That connection is precisely why three music-savvy Baltimore natives created Marquee Mobile, a free app that rewards fans for checking into concerts.
“The idea is, you’ve got this growing fan base; how do you engage it?” asked Brandon Chiat, one of the app’s creators.
When fans check into a venue or show, they are rewarded in some way. In July, Marquee is working with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, who are performing every Wednesday at The 8×10. Every fan that checks in to a show using Marquee gets a free recording of that night’s show. Two check-ins each night win free tickets to the next week’s show, and five winners at the end of the month will receive a grand prize package with a T-shirt, signed poster, pin and koozie. The more fans check in, the more chances they have to win.
The app is still in a test phase, and Chiat and his partners are looking closely at feedback and how fans use the app. It first launched at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, where its creators said fans recognized its value.
“We’re at a renaissance in the music industry, and bands and artists are finally starting to say, ‘We’re not making money by selling music, let’s figure out ways to add revenue streams and engage our fan base,’” said Ethan Rosenberg, a Baltimore native who lives in New Orleans and is one of the app’s creators.
Where Is It Going?
Although there has been a slight increase in the sales of vinyl in recent years, some fear that the digital world has degraded the value of music.
“I think what’s happened is, even if they’re huge fans of music, the product itself has become very devalued and sort of taken for granted as something that should be handed to them,” Jacobs said.
Johnson, who has been in the music industry for 35 years, first as a musician and record producer before becoming a lawyer, feels that music isn’t as important to people as it used to be, when themes in politics and culture were directly reflected in music.
“Music was something people looked to for inspiration and meaning in their lives, and it was very prominent, and that has changed,” he said.
But the good news is that while it may look painful from the inside, fans have access to more music than ever, closer connections to artists, live performances are continuing to evolve — and the technology is only enhancing these elements.
For the artists though, it is a battle of constantly staying ahead of the game.
“The fundamentals are the same in the sense that it takes talent and hard work and good material, and the longevity really goes to the artists that have those ingredients,” Johnson said. “But the way the industry rewards success and the way that success can happen or not has changed quite a bit.”
“Music has always been a staple of Jewish [prayer] services, going way back to Temple times when they had instruments and an orchestra in the Temple of the Levites,” said Cantor Thom King of Beth El Congregation.
Most parts of the service were chanted to a melody, led by the cantor, or chazzan.
Instruments were added during the Reformation and Age of Enlightenment eras.
“By the time Jews came over to the United States, music was a very important part of Jewish life,” King said.
In recent decades, traditional music has been combined with popular music, something King thinks appeals to a new generation of Jews that grew up listening to certain styles of music. It started with Shlomo Carlebach, who was known as “the singing rabbi” and is credited as one of the most prominent religious songwriters. That tradition was continued by Debbie Friedman, who is most well-known for her “Mi Shebeirach” melody. Her music can be heard across the religious spectrum, from reform to Orthodox services.
But music hasn’t just impacted religious Jewish life; secular Jewish music has played a significant role in Jewish life.
Klezmer, for example, came about in 15th century Eastern Europe, developed by Ashkenazi Jews. Klezmer consists mostly of dance songs for celebrations, with lyrics often in Yiddish.
Tin Pan Alley, music that came out of New York in the late 19th and early 20th century, was dominated by the Jewish people, and had a long-lasting effect on popular music in the United States.
Jewish people wrote and published thousands of songs. This legacy lives on, with a lot of Jewish people still in the music and entertainment business, King said.
Has the intersection of popular music and traditional music taken away from the religiosity of the service? While it’s a thin line, King said he does not think so.
The service shouldn’t be a form of entertainment, but music that people can tap their feet to does help reel them in, he said.
“It’s a narrow-minded person who doesn’t see that people can be brought closer to God by any type of music,” King said.
There’s no doubt that Judaism can enhance any relationship. Whether it be a business partnership or friendship, being Jewish is a shared experience that can enhance an interpersonal connection.
The same goes for the music industry.
“When you find out another musician or colleague is Jewish, you feel like you already know each other in some way,” said Cris Jacobs.
That instant kinship made his former band, The Bridge, very comfortable when they made their last record with Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin. The first time they met him, Jacobs and mandolin player Kenny Liner perked up when they heard Berlin’s friend Jeff Saltzman would be engineering the album.
“[We said], ‘Sounds like a member of the tribe,’ and [Berlin] said ‘Me too,’” Jacobs said. “We instantly connected on that, and I definitely feel like that is a deep connection we all share.”
For some, that connection has led to jobs, even years down the road.
Dave Weissman, a publicist who works with Baltimore-area promoter All Good Presents, met one of his future clients when he was 10.
“In 1986, I went to a Jewish summer camp in Missouri called Camp Sabra, and my 16-year-old counselor was Robert Koritz, the future drummer of the Dark Star Orchestra,” Weissman said.
He started his own publicity company after college, working with various bands and festivals. He kept in touch with Koritz, and in 2002, when his Grateful Dead tribute band needed a publicist, the two made a deal over sushi.
Koritz said the camp connections are extremely important to him to this day, and the experiences he had then prepared him for life on the road. Dark Star Orchestra plays more than 100 shows each year.
“Being on a tour bus is like a camp cabin on wheels,” Koritz said. “You’re in this cabin going down the road with 12 people and you’re learning how to live in a group dynamic, group setting.”
Schon, guitarist for Baltimore jam band Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, started booking concerts in high school at the Mitchell David Teen Center in Pikesville.
“That was what got me going on the whole production side of the music world,” he said.
Marc Shapiro is a JT staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org