« Manhattan Transfer lends playful note | Main | Luster of “Constant Star” »

June 22, 2005

An Idea as Fresh as Mom's Tupperware

Newsweek - June 20 issue

What do indie musicians and Tupperware have in common? More than you might think. Desperate to sell CDs without a major label's backing, many independent groups are taking a cue from the container giant by encouraging fans to hold "listening parties," which function a lot like Mom's Tupperware parties, only louder and, presumably, hipper.

The business model should sound familiar: fans gather their friends before an album's release (usually in a dorm or a coffee shop), play an advance copy of the album and encourage their guests to preorder the CD. Managers supply the host with promotional materials as well as order forms or directions on how to preorder from the band's Web site. The hosts not only get an advance look at the album, but for their trouble, "we swag them out," says David Derring, a manager for the Graham Colton Band (as heard on the WB's "Everwood"!). "We give them free CDs, T shirts, free tickets to concerts, that kind of thing. The kids love it."

The bands love it, too. Pre-orders count toward first-week album sales, which lead to bigger numbers and higher chart positions. Even after the release, the parties are used to bring new fans into the fold. "The best promotion a band can ever get is for a fan to talk about them," says Matt Phillips, manager of the San Diego-based band Slightly Stoopid, which is using the parties to promote its fifth album, "Closer to the Sun." "If a hard-core fan will spread the word to their community of friends, that's better than radio or MTV or anything."

Karie Belling, a stay-at-home mom of two and part-time entrepreneur, recently hosted a party in Sartell, Minn., for Tonic Sol-fa, a popular Minneapolis-based a cappella group. "After each song, we'd shut the music off and we'd talk about how everyone felt about the songs," says Belling. "A lot of my friends didn't know the group and they loved it." Thirty of her friends showed up; 15 preordered "Boston to Beijing," which will be released this week. She's just one success story: 120 people in 30 states have signed up to host Sol-fa parties. (The top 50 sellers get a free Bose sound system; the top-selling host gets a live performance from the group.) "My mom did Tupperware parties," says Tonic Sol-fa frontman Shaun Johnson. "She won a lot of prizes, so I know the power of it."

You don't win a new sound system but the excellent new Tonic Sol-fa title is available and on special at Primarily A Cappella

Posted by acapnews at June 22, 2005 9:14 PM