Something very special, very insidious and very savvy is going on in Toronto this week. Relative unknown Bernard Lachance is hosting his own show at Massey Hall November 3, 2007. Haven't heard of him? Just wait...you will.
His music is a cross between Josh Groban (another weird word of mouth phenomenon and protege of David Foster - his fans are self-named Grobanites, kind of Like Deadheads or Phishheads) and Celine Dion. Perhaps a little bit too John Tesh for me, but recognizably a special talent (decide for yourself).
What's important and different is the way he is promoting these shows. He is literally, as shown in the video, using every word of mouth, buzz marketing and user generated content trick in the book to get noticed, talked about and to actually help pull off a better show...and it's working.
Bernard Lachance is a hustler of the best sort. For anybody who has been around the music business, they can likely appreciate the fact that the road for most musicians doesn't travel through Amercian Idol or Star Academie. So, for 30 year old Bernard, he's been promoting his own concerts and albums literally one customer at a time since 1994.
His first big break in 1994 - he went home to Montmagny (population 11,654) and sent a demo tape to every citizen in his hometown and was rewarded with a soldout show.
In 2001, he sold over 10,000 albums of his album without a record deal - using street and stage moxie to sell them one at a time.
What's been most impressive has been his ability to sell out entire concert bowls in Quebec and Montreal based on sheer grassroots determination. He rented out Bell Centre without a label promoting him and by himself charming the arena people to rent out the space on generous credit terms based on charisma and creative will power. Thankfully for all , their bet turned out for the best - major local press and a sellout ensued.
This month, his act comes to Toronto with a user-generated twist. He is recruiting amateur musical Torontians to his cause. 150 wannabe musical talents will take the stage with Bernard and sing back up choir to his show at legendary Massey Hall (if interested, get info here). He did a similar enterprising thing with 700+ choirists in Montreal. By extending his own dream to others, ticket sales by all accounts are going briskly...what thrill-of-a-lifetime participant wouldn't ask their closest 8 friends to attend the show where they make perhaps their only professional musical appearance. Brilliant stuff.
How does he know how many tickets he's selling? Easy. Bernard wears a T-shirt with a diagram of the concert bowl he is promoting. Ticket by ticket, demo by demo trial, he checks them off with each sale making late night street intercepts.
For any entrepreneur faced with the challenges of not enough money, not enough pedigree or not enough backers, Bernard Lachance is a breath of fresh air and inspiration.
Paradoxically, House of Blues-supported and Idol poster girl Kelly Clarkson will be arriving 4 days earlier at Massey, it will be interesting to see which show will generate more buzz and attendance. I for one will be rooting, maybe attending and perhaps even singing the praises for Bernard Lachance - the best feel good Quebecois musical talent to hit Toronto this side of Rene Simard.
His album, While I Remember You available now on Amazon. Enjoy.