In this podcast you’ll discover:
- How the band got together.
- Where they got their first gig.
- How the band now provides them with the majority of their income.
- How they made such quick progress and achieve 70 shows within 3 years of forming.
- The types of clients they targeted that helped them achieve their success.
- Their take on playing public bar, pub and club shows.
- How and why they managed to get the entertainment agencies ‘onside’.
- The tools they used that help build the lucrative relationships they have with entertainment agencies.
- How focusing on one niche style and genre has helped them achieve their success.
- How they leverage content from every show they play and use it to their advantage on social media.
- How an everyday rehearsal provides them with valuable content for social media.
- The methods and techniques they use to work so well together that helps them secure bookings.
- Their plans for international growth.
Listen to the Podcast:
Brad: I’m really delighted to have on the podcast today Dan Graham and Pat Burbridge from a band called “The Blueyays.” They are a rock ‘n roll band based out of London in the UK. I came across them in my work in LM2 Entertainment. I’ve actually booked them for a client. They were that good.
I was having a chat with Dan, and they are doing some really great things. They’ve made such a huge amount of progress in the last three years or so, which they’ll talk us through. I thought, let’s get them on. I love the idea of band working in the niche and having success. I think it’s really good strategy.
Guys, how are you?
Dan: Good. Thanks. Brad, how are you?
Pat: Very well. Thank you.
Brad: Good. Do you want to just introduce yourselves? Dan, do you want to start off and tell us a little bit about yourself for a few moments, and then we can move on to Pat?
Dan: Yes. Sure. I’m Dan. I played drums in the band and sort of co-created it with AJ Dean who’s the lead singer. I’ve been drumming since I was about 16, I would say.
Brad: You’re how old now?
Dan: I’m 31 now.
Dan: Did quite a few of rock ‘n rock musicals in the theater world, which is how I met Pat, Christine, and AJ. The things have just gone from there, and now we’re three years on and doing pretty well.
Brad: Pat, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Pat: I’m Pat. I play guitar and keyboard in the band. I’ve been playing guitar since I was about 13. Like Dan said, we’ve done a lot of rock ‘n roll musicals together. That’s really how the Bluejays came about.
Brad: What kind of shows are you working on?
Pat: We did the main show that we’re all involved in was a show called “Dreamboats and Petticoats,” which we all did at various stages on tour around the UK and in the west. It’s a jukebox musical where the cast are all playing the music as well. We were employed as actor/musicians. We were on stage as characters in the show, but also playing the music of the show, playing this sort of late ‘50s, early ‘60s rock ‘n roll stuff.
Brad: Were you actors first or a musician first?
Pat: I think the majority of people that came into that show would say that they were actors first. I think, obviously, there’s a strange kind of thing where, obviously, it looks like you are an actor, but it also looks like you’re just as much a musician. It’s hard to really separate the two in that respect.
I don’t know. What do you think, Dan?
Dan: I think it’s mixed. It varies, really. I just go into theater mostly because my parents, that’s what they did as their careers, so I didn’t have proper acting training. I didn’t, and just found myself doing these shows. In what show you do, I think it’s sort of, some relies more on you being more of a musician than an actor, and some, they prefer you to be both. It varies from show-to-show really.
Pat: I agree with that.
Brad: How did the Bluejays come about? You guys just working together and think, “Let’s just get a band going.” Or was there other motive than that?
Dan: No. It was to do with that me and AJ were doing a show together, which a-three month tour where it was … I think it was called “Rock and Roll Heaven.” We were doing just different names at the ‘50s, and it was of a complication shows. It was more of a gig. There’s no acting. It’s just a gig. We finished that. We sort of feel we can do this, and we should form a band and get started on that, and we did. We had about three gigs that just came off just knowing people through various contacts that either had weddings or corporate sort of thing.
That was with a few different line ups just for people that we knew. Then I would say about March, two years ago, three years ago, the four of us sort of came together, and we’re all in the same boat where we want to do it ourselves. I think the key is to do it ourselves, because we knew the music and we love the music. We thought that would be the best way to go.
Brad: How much a part of your income, if you like, is the Bluejays now? Do you have kind of day jobs? Where are you working? Where is your income stream coming from?
Dan: For me, I’d say the Bluejays is really the majority of my income now since making the decision last, last year really to go fulltime with this. It’s been in our interest to really make it work and stuff. I think it’s fair to say that has turned out really well for us. Obviously, in the kind of quarter months like January through to March … I mean, obviously, because the work is a bit seasonal. Summer has lots of weddings. Christmas has lots of corporate stuff. I try to find a few little odd jobs here and there that would just bring in a bit of extra cash through those months. Really, the Bluejays for me is my bigger earner now.
Brad: How many gigs a year are you doing then with the Bluejays now? How many have you got in for 2015, let say, and how many did you have last year in total?
Dan: I was look at this the other day. I think this year at the moment just stands about 36 for this year. Last year was between 65 to 70, so we’re trying to match and beat that this year. It’s around that number.
Brad: You’re pretty much on track to beat that, aren’t you? Particularly, with the fact that the market is booking late, isn’t it, these days?
Dan: Yeah. I think it is. Just in the last week, we’ve had a lot of inquiries for September time, so it does seem to come at once, which is where … It just happens.
Brad: In terms of where you are getting these gigs from, what types of shows are they? What types of gigs are you getting that make up that 65, 70 in last year? Is it private work, corporate work, public shows? How’s that split?
Dan: The majority of it really is weddings. That’s really been our bread and butter over the last few years. We tried more recently to try and really push through on the corporate market. Last Christmas, we did some really decent gigs. It was the kind of corporate base stuff. Also, we started doing a few public gigs once a month, mainly just because we had a lot of friends here kept saying to us, “When can we come and see you?” We thought, “Actually, let’s do a public gig. It would be fun.” It would be nice to not have the pressure of delivering for a kind of wedding or something that we can come just let our hair down a little bit, and have a bit fun with it.”
Brad: You pretty much, you got a bunch of dates private wedding bookings in the diary, and then you got your public show run.
Brad: Am I correct in saying it wasn’t from the public shows that you got these weddings.
Dan: I think it has been since then …
Brad: How did you initially get those weddings then? Where did they come from? Is it just word-of-mouth? What kind of marketing were you doing if you were doing anything?
Dan: To begin with, it was quite new to this. It was just trying to get us online and get the most basic of online presence, so we had a very, very basic website at the time. We just had a couple of people that had seen us at the few weddings that we’ve done or corporate gigs that we’ve done. It just sort of very luckily snowboard from there.
Brad: When you say online presence, what do you mean by that? Can you maybe just take us into that? I know our listeners really like to know a little bit of detail about how, where the success comes from, if you like, on an action basis?
Dan: I think, to begin with, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I mean, this is the forward knowing about agencies and doing that sorts of research, because obviously, it’s been very helpful for us to do an agency, which I’ll talk about in a bit.
For me, literally, it was just a sort of like doing your own website and just trying to get that out to people that you think would want to see it, and with me to see it, which was just finding some certain message boards, getting out to some wedding planners, that sort of thing. Compared to now, it’s obviously very, very small. We were doing, compared to what we do now online, just trying to get the word out as you do with anything really.
Brad: You were literally sending links out? You were finding places online of people that might …
Dan: Exactly. Yeah.
Brad: … be interested in what you got, and respectively sending them and a link and saying, “This is us.”
Dan: Exactly that. You just have to bump up people sometimes, which isn’t necessarily what they want, but I think you just have to keep reminding people that you’re about …
Brad: Did you put a mailing list together of that? You went online and you just did your research. Did you put that in a spreadsheet? Or did that go in like email software thing? Was it just totally manual?
Dan: At the beginning it was totally manual. It was the most basic of operations. Then the agency came sort of wedding and corporate agencies. Obviously, they helped us quite a lot, because they could do a lot of the work that we couldn’t do.
Brad: What is that? What’s the work that you felt that you couldn’t do in a sense?
Dan: They just had access to a lot of people. If people want a wedding band or a corporate band they are going to come to them. They are going to be one of the first people you’ll find on Google, and then have such a wide selection of people. I think obviously, they had a great client database than we had at that time.
Brad: You’ve had success with agencies. I’m coming to that conclusion.
Dan: Yeah. I’ll let Pat to do the talking.
Pat: No. It’s fine. Absolutely, we’ve had lots of success with agencies. I think that’s where the majority of all of our gigs is really come from.
Brad: Sorry to butt in, Pat. I know this is a real pain point with a lot of the gigging success audience is that a lot of the times that the attempt to contact the agencies really is it feels like it falls on death airs. What do you think that it was that you were doing that was working for you?
Pat: I think the fact that we make sure that all of our promo material is really firs class. Over the last few years, we’ve literally put together a YouTube channel full of clips of us doing songs, playing together, clips from giggings, stuff like that. We’ve got a good promo video as well. There’s a lot of stuff there where people can see what we look like, see what we’re doing. When people want to book a band, they want to see firsthand what you’re doing. I think being able to present stuff that I think looks really good to an agency is going to get noticed. I think it’s very hard if you’ve got stuff that you don’t think looks classy, or it’s …
Brad: I’ll give you my take on it. As soon as I looked at your stuff, it generally cuts above what other people were putting out there. I think one of the things that a lot of bands don’t register is the fact that it’s not … They need your tools as a band to sell to their client.
Brad: If they haven’t got those tools, they can’t do anything. You sent the agent down a bit of a cul de sac. They don’t know where to go, because they can’t create the material to help them sell you. You have to create that material for them, but I think you guys have done that.
Dan: I think it’s easier for us. I think the fact that we’re just playing a very specific period of rock and roll means that actually we know exactly what we’re aiming for. We’re not covering a wide range of music like a lot of function bands that I’ve seen out there. We’re very specific in that respect. It helps us to channel what we’re aiming for.
Brad: It was interesting when I pitched you to my client, and I pitched you against a very similar band that they were all evidently 15 years older than you, and it was a no-brainer for her, because of the way you presented yourself, and the fact that you looked younger. I don’t even think they were actually 15 years older. They just looked older.
How old are you, Pat?
Pat: I’m just about to turn 29.
Brad: Okay. You’re now old guy by only stretch. These guys are probably in their late 30s. I think the whole look and feel about … I think what you say, Pat, in terms of really kind of occupying that niche and getting all the elements of your kind of imagery and marketing right, it’s a bit of a no-brainer for an agent, really, if they don’t have a wealth of other types of bands like yours and the books.
Pat: I will say actually … You won’t forgive me if I don’t say this. Our base player, Chris, he’s an absolute whiz with filming and putting stuff together on his laptop and stuff that he does an absolutely fantastic job. It’s really invaluable for us to have him with all that skill as well as being a great base player. That’s a big bonus for us.
Dan: I agree.
Brad: Right. We’ve kind of worked out that you guys … One of the key to this success was almost looking to dominate this rock and roll niche.
Brad: That seems to be. There are other things that you’re evidently doing. You’ve got the public show. Where are you playing? Is it the Playboy Club?
Dan: We’ve done a few at the Playboy Club, and then most of the Black Specialist ‘50s nights, so they are not necessarily every month. We’ve done three of those now, and they’ve been great. Again, it’s very different for what they usually do there. Most frequently at the Troubadour Club in Earls Court and the more monthly shows. They are just a lot of fun. It’s a good way to get to new audience. We do have a lot of people returning that are fans, which is good, but we do see a lot of new faces there every time, so that obviously helps in a lot of ways.
Brad: Are you doing anything to turn that audience in some way shape or form into a client or into leads that then turn into a client? Is there anything that you’re doing there? Or you’re just playing saying, “thanks for supporting us,” and then that’s that?
Dan: Yeah. The majority of people that come down there just coming out essentially just for an evening of live music. It’s hard some ways to turn that into prospective clients or whatever. With public shows it’s always good to be able to invite people along or whatever, a good excuse for us to promote ourselves really.
Brad: Yeah. You’re not directly doing anything to generate leads from those, but presumably you’re inviting perspective clients down to see you?
Dan: Yeah. I think every show we’ve always invited people that we think, or people that we’ve known have shown a kind of interest in us. I think for us, it’s a good opportunity for us to generate a bit of profile. We can tell people to follow us on Twitter and look us up on Facebook, and stuff like that. To generate a bit of an online following always look good when you’re presenting yourself to perspective clients.
Brad: That was what I was going to onto, actually. You guys are doing a fantastic job on social media. Is there any kind of strategy that you’re going for there? How often do you on social media? How much time does it take? Talk us through that?
Dan: I think it’s done quite a lot whenever we can have the chance. As Pat said, Chris does a great job of it and is on there quite a lot. I think the key to it – especially with Facebook – is content, and is to do with as much video as you can put up there. If you can get it directly to people to see this is what we do, this is what we did two nights ago. I found more recently that we’ve had people comment underneath our videos, and they’ll be tagging their friends in, which is just perfect, because these are people that haven’t even seen us at all, and then telling our friends, “You want to see these guys?” that’s sort of how it happens, we find.
Brad: Right. You got the whole tagging thing going on. When you say video, how are you taking that video? Are you just using your iPhones or you’re getting someone down? How is that working?
Dan: It was, to begin with, that wasn’t it, but now we’ve got … Chris has a swanky camera. That’s used at gigs. Sometimes it’s just … It depends what sort of the gig is, what sort of situation we’re in. We can even film it. Whatever footage we can get together, we would always try and get footage of gigs and of rehearsals.
Brad: Right. Talk me through how you might film yourself at gig then on the limited resources that you and other bands have available to you. Talk us through that.
Dan: I think I’ll let you speak, Pat.
Pat: It really varies, to be honest. Sometimes, we’ll have our sound engineer. We’ll just say, “Here’s a set list. These are the songs we want recording. Here’s the camera.” Actually, more often than not, they tend to do a good job, because I’ll just go and stand in one corner of the room and hold the camera up high, so you can shoot right across the room. In the past, that’s been just with an iPhone or whatever. We just touch it up as best as we can.
Dan: We did one thing once with the Troubadour where we’ve got everybody that had a phone in them to film one particular song. They sent it to us. It was obviously a different thing to do, and we manage to put the footage to get using a few different angles and stuff like that.
Brad: That’s great idea.
Dan: Yeah. It was unique. That worked really quite well. Every stuff then we’ll go when we’re in the rehearsals, we’ll go and do something we haven’t put on our YouTube channel yet, and that will take a bit longer, and that we’ll use this decent camera, and do a few angles, and do the song a few times, and then put together a really good-looking rehearsal video.
Brad: Right. Some really good ideas almost leveraged every situation to get there.
Pat: Or even just images as well. It’s always good to just post something that people can look at. Even if it’s just a photograph or whatever.
Brad: You’re really active really on … On your Facebook page you got up to 60 likes on one of your posts and 34 shares or something, which is pretty good going. Is that literally just you putting the content up there and take, getting the content and putting it out there in the way are described or anything else you’re doing?
Pat: I think it has to do with the quality of the content as well. I think we really pride ourselves on our musicianship and also out authenticity. I think a lot of ‘50s style bands that are out there, at the moment of doing a lot of modern versions of stuff. I think the thing that really sets us apart is the fact that actually we’re a very, very authentic ‘50s rock and roll band. We won’t settle for anything that isn’t remotely close to that whenever we’re recording a video or whatever.
Brad: You’re not succumbing to the “Can you do Kylie Minogue in a rock and roll style?”
Pat: No. Not a chance.
Dan: No. I think what’s important as well is that we do genuinely like the music. It’s not like we’ve seen we can make money out of it. Because other people are, we’re going to try and do that. We do love the music, and so that really helps.
Brad: Right. That’s great. It’s all coming together nicely for you then. On your website, you’ve got a bunch of testimonials and quotes, and kind of celeb type names where Brian May in particular, Al Murray who’s quite famous comedian in the UK. Where did they come from?
Pat: Just various gigs. The Brian May one was quite something in that we got an email from an agent who we haven’t really done that many gigs for. They said we want you to do our wedding at the Natural History Museum, which is great. As things went on close to the time, we found out it’s for one of the members of the Brian May family. As things went on further, we found out that he was interested in getting up and playing with us. It also go snowboard from there. I, unfortunately, didn’t get to be there, which I’m at all bitter about. I had other appointments. It’s amazing. That only happens once in a blue moon, so it was pretty special.
Brad: Al Murray?
Dan: Al Murray. That came through … I think that was through an agency? It was …
Pat: I think so, an agency.
Dan: A wedding of another comedian, another sort of up and coming comedian on the circuit at the moment. We ended up with a booking, and obviously, just for them being in that circle of comedians, Al Murray was at the wedding, and he just loved it. It was great.
Pat: He’s the drummer as well, so I felt …
Brad: He is. Yeah.
Brad: Yeah. That’s right. I didn’t know that. One thing I did want to ask you guys was your website, on your contact page or on your website as a whole, you have no telephone number. Tell us the thinking behind that.
Dan: I don’t know if there is a thinking behind that as much as it is now it’s very, the work is split completely between the four of us. I would say there is no main person in-charge that we all deal with inquiries. As soon as they come in, we all rule in a group chat, and we speak to each other as much as possible. We found that it’s just been easier to do business via email. You can just get straight to the point. That seems to be what we’ve done. I guess there was no real thinking behind not having a phone number.
Pat: I don’t think there’s a particularly write or wrong way to kind of go about it. I just think, as you said that it just so happens that email for us has just been the easiest way to do our business, really. What helps is we all have access to the same email account. As soon as an email comes in, we can almost see it, and we can all discuss it instantly. That way we’re not having to relay stuff that’s going over a phone conversation or whatever. For us, it’s just simpler that way.
Brad: That makes sense. An email comes in, I’m interested to know how you guys now … We just touched on it there, but how you guys now work together and how you split your jobs? Talk us through that. Is there any kind of system that you have in that regard? Or do you have specific responsibilities each? How does that work now?
Dan: I think we try and split it as much as possible. I mean, Chris has sort of taken on the role of doing all the extra media. He does it so well and all the internet content has all been down to him. It wasn’t something that we planned. It’s just how it happened.
As Pat says, we’re always in constant communication, so as long as an inquiry comes in, whoever is the first to get to it will tell the other one that’s what they are going to do. Have a little bit of discussion about what to do, what to quote. It’s just sort of happens that way, really.
Brad: You’re all in separate places though. If an inquiry comes in, do you share a diary?
Dan: Yes, we do.
Pat: Yes. It’s good with diaries. It’s a convenient thing. You can just … I’m sounding like I’m sort of promoting Google here. Literally, just put it in. I think you just tag it on the same email address, and then everybody gets it. Any dates you get booked in, you can just look up at Blue Jays diary or whatever it is.
Brad: You’ve got that shared diary thing. Then the rest of your communication is pretty much via email, is it? A group emails or …
Dan: Group text.
Brad: Group text. Okay.
Dan: We just text each other. It’s very simple. AJ described it. AJ, our singer, he described it to me one day as the best and worst thing we’ve ever done.
Brad: Why is that?
Dan: Because sometimes you’ll come back to your phone and you’ll find that three of us have been chatting, and you’ll find 60 messages or something that you got to read back through is ridiculous.
Brad: At least you got those lines of communications.
Dan: Yes, exactly.
Brad: That’s great. What’s next for you, guys? What’s the kind of playing? Obviously, if you’re doing 65, 70 shows last year and you’re hoping to break that this year, and there’s only so many of … There’s any one of each of you and there’s only so many dates that you can specifically fill, where does it stop? Do you create another Blue Jays? Do you use deps?
Dan: We’ve sort of gone both. There have been times that we had to deps in, which was nice really for us. There’s a couple of times last year where we would almost do versions of ourselves out at the same time. In terms of the feature, I think we’re trying to get more into the European market. We’ve got a couple of times we’re going to France later this year.
Pat: I think it’s fair to say in perhaps some respect that we’re managing quite well as kind of the UK wedding sort of function market at the moment. I think we’re just, as Dan said, we really just want to push that further of field now. We want to expand our profile. We want to be getting international bookings. We want to be recognized on a bigger level. It’s just about …
Brad: When you say recognized on a bigger level, do you mean on a public level or in the event industry again? More of the UK stuff that you’re doing or festivals, for example?
Pat: I’d say both really. I mean, obviously, I think in an industry kind of level, that absolutely, because that’s our work. We’re just always looking for new and exciting opportunities for us really, somewhere that we can go and do gig really. At the end of the day, we just love playing, that’s why we do it. The more we can do of that, the better.
Brad: Great. Perfect. Listen, guys. Thank you so much for sharing that. It’s been a real kind of success story comparative. I talked to a lot of bands, speak to a lot of bands, and the trajectory of success in the last three years has been amazing, really. That’s a real inspiration to everybody listening that it really can be done at a level that you’re going at it from, which is great.
Where can people go and check you out, see what you’re up to, copy, what you do?
Pat: The BlueJays.co.uk is the best site, and all our links from there to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. It’s obviously always frequently updates. Also, the shows are on the website as well.
Brad: Great stuff. Guys, thanks again so much for coming on.
Dan: No problem. Cheers.
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