For whatever reason the story of “Stone Soup” has come up in my coaching sessions with a few different clients over the last several weeks. I kind of thought it was a story that everyone knew but either I got told some strange stories as a kid or it just wasn’t as popular as I thought.
For those not familiar with the story-
Once upon a time there was a great famine in which people hoarded whatever food they could find, hiding it even from their friends and neighbors. One day a wandering soldier came into a village and began asking questions as if he planned to stay for the night. There is no food anywhere in the village,” he was told. ” You had better keep moving on.”
“I have everything I need,” the soldier said. “In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you.” He pulled an iron cauldron from his belongings, filled it with water, and built a fire under it. Then, with great ceremony, he drew an ordinary-looking stone from a velvet bag and dropped it into the water.
By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come to the square or watched from their windows. As the soldier sniffed the “broth” and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their skepticism.
“Mmmmm,” the soldier said to himself rather loudly, “I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with carrots — that’s hard to beat.”
Soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding some carrots he’d retrieved from a hiding place, and added them to the pot. “Great!” said the soldier. “You know, I once had stone soup with carrots and a bit of beef as well, and it was close to perfection.”
The village butcher managed to find some beef and so it went, through potatoes, onions, cabbage, mushrooms, and so on, until there was a delicious meal for everyone.
I am always talking about the importance of community building as a musician or just the importance of just being a part of a community and clearly that is the moral of the story here. People working together accomplished what one person clearly could not – but whether real or imagined I always come up with something more than the obvious from Stone Soup that applies to a life in the arts. In the digital age “dude releases record” is far from headline news – there has to be much more going on to move the needle for the jaded and over saturated modern audience. Whenever I am doing marketing for a new client I always cross my fingers that some member of the group has been silently doing something amazing to tap into a built in niche (Jack Johnson and his amazing Surf documentaries) or has great coattails to ride on (think What Dr. Dre did for Eminmen). This sadly isn’t going to be the story for a majority of the artists out there. Most will have to rely on the smallest of victories and parlay those into the next tiny victory until such time as the cumulative effect is meaningful. Most will have to be pioneers and do their best to continue their journey and hang on to their faith while trying to ignore the omnipresent fact that pioneers sometimes get arrows in their back.
A guy drops a stone into a pot of water and hopes beyond reason that such an action will feed him. Crazy? If you are reading this then chances are you want people to pay you to make noises. I guess it’s all relative but I digress…
For simplicity’s sake let’s apply stone soup to a an upcoming gig rather than an entire music career. You get booked at a local bar and invite what friends and family and people you have met along life’s highway. Congrats! You are now boiling a rock surrounded by indifferent villagers! More often than not though – people stop here and it’s not always enough. Who do you know? What makes this story more compelling? Chances are you know other musicians and musicians who are a bit further along than you are. Can you invite another band to do a cover song with you or even just a vocalist or guitarist to sit in on one of your tunes? If so – you just added your second ingredient.
The show should be an easier sell from here on out. It is now your band featuring members of another band who is bigger than you are and you can suggest that both bands promote this to their mailing list because let’s face it- everyone needs something other than “show up and see us again” to talk about on their mailing list. The other wonderful part about this is that no matter how small of an investment of time or energy from another person or group – you have someone else who is invested in the success of your show. The dude who threw in the first ingredient to the stone soup – Mr. Carrots – the story never talks about it but I bet that guy helped knock on some doors to help the cause after he had skin in the game.
Now what? Does anyone have an in at the local college? Can you get the promoter to knock off a few bucks on the ticket price for students with a valid college ID? If so – you’ve got a really good excuse to wander down to the local college radio station and tell them that your band is playing a show featuring members of a bigger band and college students get a discount. If the radio station bites you then have a show for your band featuring members of a bigger band and students get a discount- oh and the local college station is supporting the show.
These “ingredients” can be anything but no show should just be a show – it should be an event and no band should just be a bunch of people on stage – they should be musicians who have accomplished x,y & z and played with a,b & c… etc etc… And their stories should grow one small victory, one resume bullet point at a time.