Dave Matthews has long been one of the most influential artists in rock and perhaps one of its most polarizing, in a low-key way. And while the popularity portion of that equation is unquestionable, in short, the Dave Matthews Band or DMB is consistently one of the most successful concert draws in the country and has won six No. 1 albums, the polarization portion has recently shown signs of a positive thaw.
In early 1991, when vocalist / guitarist Dave Matthews wanted to put some songs he had written on tape, the Dave Matthews Band formed in Charlottesville , Virginia. He wanted to bring in some instrumental support to give his musical ideas more substance instead of only recording himself with a guitar.
In the local Charlottesville music scene, Matthews found assistance in drummer Carter Beauford and saxophonist LeRoi Moore, who were both accomplished jazz musicians. 16-year-old musical prodigy Stefan Lessard came on board to play bass based on the suggestion of distinguished local jazz guru John D’earth. Keyboard player Peter Griesar (who left the band after a few years) and talented and classically trained violinist Boyd Tinsley completed the lineup.
The band’s first public performances were at a Middle East Children’s Alliance Benefit at Trax Nightclub in March and at the City of Charlottesville’s Earth Day Festival in April. The first official gig for the newly conceived Dave Matthews Band was May 11, 1991, at a private party held on the rooftop of the pink warehouse on South Street in downtown Charlottesville. Regular gigs soon followed at two local clubs – Eastern Standard and Trax Nightclub.
They soon became popular in colleges around the States around the late 90s and a series of concerts ensued. The rest is history as they so or is it. Well, the band seemed to have managed to not only stay afloat but doing very well in the face of online music through touring. According to Slate, the band had 62 dates in 50 North American cities playing to almost 1.3 million fans in 2010. That was more than any other musical artist in North America, and DMB also traveled to South America and Europe to boot. Since 1992, DMB has performed close to 1,700 shows.
DMB has played the concert circuit wisely. They don’t have a lot of expensive frills, as in Lady Gaga’s over-the-top extravagant stage productions. Instead, the Dave Matthews Band features “the jams and the fans.” That means the band can keep its ticket prices in the more reasonable $60 range instead of $100 per seat for a Lady Gaga concert. DMB also does a tidy business in merchandise sales, reportedly scooping around $200,000 per day when they’re on tour.
DMB also takes care of its loyal fans, according to Slate: “It offers a high proportion of plum tickets to fan-club members and offers them tons of freebies and special deals online.”
In fact, DMB has taken a lesson from the Grateful Dead, the legendary Sixties band that may not have made many recordings but built a (literal) following because of its public accessibility. “And,” says Slate, “they courted their fans, treating the concert like a service rather than a commodity, and their fans like members of a community rather [than] purchasers of a product.”
Slate points out that it could be touring with the decline of record sales that “will inevitably anchor the entire music industry,” particularly because “the touring company has tripled in size,” even as music sales have been shrinking.
What’s more, their original fans have become older with higher disposable incomes and ready to relive memories (remember those people in colleges in the 1990s). That’s the beauty that comes with music.
The other thing that is working for DMB is their strategy to engage and continue to engage their fan club. It’s what you call a tribe. There are those who hate their music but those that love them, swear by it and hence, stand by the band. To give DMB credit they continue to introduce new albums and songs to pour new fans back through the funnel. Enjoy the music below.
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