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How Band Fans are Innovating WOM: Sister Hazel

Sisterhazel1Ted Wright - Fizz Corp, our faithless moderator (Great moderator!)
Andy Levine - SixthMan (former manager of the band)
Ken Block - Sister Hazel lead vocalist
Mark Pruitt - Hazelnut (and journalist)

"No fan, no band" is the operational slogan for Sister Hazel. "We wanted to create a community," said Ken Block, the lead singer for the band. They started in college towns and were consciousl of that fact hat many of us form music affinities at that time in our life., For every tape they sold, they gave away another. They would drop in on fraternities at universities to invite people to the show (and do an impromptu achappela gig).

They would order pizzas for the line waiting to get into a show and even do an acoustic set for those standing in the cold.

(Back in the day, they tried to get Universal to fork over $1500 to spruce up their Web site a while back. The response: "The Web is a fad.")

They did Rock Boat: a 4-5 day cruise featuring up to 30 bands. Bands mingle. Eat dinner occaisonally. So there is a lot of contact between fans and the talent. Mark - the Hazelnut fan - was tremendous. He posted a need for a ride between shows on a message board. Andy (tour manager) sought him out at show #1 and offered him a ride on the tour bus! How totally awesome.

Hazelnuts is a fan community but other sub-communities have organically erupted like Nuts in Need.

They wanted to give something back to the fans. That's where the idea of the cruise. 400 people showed up for the cruise. It was a transforming experience for Andy as it cut away all of the worst parts of the music business.

'Hazelnut Hang' is a three day hangout in South Carolina with fans. Soon it became more of a lifestyle as they met in all of these venues with fans with constant two-way conversation.

Their marketing budgets for a Rock Boat event are miniscule (e.g. $5k) and they rely solely on WOM. They offer t-shirts, even robes with names, to alumni of the cruise to help acknoeledge fans and involve them in the experience.

They created a program called 'Hazel Virgin'. They set aside a number of tix at a show. Fans can request these tickets to bring a newbie to a show - and the tix are free! What a great way to reward fans and recruit new ones. 

But they don't like to use the word "fan." They prefer "friend" - kind of says it all.


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