w/ Tom Crowley and the Speakers, Darian Cunning. Sat., Jan. 26, 8 p.m. The Bijou Theatre, 275 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport. (203) 332-3228. thebijoutheatre.com. $12.
Anyone trying to make it in the music business these days knows that you have to diversify if you want to succeed: You've got to master your instrument and your songwriting, of course, but you also need to know how to book your own shows, how to tour, how to run successful social media campaigns, how to do your own P.R., how to make videos, how to make a website, and whatever else comes up that keeps your fans and potential fans engaged.
It's much like that Mitch Hedberg joke about how in comedy one is expected to have a set of skills (like acting in TV shows) only vaguely related to the craft at hand that one worked so hard to be good at. "Alright you're a cook... can you farm?," was the punchline. Look it up; it's hilarious the way he tells it.
Anyway, in the modern music business, everyone's got to learn to farm.
Mike Falzone is the local poster boy for finding/creating one's own niche and working tirelessly to make it work. He's been performing music for 13 years now, but it's his more recent blend of music and comedy that's given him an edge. Mainly via his videos. His YouTube channel showcasing both abilities has over 50,000 subscribers and 4 million views.
"I think when you perform for that long, you start to find a voice and a style that fits your personality," says Falzone. "It's really just me talking more than anything else. I feel like anyone can get up there, play a few songs, and hope for the best. If people are going to spend their time and money on me, I have to give them a show. I'd much rather get someone saying, 'That guy with the guitar, he said some ridiculous shit up there, huh?' Maybe even have them quoting the show when they leave rather than saying, 'Yeah that guy with the guitar was pretty good' only to forget my name as soon as they unlock their car."
Falzone's latest album Dirty Tinfoil Mixtape was released on a label called DFTBA (which stands for Don't Forget to be Awesome) that embraces and encourages his multidisciplinary approach. DFTBA also released Falzone's (funny) book, Never Stop Shutting Up, a collection of his advice that "no one asked for."
"When I started on YouTube, I was mainly doing covers and trying to get my name out there as a musician," he says. "Like thousands of other musicians on the site, I was always battling for views, likes, notoriety, etc. For whatever reason, I started talking to the camera and the audience responded to that in a completely different and, frankly, surprising way. Once I saw that I could be myself rather than cover other people's material, I was in."
For a sample of Falzone being funny to preview his show at the Bijou Theatre this Saturday night, search YouTube (where else?) for "fun ways to talk to liars" (127,000+ views). For his music, try "You've Got Me Thinkin'" (about 20,000). Also on the bill will be Tom Crowley and the Speakers and Darian Cunning, a local trifecta in a beautiful old theater for only 12 bucks.
"Video is the most powerful way to promote yourself today," Falzone says. "Hands down. You can really connect with your audience when you're speaking to them through a camera. Facebook events are white noise to people. Facebook and Twitter updates on what you are doing quickly become annoying spam for your audience. There's an art to finding balance and retaining your audience... I absolutely feel, unless you have built your audience before the year 2000, you have a duty to make the effort to connect across multimedia. If you build your own audience, you can do anything. If performers realize that early, they will be unstoppable."
It's a liberating concept, really. If artists all officially stop caring what labels want and what other people expect and start doing what they want to do, there could be a golden age of art and music in the not too distant future. Mike Falzone is happily ahead of the curve.
"After 28 years I am thankful to be making my living entirely from entertainment," he says. "I perform, I have my YouTube channel, I host a morning show for Waywire called TweetTap, I wrote a book, which was also released by DFTBA, I make videos for others, and I'm alive... which is my favorite part of the whole thing."