A few days ago I was reading a blog post on NJ.com called Bruce Plays Hope Show in Redbank NJ and I read a paragraph that sums up the current marketing of my rock star Bruce Springsteen:
There was very little buzz around the Jersey Shore about Bruce playing this show this year. He did play it in 2006, did not play it last year, and most people I talked to didn't even bring it up that we would see him this year. Of course it was a possibility, but when a friend called me at 5 p.m. today and said "Bruce is playing tonight" I was genuinely surprised.
I've been a little critical of my rock star as of late, but hey I can have my own opinion right? I guess what bothers me the most is that there seems to be extremely little marketing to support his music, even if it has taken a turn for the worse. Basically, I believe that Bruce on his own has hit his base of support too many times and that he is doing precious little to get them back or embrace new technology. Simply here's what I think has happened to his fan base.
- The real oldtimers are well pretty old right now. If you were a fan say going back to 1975 you are probably in your mid-50s and maybe even 60. How relevant is Bruce in your life now? How often are you going to just go out and follow him around like you used to? 10 years ago you and the second group were the buzz down the shore.
- If you are like me and joined the Springsteen fan base in 1984, you are now in your 40s and less likely to follow him around blindly or just go out and purchase music that just doesn't seem as good.
- Since Born in The USA Bruce has seemed to go out of his way to not embrace his fame, following that album up with Tunnel of Love (a great CD but not something that's going to increase a fan base). Bruce then fires the E Street Bad, moves to LA, and produces Human Touch and Lucky Town again not exactly CDs to grow the base. Then Greatest Hits and Ghost of Tom Joad. Basically, other than The Rising and the E Street Reunion Tour, Bruce has done little to add new fans into a base that is growing older and moving on.
- Human Touch tour in MSG for a benefit show Bruce calls some fans that boo a bunch of rude mother fuckers when a different singer is brought up on stage. That show ends abruptly at 3 hours but you leave that show knowing that Bruce was pissed at a vocal minority and probably cut it short (I was at that show).
- Speaking of Ghost of Tom Joad, that became known as the shut the fuck up tour because Bruce demanded that the concerts be quiet as he sang.
- At a Rising Show in Atlantic City Bruce tells fans that a few of them are crazy with the way they could interpret songs like Empty Sky (I was at the show).
- At a Devils and Dust show in NJ Bruce talks back to fans when one of them tries to yell down that the speaker is out. Bruce thinking back to GOTJ believes he is being heckled and is rude back; I never noticed or heard an apology when Bruce is told what was really happening.
- Bruce than supports John Kerry and Moveon.org in 2004, pumps out a tribute CD to a known communist, and then releases Magic with its political tones and supports Obama. Also, let's not forget the preaching from stage. Finally following the Obama win, Bruce is now excited to put out more political music - witness the following from a memo found on his site
Basically, Bruce has not had a serious infusion of diehard fans since the Born in the USA days and has done much to hit back. Plus by being so one sided in political viewpoints, you will eventually marginalize your available base of people to draw fans from and take away some of the passion from your die hard Republican fans. Look no matter how impressive Obama's win was, roughly 50% of the people voted for him and 50% did not. Plus the older you were the less likely you were to vote for Obama. B
ruce has turned off large percentages of diehard fans and not replaced them. This is similar to what happened with my favorite Christmas Tree Farm when they couldn't plant replacement trees.
What can Bruce do? Well perhaps put out music that appeals to all political views but if that isn't in him, he needs to embrace the younger generation of fans and use the internet to communicate with them. That means less emails and more social networking outreach. That means widgets and more YouTube videos. Seriously Bruce if you're really committed to your liberal side, stop trying to fake that your music is apolitical. Just become the Keith Olbermann of Rock Music and market yourself that way. Go after the Obama voters with new internet marketing tools.