Welcome to State Of The Union, appearing each month in bluegrass now magazine! This column provides the spouses of professional bluegrass musicians with a forum in which they can share their insights, observations, and experience with fans and other bluegrass spouses.
June 2004: Tammy Harman on GETTING RESULTS AT THE WORLD OF BLUEGRASS
Perhaps you saw the advertisement last year, on page 102 of the International Bluegrass Music Association's World Of Bluegrass trade show directory. There's Bull Harman of Bull's Eye, holding his guitar, big grin on his face. But what's this? The headstock of Bull's guitar completely covers the smile of the banjo picker standing next to him! And the headstock of her five-string covers the face of the bass player, whose headstock, in turn, hides the face of the mandolinist!
It seems a very odd photo for an ad, until you read the headline: COME SEE WHO WE ARE! And just below that, the image that has become a symbol of this band: an archery target with an arrow through its center.
“That ad drew lots of people to our booth, just so they could see us in person,” says Tammy Harman, the bass player whose face is hidden behind that banjo headstock. “I always run ads in the directory. You can't go wrong!”
Married for 22 years, the Harmans have one son, Wyatt, age 7. Tammy works full-time as a division accountant with a St. Louis construction company, but says she probably spends more hours working for her husband's band. “It's really easy to work hard for something you believe in. I believe in Bull and his music, and that's made it fun.” Her faith in her husband's talent is unshakeable. “My main goal for Bull is to focus on his music without worrying about what time we're supposed to play, the set list, or how we're going to get there,” she says. “I don't want him worrying about any of that stuff!”
So Tammy handles it all, with incredible energy: the Website, the contracts, the graphics on the CDs; sponsorship letters for Bull's upcoming guitar workshop; hotel reservations, route mapping, and even most of the driving. And she gets the band ready for the World Of Bluegrass each year. She is a vocal supporter of the event. “I've heard the comment made by lots of people that they can't afford to go. I can't understand how you can afford NOT to go! IBMA has every opportunity for a band-songwriters, promoters, record labels . . . We've had so many doors open for us there.”
The moment she arrives at the event, Tammy begins to publicize Bull's Eye. “I start dropping pamphlets off all up and down the hallways. I have banners made for the booth. I have a Bull's Eye candy dish. I have pictures. I play the CD all the time at the table. We advertise the showcases we do late at night, which I believe is a definite must. We have Bull Harman Bull's Eye shirts, which I make everybody wear all the time!” Those shirts helped the band attract the attention of a filmmaker's camera: Bull's Eye has a short appearance in Bluegrass Journey, the epic documentary released last year.
The Harmans have even benefited from the closed-circuit programming on the hotel televisions. “IBMA gave everybody an opportunity to submit something for that channel, free of charge. I was surprised at how few people took advantage of it! I found a company here that took our collection of photos and our CDs, and put a collage together with the Web address and music. It played in the rooms for a solid week!”
Tammy's World Of Bluegrass branding strategies have included the distribution of sparkling Bull's Eye stickers and tiny Bull's Eye pins for the ID badge lanyards worn by all attendees. “People like free things! I had magnets made up one year, and I actually put them on the elevator. I was so excited when the elevator would come back and the magnets would be gone! When people come up and call Bull by name, that's where it's paid off. That's five years of building his name up, and that logo, and that band.”
At this point, the returns are measurable. The second press of Bull Harman's 1999 CD, Bull's Eye, was reordered after a year. “I didn't have to market his next CD (2002's Rosewood, Spruce, and Ebony) as hard, because the first one had established his reputation,” Tammy explains. “The orders came in easier. We've reordered twice already!”
Visit Tammy, Bull, and Bull's Eye online at www.bullharman.com.
if you're the spouse of a professional bluegrass musician,
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State Of The Union.