Why I Love the Band Train: Lessons in Engagement

August 31, 2012

Three summers ago I saw Train for the first time when they opened for John Mayer. I was familiar with the band and have very clear memories of loudly singing their 1998 hit, Meet Virginia, driving in my car.  At the time, I wasn’t a fan, per se, but I liked their music.  That all changed at that show.

First, I realized that I knew a number of songs including Drops of Jupiter and Hey, Soul Sister. As good as the songs are, that wasn’t what turned me into a fan.  What impacted me was the pure and honest level of engagement that lead singer and one of planet Earth’s sexist men, Pat Monahan provided.  Sitting in lawn seats at the PNC Arts Center in NJ, Pat “visited” with the audience who were sitting far from the stage, commenting that he had to buy the cheap seats back in the day.  I remember him taking photos with various members of the audience’s phones from the stage (something he practices today).  Everything about the performance was focused on the experience, not on his ego. It didn’t matter if you were in the first or last row, everyone mattered.

After that show, I began following Train on social media and have witnessed their ongoing conversations and active presence.  From a marketing perspective, they are pros. They have their own wine company, Save Me San Francisco and actively promote their varieties which include Drops of Jupiter and California 37 (names of their albums) through social media. Wait, does this seem self-serving? It would be if the proceeds from the wine sales didn’t go to support the charity, Family House that provides temporary housing to families of seriously ill children.  Most recently, they partnered with Ghiradelli chocolate to create Save Me San Francisco Chocolate which supports the same charity. How can you NOT love this band?

Last night was my third Train show and they did not disappoint.  Every second of the concert included the fans.  Pat is talented enough to sign autographs while never missing a note.  He invited girls (mostly kids) to join them on stage as back-up singers giving them a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  And even when an annoying woman who was NOT a kid could have ruined it for everyone, Pat gently put her in her place without being a jerk.  At one point, Pat pulled onto stage, a girl from the front to sing with him. It turns out her name is Charlotte and she has been to 2oo shows – talk about rewarding loyalty. 

Their romantic song, Marry Me, always produces a few proposals. Last night was no different and Pat stopped and acknowledged the couple who had just gotten engaged during the song.  Awwww, how romantic.

Throughout the night t-shirts were tossed into the crowd,  Pat grabbed the camera and   turned it on the audience and beach balls were bounced around like a pep rally. Everyone felt included.  At the end of the night, the band gave the most engaged fan of the night a signed guitar.  Pat walked into the crowd and pulled onto stage a 10-ish year old boy who had been rocking out all night.

As the show ended, Pat continued to sign autographs until “his people” stepped in for security reasons. I bet he would still be there signing. 

I’m not a music blogger, so I won’t go on and on about how great the vocals were or how much I like their latest album California 37.  I was happy to sing along to every song (you know you are a true fan when you know every song) and have an amazing night.  However, I couldn’t help but tell you about how I was moved by how connected Train makes their fan feel.   They are not just a band, they are experience creators.

So, let’s turn this back to marketing and events. What do you do to make your customers and attendees feel connected? Do you include as many people as possible? Do you create special experiences for your most loyal supporters? Does your brand reflect your culture?  

Oh and if you aren’t a fan of Train yet, you should be.