Category Archives: FAN CLUBS

DBCONGRESS

DIERKS BENTLEY FOR PRESIDENT! HIS CONGRESS WORKS!

     DIERKS BENTLEYTIP IT ON BACKHOME

Songwriters: Ross Copperman, Tully Kennedy, Jon Nite

DB’s future campaign song is available through iTunes: HERE

      In a shocking turn of events this week, I found a congress that actually works! No, not the one on Capitol Hill. (As if!) This one belongs to Dierks Bentley. They don’t work WHISKEY ROW SCOTTSDALEunder a dome and Goldie isn’t parked at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. When they meet, it’s usually at a concert venue. First, members of DB Congress stand together in line, often all day, so they can be first into the pit area and line up right along the stage. No opposite sides of the aisle for these members! Once their president  takes the stage, not the slightest disagreement takes place. No rebuttal necessary. They agree on absolutely everything, except maybe the set list. Perhaps what that other congress needs is to “Tip It On Back” with Dierks.

     The question keeps hovering above Music City these days, what makes something “country music?” Many want to tie it to a particular sound or style of lyrics. I think we may imagebe looking for that answer in the wrong place.  Following a few fan groups as I have recently, I’m finding a clear pattern amongst country music fans that seems to exemplify the genre. What sets them apart from other fans is the reasons they like country music and why they become devoted to certain favorites. In the rock era, there were plenty of groupies and fanatical fans, but no one would tell you they supported Motley Crue because of their exemplary character. Yeah, those four words in the same sentence – “Motley Crue” and “exemplary character,” would not have gotten me an ‘A’ on an English paper! When I spoke to the Chair of Dierks Bentley’s fan club, which is officially named ‘DB Congress,’ she couldn’t say enough about the character of the man they wholeheartedly support.

     When you say the word ‘congress,’ I can hear you groaning from here, it conjures up thoughts of nasty campaigning and contested election results. Dierks Bentley’s congress DBC-RiserTour-Charlotte-may8began to assemble because of a genuine moment between him and the current Chairwoman of the DB Congress, Ronna Clark. She’d waited in line for three hours to meet him at a large fan event in 2004. Being among the last in line after that long a wait, you’d expect the artist to be tired and dismiss you rather quickly. Dierks introduced himself (as if he needed to!), made eye contact, thanked her for waiting so long, and had a real conversation with a fan he’d just met. From that chance encounter, she became more than just a fan of Dierks Bentley, she would become one of his biggest supporters. When an artist is breaking into the business, getting those first few albums out, their fan club offerings are often haphazardly put together. Things change as fans either respond and join the club, or it falls flat and the idea is reconsidered. DB Congress formed on Dierks.com in 2007. Ronna spent some time on the message boards there before connecting with other fans and sharing her passion. In 2009, when management changed and the message board was lost, she appointed herself Chair and started dbcongress.com. As often happens when people feel as though they’ve lost their voice and connection to each other, they band together to create a stronger one.

     In order to form a more perfect union, just as those early patriots did, the DB Congress started with a preamble: “We the members of the Dierks Bentley Congress, in order to form a more perfect fan club, establish a band of brothers and sisters, ensure domestic, light, and colds for all, provide a voice for the common fans not in the fan club, promote the general welfare of our president’s career, and secure the blessings of his tremendous talents, do ordain and establish this constitution of the united fan-clubbers of DB, country music singer, songwriter, artist extraordinaire.” And boy do they mean it! When Ronna invited me to take a look at their site at dbcongress-blog header-2014http://www.dbcongress.com/, I had no idea I would find the well organized, tight-knit community of followers I found there. Their efforts are completely transparent (now there’s a concept!), compartmentalized, and efficient in working towards their clearly stated goals. They have representatives in all 50 states and in 10 countries around the world, all dedicated to the same cause. As of now, they are 777 members strong! Among the ranks, they take on various tasks and promotions and each do their part for the greater good of the end game. Maybe they should write a book called ‘How To Run a Congress for Dummies’ and I would be more than happy to deliver it to the Capitol!

     The name ‘DB Congress‘ came out of an interview Dierks had done in 2006. He referred to his fan club as being “like his congress.” He went on to say that he listens to them imageand wants them involved in the overall growth of his music and his career. Some time after his devoted fans adopted the name ‘DB Congress’ in 2009 for their efforts on dbcongress.com, Dierks showed just how much respect he has for this group by asking THEM for permission to use the term ‘DB Congress‘ for HIS official fan club online. Talk about R-E-S-P-E-C-T! What’s more impressive about this act is that it isn’t at all unlike Dierks to do such a thing. Ronna repeatedly told me about instances of Dierks interacting with fans and members of his team, treating them all as equals and NEVER as if he were anything more special than they were. May I be the first to offer to manage Dierks’ campaign should he ever decide to run for office?! Listening to her talk about Dierks Bentley was as much a character analysis as it was a music review. Of course his fans love the music, but it’s the making of that music and the man behind it that they are so proud of.

     “I Hold On,” Dierks’ latest #1 hit off his Grammy worthy new album, RISER, is a song his congress members feel represents him beautifully. “It’s Dierks to a tee,” Ronna summed up. Dierks co-wrote half the songs on the album and his core fan group says he image (2)poured a lot of himself into those lyrics. They  talk about Dierks the songwriter as much as Dierks the performer. When you put that much of your heart into the music, it’s bound to transcend the studio recording of it and manifest itself into the live show. They’ve all seen enough of Dierks’ live shows to see that transition in action. When Dierks shows up for a concert, she explained, he is completely present in the moment. It is obvious in everything he does throughout the show that, to him, there is nothing more important than making a connection with every person in that room. Not only do his songs resonate with the audience, but fans feel like they’re taking home a piece of Dierks with that ticket stub. When she said that to me, I couldn’t help thinking about a song on the album called “Back Porch.” Dierks didn’t write this one, but the way she described his concerts, it reminded me of the opening lyrics: “Ain’t no line around the corner, no security. No velvet rope, no dress code. Everybody’s V.I.P. You can wear your hat, dance in your bare feet. No credit card, no roll of cash. Just B.Y.O.B.” It sounds like Dierks approaches his concert stops as if he’s playing on someone’s back porch in each of those cities. The fans love it, and it’s obvious that he does too.

     It’s been ten years since Ronna Clark met Dierks Bentley for the first time in Nashville. She still remembers it vividly. Photo ops and autographs are fine, but a lasting impression made through a meet and greet is out of the ordinary, especially one that inspires you to devote yourself to his career milestones for ten years, 56 shows, and counting. Not only Dierks and DB Congress group shot-2did Dierks impress her, he equally impressed the other 777 members of his congress. They don’t get paychecks, free tickets, or special access to meet and greet opportunities. There aren’t any corporate sponsors, lobbyists, or billionaires lining the pockets of this congress. They met Dierks the man and discovered how talented he was. His genuineness sparked a passionate following. He earns their respect every day. He recognizes their efforts consistently and takes the time to thank them for each achievement, large or small. For their part, the DB Congress operates like a network. Their local representatives support Dierks’ interests in their respective states. They have cabinet members for the really big jobs that involve a collective effort and nationwide interests. Carrie Srebro is their chart reporter who keeps up with where Dierks’ songs are on the charts and what needs to be done to keep them moving up! Tara Joan does research and contributes to their blog. Possibly the longest fan club member, Stephanie Lanham, does graphics for the group and will be attending her 100th show next month! Their campaigns are all positive and all about promoting their president. No yard signs, nasty television ads, or robocalls from these folks. And when they set out to do something, it gets done! DIERKS BENTLEY DRUNK ON A PLANE Seriously Dierks, can we borrow your congress for awhile? Might be time for a DB Congress march on Washington and a little chillin’ on the back porch at The White House. I hear you’ve got a truck that would look just perfect in the driveway! We’d even let you reshoot the video for “Drunk On a Plane” on Air Force One. Picture that “rockin like a G6!” Consider this: we’ll change the address at The White House to 5-1-5-0 Pennsylvania Avenue. For your inauguration, we’ll host the largest DB concert ever on the National Mall (holds 1 million+) and we’ll all get a little “Sideways.” Just one request…B.Y.O.Congress.

From WAY North of NashvilleBev Miskus

Note: Anyone who joins Dierks Bentley’s fan club through http://www.dierks.com/ ???????????????????????????????automatically qualifies to be a member of http://www.dbcongress.com/. If you’re interested in promoting Dierks daily, email them at dbcongress@yahoo.com and let them know under what state to add your name. This makes you an official Representative in Dierks Bentley’s Congress! No expensive campaign or mudslinging required! In addition to their website, you can also connect with them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/DB-Congress/51994656451 and follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dbcongress.

RISER is available through iTunes: HERE

DIERKS BENTLEY RISER TOUR

Visit http://www.dierks.com/tour-dates.html for RISER TOUR and ticketing information.

DIERKS BENTLEY RISER LOGO

Just named by Taste of Country the HOTTEST TOUR OF THE SUMMER!!

©2014Bev Miskus

TOA screenshot

STAND BY ME…SUPERFANS!

     We’ve come a long way since the days of groupies and mail order fan clubs. Today there are any number of ways to connect with your favorite music artists through social media, fan clubs that offer exclusive merchandise, opportunities, and events for members only, and mega fan events like CMA Fest. Social media was by far the biggest game changer in the way artists are able to connect with their fans. The list of possibilites that are internet driven seems to increase every year. It’s easy to “follow,” “unfollow,” “like,” unlike,” “tweet,” “retweet,” “favorite,” etc, but what does that really mean? If someone has 5 million “followers” on twitter, does that mean there are 5 million people around the world who “follow” their every tweet and spend their days devoting time and money to this demi-god? Let’s hope not! I’ve spent some quality time on twitter (I swear that’s possible!) this past year and twitter behavior patterns are interesting to say the least. You can tell a lot more than you might think about someone based on their twitter personality, or lack thereof. You can also tell a lot about what type of fan someone is based on the various fan sites that exist, both virtually and in real life.

     Country music has a reputation for attracting a loyal fan base. Country lyrics are all about connecting with their audience. They make people feel something they can relate to, otherwise it’s just performance art. Subsequently, when you feel connected to someone, you tend to care about that person or group and you become invested in their well being. How invested is where fan groups come into play. Every artist who reaches a certain level has a fan club they operate. You join via their online website, pay the member fee if there is one, and gain access to all the perks and benefits they offer. All this exclusivity is generally not free, so potential fan club members have to decide if what they get is worth what they’ll be paying. In addition, if you’re looking for free fandom opportunities, there are now Facebook sites as well as twitter accounts run by, well, we don’t know who they’re run by. In my researching fan sites for the big names in country music, it looks like the foreclosure market hit Facebook and Twitter as well. There are numerous abandoned fan sites on both those social media entities that look bleaker than the estimated longevity of Kim and Kanye’s marriage. Concerts long forgotten, contests long over, pictures nobody recognizes anymore, litter these sites like relics. It seems our ever decreasing attention spans affect our fan behavior. Fan today, “unfollow” tomorrow. If someone better comes along or our favorite falls from grace, the concert tshirt becomes a rag and we move on.

     Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, there are usually competing sites looking for fan followings. On Facebook, it’s easier to determine who’s running the site and what their motivation is. Sometimes one Facebook page will be the clear fan favorite and wins out over all the others. On Twitter, it gets interesting. I noticed over time that certain fan groups “favorite” and “retweet” frequently and interact through postings on a regular basis. When I decided to launch this summer Battle of the Bands contest, I thought it would be great to get the fan groups involved. I started messaging some of the fan groups I thought were most active to see if they would be willing to talk to me about what they do and how they got started. Again, I found that many of the sites had been abandoned, their last activity being years ago. Some of the ones who were active, did not respond to my request. The bigger the name, the less likely to find an active large fan group on twitter. Lots of pledging their eternal love accounts and marriage proposals, but very little real fan following without illicit intentions. As the stars got a little less bright, I found two gems.

PARMALEE FAMALEE

     Parmalee Famalee is a fan group supporting the band Parmalee, and when I say “supporting,” I mean intent on taking them to new heights. When you commit yourself as a fan group to someone who isn’t yet a household name, the tasks you take on are very different than they would be if you were a fan of Justin Timberlake. Parmalee released their debut album, Feels Like Carolina, last December. Are they a new band? Hardly! The four guys who make up Parmalee have been together since 2001. In today’s music world, getting a career off the ground takes more than a village. Sometimes it takes moving mountains, and that’s where Parmalee Famalee comes in. Parmalee’s record label is Stoney Creek Records. As a record label, they have certain responsibilities in releasing and promoting the album. Does someone from the record label call or tweet radio stations on a daily basis and request Parmalee songs? I doubt it. But their Famalee does!

me and parmalee

(The founder of the Parmalee Famalee, Shari, with Josh, Matt, Barry, and Scott.)

     When I requested an interview with whoever was behind the Parmalee Famalee’s twitter account, I had no idea I would find Shari. The guys from Parmalee are from North Carolina. Shari lives in LA. Not exactly neighbors. Her first exposure to Parmalee’s music was hearing their debut single, “Musta Had a Good Time,” on the radio in 2011. She had this to say about that experience: “The song was so tight – fun and catchy, but with a great lead vocal and first class musicianship.” *(Please see the note at the bottom of this article about Parmalee’s producers, New Voice Entertainment.) She was so impressed by the talent they had and how polished they sounded as a group, that she contacted their record label to ask if Parmalee had any support, like a  fan club. They didn’t, so Shari became the first member of the Parmalee Famalee! Her first live Parmalee show didn’t happen until 2012. At the Buck Owens Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, CA, Shari finally got to see Parmalee in concert and meet the guys she’d committed her support to. When I spoke to her, it was evident from the beginning of our conversation that her investment in Parmalee was not a selfish one. She talked about the guys in the band and their families and all the people who have supported them along the way. The conversation kept going back to the talent Parmalee has and a strict focus on promoting the group coast to coast. I learned very quickly by talking to her that she is organized and fierce in her determination to see Parmalee succeed beyond their wildest expectations!

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(This song is climbing the charts thanks to the Parmalee Famalee’s efforts!)

     There’s a lot of trial and error involved when you set about creating a fan following and Shari’s efforts have evolved over the past couple of years. Parmalee Famalee has a Facebook presence that operates as a closed group. The reason for this is to attract only those fans who are committed to the same goals as the other Famalee members. Currently, the group is made up of actual family members of the guys and those who’ve been adopted by the Famalee! They decided to call themselves Famalee because that is exactly how they work together, minus the awkward holiday get togethers! On their Facebook page is everything you can do to help promote the band plus shared experiences and events involving the guys. The group on Facebook is 1,444 members strong, and I do mean STRONG! If you’d like to join the group on Facebook, simply send them a request to join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/parmaleefamalee/. In addition to their Facebook presence, they have a twitter account at https://twitter.com/ParmaleeFamalee. “Follow” them and you’ll receive updates about the band and reminders of how you can help promote them. Shari has put together a media base list that is enviable to say the least! She has collected resource outlets through which to shop Parmalee’s music nationwide. If Shari were in charge of ground troops, the world would be a peaceful place! If you’d like to see her amazing handiwork, check out the Parmalee Famalee blog site she’s created. This is a Parmalee information vault, complete with everything you could possibly need to call yourself a superfan of the group. For a lesson in fan blogging, or to support Parmalee, take a look: http://parmaleefamalee.blogspot.com/p/links.html.

     When I first had the idea for creating a summer-long contest involving the bands on the road, it came out of a feature article I’d done on Derek Williams, guitarist for Jake Owen, and Rich Redmond, drummer for Jason Aldean. Once voting was set up, I noticed that The Owen Army was responding to this effort consistently and enthusiastically. Their twitter account, @TheOwenArmy, was appearing frequently in my “favorite” and “retweet” notifications. Thinking about this article, I decided to ask the owner of the account for an interview. Meeting, albeit by phone and lots of DMs, co-founder of @TheOwenArmy and theowenarmy.com, Jaime Loomis, was like getting a present you never expected. For Jake Owen, his army is truly the gift that keeps giving!

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(Founders of The Owen Army, Jessi McCorkel and Jaime Loomis.)

     Jake Owen is originally from Vero Beach, FL. Jaime Loomis lives in Connecticut. The other co-founder of The Owen Army is Jessi McCorkel who lives near Knoxville, TN. The two Jake enthusiasts met online through Jake’s fan club site. When they discovered their similar passion for promoting all things Jake, The Owen Army was established in 2011. Again, this is not a selfish effort. The mission of The Owen Army is this:

TOA postcard _2

You’ll notice the words “dedicated to country artist, Jake Owen” in there. Those words completely describe their amazing efforts on his behalf. Notice the respect for Jake that comes through in that phrase. Many fan groups say they’re “dedicated” to certain things, the object of that dedication often being questionable. Not here. What drives these two women and the members of The Owen Army is their determination to support an artist who they believe in as a music professional and, perhaps more importantly, as a man. They describe Jake as being constantly appreciative of his fans and their efforts to lift up his career aspirations. He engages with his army members regularly and treats them with the same respect they show him. I was told that the man you see on stage and in live appearances elsewhere, is the man you’ll meet on the street in Nashville. In other words, someone you’d want to work tirelessly for.

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(The official Owen Army postcard!)

     I was blown away by what The Owen Army does as described to me by Jaime. This is NOT a casual effort! Take a look at their website and you’ll see what I mean: http://www.theowenarmy.com/. On it are links to all things Jake, links to radio stations where you can request Jake’s songs, an Army store with current items available for purchase, and all the news and information about Jake Owen you need to make you a true recruit! This is definitely a labor of love. Jaime and Jessi take care of their army members as well as they support Jake. They have worked with Jake’s management team to secure merchandise that is given away to members who donate to Jake’s charity during their monthly fundraising events. The biggest give-aways happen annually in August, Jake’s birthday month, and in November as an end-of-year, pre-Christmas thank you to the army! Just this past November they were able to give away a signed Jake Owen guitar! How cool is that?! Along with their donors, Jaime and Jessi’s efforts involve raising money for The Jake Owen Foundation. This is Jake’s official charity and includes St. Jude’s, Autism Speaks, and Indian River County. The Owen Army hosts events and activities that augment Jake’s personal efforts to raise funds for these worthwhile causes. You can also donate through http://www.gofundme.com/theowenarmy. You may purchase items through The Owen Army, the profits from which are donated to the foundation. Their efforts thus far have raised $15,000 for The Jake Owen Foundation! These women are a force of nature! Each year, at Jake’s end-of-year charity benefit in Vero Beach, Jaime and Jessi get to present the check to him personally! Not a bad meet and greet! You’d be hard pressed to find an army more motivated, organized, and enthusiastic than this one. If being in the music industry these days is like going into battle, Jake is in good hands! If you’re a Jake Owen fan, this is your tribe!! Join The Owen Army online at  http://www.theowenarmy.com/Contact_Us.html, connect with them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheOwenArmy, and follow them on twitter at https://twitter.com/TheOwenArmy.

     We throw the the word “super” around a lot these days. It indicates, by definition, something larger than the norm. The term “superfan” is defined as “a person who shows a great deal of enthusiasm for something or someone.” Does the myriad of opportunities we now have to “follow” our favorite stars on social media, attend their concerts weekly if we so choose, and buy an endless supply of their merchandise make us all superfans? Sounds more like super consumerism and super stalking. Mostly, we’re fickle fans. We dole out our favoritism based on what we receive in return. A perceived “relationship” with our favorite star can quickly come apart like the petals of a daisy – he follows me, he unfollows me; he likes me, he unlikes me. Being a fan doesn’t mean what it once did. If you were a Zeppelin fan or a Stones fan, you’ll go to your grave in that old concert tshirt with a vinyl album clutched to your chest and walk right up that “Stairway To Heaven,” hoping that heaven means a Zeppelin reunion. (ask Jake, he knows! #1972)

     This is why the Parmalee Famalee and The Owen Army are such finds. That kind of long term, committed dedication, without expecting a big payout in return, is indeed rare. These true superfans don’t get paid for what they do. They selflessly invest their time and money in supporting and helping to build the career milestones they hope their favorite artists will have. Their satisfaction is in their beneficiaries success. Why do they do it? As I talked to both Jaime and Shari, the words that kept coming up were character and appreciation. It was gratifying to them to be doing something positive for someone they felt was deserving of their dedication. That’s also rare. When budding careers are in their infancy, potential stars are overly appreciative of every helping hand they can find. They reach a stronger foothold and the appreciation comes out a little less often. They reach a pinnacle and, at best, it becomes a patronizing “thx” in a tweet, most likely because their management team reminded them to. Starting a fan club, “famalee,” or an army from the grassroots level, is a daunting task. Record labels don’t pay for this support and rarely reward their success, no matter how deep their pockets become as a result of that charity. Keith Urban rewarded his superfans with an all expense paid trip, exclusive gifts, and probably what meant more to them than anything else, quality time with him. THAT’S impressive! That is character and class personified. I can see Jake Owen doing the same thing someday. If you’ve seen Jake amongst his fans, he glows with appreciation. Watch Parmalee with theirs, same thing. Their fan groups won’t splinter because they’re too deeply rooted in the cause. What unites true superfans with superstars is the perceived commitment they make to each other. It’s easy to find VIP who want to rub elbows with you once you’ve made it to the top. But it’s the people who took up your cause when no one knew your name that will ultimately stand by you, come what may. Congratulations Parmalee and Jake Owen! You both have superfans! And I know the superfans of Keith Urban will agree with me when I say, KU…you ROCK!

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(Keith Urban and his elite group of superfans!!)

From WAY North of NashvilleBev Miskus

Call it a Parmalee Famalee reunion! These pics came from some proud relatives!

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(Jaime Loomis & Jessi McCorkel at the Riverside Cafe in Vero Beach.)

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http://www.riversidecafe.com/

(Where it all started for Jake Owen! There’s no place like home!!)

Tully Kennedy, Kurt Allison, David Fanning, and Rich Redmond

 (Tully Kennedy, Kurt Allison, David Fanning, and Rich Redmond, Nashville, TN)

*Parmalee’s debut album, Feels Like Carolina, was produced by New Voice Entertainment. NV3[1]The four production phenoms that make up that group are Kurt Allison, David Fanning, Tully Kennedy, and Rich Redmond. The combination of Parmalee’s talent and the expertise of these producers made Feels Like Carolina the exceptional debut album it is. For something to sound so good on the radio that someone like Shari would commit herself to the success of a group, entirely based on that one song, speaks volumes about the mastery of that production. If you’re looking for top-notch producers, look no further. You can find contact information for them here: http://newvoiceentertainment.com/index.php or here: http://richredmond.com/. The Wizard of Oz had the Emerald City. The Wizards of Nashville perform their magic in Music City. You can follow the yellow brick road or follow The Highway to hear their creations. That’s Sirius XM on your radio or Hwys. 65, 40, or 24 in your car!

©2014Bev Miskus