Be There Culture

Smirnoff ran a series of commercials with the message “Be There” that revealed a lifestyle of spontaneous and apparently very cool people who hold impromptu parties. Other than trying to convince you to drink their alcohol, Smirnoff was touching on that “you had to be there” mentality that people often use to describe sporting events, concerts, and parties.

There is something special about the “you had to be there” mentality. It is used to describe events that will never be replicated again, that were so unique and excellent that people in attendance are viewed as special by their peers just for being there. These events are often exclusive in some way, sometimes spontaneous, and always epic. Furthermore, they are often small gatherings and they leave outsiders searching for the next one, hoping to “be there” when it happens.

Have you ever experienced a “you had to be there” event that you can only describe with a few words, a lost-in-space gaze, and a gentle smirk to go along with it? The last one I can remember was at a Nickel Creek concert in Kentucky. After the show, the band started milling around outside the bus as they always did. Glen Phillips was there and the instruments came out. A jam session proceeded, with about 30 fans standing around shouting out requests, laughing, and taking pictures. Then the moonshine made an appearance. This quickly became the most special concert I had ever been to. Not because of the show itself, but because of the intimate “you had to be there” moment afterward.

I wonder about the “be there” mentality in live music. Certainly the early punk scene had this type of mystique in its early heyday, and I think the current and always evolving underground music scene still does. Bands try and create it with surprise guest appearances at their shows; maybe Black Eyed Peas comes out of nowhere at a Jay-Z concert and the crowd goes nuts as the musicians put on a collaborative remix of a song that had never been done before. Or maybe backstage the headliner has a jam session with the opening act that no one but the bands themselves are there to experience.

Smirnoff invested their brand platform in the “Be there” image. I think musicians can too. There is something special about even the opportunity for a “be there” moment, one that I think can drive ticket sales. I’m talking about an atmosphere where people go to shows, get there early and wait around after, just hoping to catch a glimpse of that “be there” moment. They go not because they really want to be there, but because they don’t want to not be there in case something big happens. This is a way for people to rise above just being passive fans. The question is, then, how can you create “be there” experiences that leave people buzzing afterward and searching for the next one?

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