, “Let’s all have a good time together tonight,” he forms a bond with both the entire audience, and the each individual member of it.

Now I suspect that you have to do this if you are going to spend the better part of 32 years playing in front of crowds. You’d probably go crazy if you just trotted out on stage, played your songs, and then headed to the bus for the next city. But his interaction seems genuine, and in return he gets fans to return every year.

What I learned – The keys here are engagement, authenticity, and consistency. Isaak is a 32 year old brand that doesn’t have a ton of new products to offer up from year to year. But by making a true connection with the audience, and giving them a a personal experience, they are active customers. Plus, by distributing his product in the right venue every year, Chateau Ste Michelle, he gives his customers a way to consume the product that adds to the experience. Customers know exactly where to look for the date he’ll be coming to town. He’s not jumping from place to place and making customers do the hard work.

The result – a guy who has a few songs you’ve heard any more that you may not have, delivers a great show that leaves you satisfied and happy.

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