Back from a week on Cayamo

Cayamo

If the pile of mail in my inbox is any indication, regular readers of my blog are wondering where I have been for the past few weeks!Believe it or not, Lori and I treated ourselves to an honest-to-goodness vacation, our first in about six years. We went totally off the grid for a little more than a week, and I left some wonderful folks in charge of all my various projects, while other friends and colleagues picked up the slack in places where I normally contribute. (Smitty, Alex, Alan, Gina, Tamise, and JoVon – thank you!)

Here’s the best part. Lori and I spent a week with the Sixthman crew on the Cayamo cruise, and it was a wonderful, relaxing, transformative experience.

What I found really funny was that there were a bunch of music and radio industry folks who were incognito on the cruise – just like me. We were all there to just be fans, not to try to work a show or to wrangle addresses for a street team.

And doesn’t that say so much about what’s going on in this business? In an industry that thrives on comp tickets, is it considered cheesy to actually pay money for a totally immersive fan experience? Especially one that – heaven forbid – is run by folks in Atlanta? Whatever is the world coming to?

So, in the interest of orienting folks who may want to attend Cayamo in 2009 and beyond, here’s what we learned:

  • Buy your tickets early. Seats for the main stage shows were assigned by order of purchase, just like TicketMaster. We enjoyed third row seats every night for six nights. I fully expect a huge chunk of seats to sell on the first day that Sixthman announces their pre-sale. Happily, though, there were very few bad seats in the main venue.

  • Ditch dinner and select the early show. The main stage venue holds about half the passenger capacity of the boat. Therefore, each headlining artist played an “early” and “late” show. If you had tickets to the “late” show, like we did, you missed a lot of the other side stage acts happening around the ship at the same time. Maybe they might work this out for next year, but if we go in 2009, we will definitely be hitting the early show.

  • You can have a lot of fun with a captive audience. Over six nights, artists on board started collaborating more and more. By the final night, it was hard to tell what show you were attending, since artists and their bands were backing each other up in unique improvisations and combinations.

  • Ari Hest rocks. Folks have been urging me to get on the Ari Hest bandwagon for some time now. Ended up seeing two full sets and buying the t-shirt.

During the week, we noticed a few folks from Carnival nosing around the events. From the shipboard buzz, we learned that their head office wanted to know why on earth this little charter cruise was setting some killer records for bar and merchandise sales. Regardless of how Sixthman continues to expand with their popular Rock Boat and artist event cruises, could this spark a new trend in the vacation industry?

And for folks who like to track how fans can directly support artists, the love on this boat was tangible. Fans of artists like Patty Griffin, Lyle Lovett, and Emmylou Harris signed on to experience special intimate events over the course of the week in addition to the mainstage shows. Meanwhile, those same fans got to discover acts they never would have found otherwise, just by wandering around the boat.

  • Dewayn Brothers greeted us at the Embarkation Lounge, and kept popping up all over the place. I was in a glass elevator three floors above the band, and could still hear Jamie’s voice without a microphone. They impressed everyone.

  • Meghan Coffee worked the halls and lobbies of the ship all week long – her awesome showcase set was so packed, Lori and I had to watch it through a window in an overflow area.

  • The Duhks are a band I might not have sought out on my own, but now they’re a staple on my iPod.

An ever-expanding open mic stage offered cruisegoers the chance to build audiences of their own, too. Over time, I think I will probably write much more about what you could apply from the Cayamo experience to your own career. But, for right now, I’m still getting adjusted to floors that don’t sway back and forth.