We talk with a lot of “makers.” With your air guitaring, what is it you’d say you make?
Joy? Hate? Confidence? Well, there’s an inherent absurd entertainment value for sure. The concept of air guitar as something that’s done on it’s own (rather than movements one makes while enjoying music) evokes a lot of feelings in people. Sometimes its pure joy, and people lose their inhibitions and connect with you. Other times, it’s hate. Those people I can’t help. Ha! Anyone who takes air guitar out of the home or car and does it in public (be it a competition, exhibition, flash mob, or whatever) experiences a great feeling of confidence, exhilaration, and ultimately community. It’s a shared experience like no other. To that end, air guitar is also functioning as an educational tool. Many teachers have put it into practice in schools, and a 2013 Cambridge study showed that playing air guitar makes musicians better players because it frees them from the limitations of their instruments and encourages them to be more creative and become better performers.
Air guitar probably seems silly to most at first blush, but the more I think about it, it’s the epitome of a creative exercise slash performance. You agree?
Absolutely. Within the parameters of the worldwide competitions that lead up to Finland’s Air Guitar World Championships, I’ve seen the sport evolve like crazy over the years. It’s an enormous creative challenge to conjure up as many crowd-pleasing moments into one minute of a song. In that way, it’s just like dancing – a combination of music and movement. There are even air guitarists who thrive on pushing the boundaries of that one minute as far as they can, even to the point of alienating the judges, solely for the joy of innovation. If there can be an Andy Kaufman in comedy, why can’t there be one in air guitar? It’s pure performance art. The second round is an entirely different challenge because its improvisational. Each round requires a different set of skills, practice, and preparation!
How does air guitar and/or drumming influence the day job?
Well I’ve been doing both since I was about 15. They exercise different parts of the brain. With drumming, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m always looking to write and play a drum part that supports the song simply and powerfully. It’s the same thing with social media marketing. Attention spans are so limited today that we have a fraction of a second to grab someone’s attention and keep it. Simplicity is the key, in both brand value and storytelling. With air guitar, it’s all about novelty. Sure, the act itself is novel, but how do you differentiate yourself from 20 other competitors onstage? It’s the same with brands. If your marketing is identical to everyone else in your category, it won’t inspire anyone. As a community manager, I’d like to think that air guitar has given me lots of practical, real-world experience because when US Air Guitar came to Kansas City in 2009, there were four people signed up to compete. Since then, I’ve been helping build awareness and now KC has one of the most robust air guitar scenes in the country, and everyone is very close. It’s truly a bonding experience and if you can expand that idea from your brand to people’s life, that’s when it becomes meaningful!
What is creativity to you? How do you keep it fresh?
For me, creativity is a process. It’s not just something that comes to you when the muse visits! The most creative ideas come after a thorough understanding of the problem. It took me years to figure out the right way to reverse engineer an air guitar routine. Through adding sounds effects and other audio elements over the years, I had formulated the idea to write original music designed to match the movements I had in my head — but didn’t truly know how to carry it out until lots of trial and error. I feel like social marketing is the same way. Not until you get your hands dirty and start interacting with a community do you understand what makes them tick and how you can be valuable. The more new challenges we take on, unafraid of failure, the fresher and more valuable our perspectives become.
What is your latest epiphany?
It’s one thing to “analyze” data and draw conclusions about what works and doesn’t work, but there are a million variables when you’re analyzing creative. Make sure not to jump to any false conclusions. When you are immersed in a community every day, you begin to understand why people are or aren’t connecting with your storytelling.