Posted on Jun 15 by Steve
He’s only played one other festival in his long history of touring the world.
So why was 57 year-old Bruce Springsteen on stage at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on Saturday night in Tennessee?
Bruce can play any arena in any city on any given night and pretty much guarantee a sell-out crowd of fans who love his music, sing along to every song, and let him keep the profits.
So why did Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band choose to play the Saturday night slot at a festival known for appealing to a generation once-removed from the singer’s glory days?
Did Bruce want to introduce his music to a new generation of fans? I doubt it. Bruce doesn’t need a new generation of fans. He’s well aware that his days putting hits on the charts are long gone. He is still an extremely relevant artist, no question. But he won’t be sitting on the Top 40 chart alongside Lady GaGa and Pitbull any time soon.
Only Bruce knows for sure why he chose to play Bonnaroo, but I think there are a few answers.
* Bruce has something to say, and he probably sensed a great chance to say it to today’s civic-minded youth who value authentic messages like the ones in his songs. They may not rush out and download the entire Springsteen catalog, but they may walk out of the show feeling a sense of optimism and empowerment and community. At this point in Bruce’s career, that’s probably more important to him than a few dollars.
* The publicity surrounding Bruce Springsteen playing Bonnaroo was far greater than Bruce could have received playing any other venue that evening. When Bruce played the half time show at the Super Bowl earlier this year, the very fact that he performed in that kind of environment created significant talk.
* While not a likely venue for a Springsteen concert, Bonnaroo has a reputation for the eclectic. This year, Bruce shared the bill with a much-anticipated Phish reunion, Snoop Dogg, Merle Haggard, and Erykah Badu. So for the concert organizers, this probably wasn’t a big a stretch as it was for traditional Springsteen fans. Eclectic is part of their mission.
How does all of this relate to branding your business or product?
1. Do things for the right reasons, not neccessarily for profitable reasons, and profits will come. Bruce Springsteen played Bonnaroo to share his message at a time when thousands of receptive young ears were ready to hear it. Bruce sang about life in hard times and working together for the common good, messages that resonate well today. If the performance sells a few thousand downloads on iTunes, that’s just a nice bonus for Bruce.
2. Put your usual message in an unusual context, and people will notice. Bruce Springsteen has been playing live since the early 70′s, and he has been on tour across North America all year. But by playing his usual show in an unusual environment, he has once again gotten people talking. They notice. That’s incredibly powerful.
3. Align yourself with those whose needs match yours, and benefit from the collective power. Bonnaroo benefits from Bruce. Bruce benefits from Bonnaroo. Everybody wins. Who or what could you align yourself with to create mutual benefit?
CNN has a nice collection of Bonnaroo photos here. The Bonnaroo website also offers up a great gallery of photos and videos.