An Open Letter to Paxahau

Dear Paxahau,

After much thought and a little prodding from fellow Detroiters that seem to know members of your collective, I have decided to write this open letter to you. At the time of penning this, the festival is less than two weeks away now. In researching things leading up to the festival, I recently found that your site was down for over two days, which is a bit disappointing coming from an organization that appreciates electronic-based content. Granted, I know we are talking about music and not the web, but one would think they would go hand-in-hand. Not to mention, the fact that the user experience of your website is a bit off-putting is also fairly disconcerting.

A quick introduction, I am not what you may consider a diehard electronic music fan. I appreciate all forms of music, but my formative teenage years were spent listening to Wu Tang, De La Soul and Boot Camp Clik. I grew up listening to The Electrifying Mojo, but it was in my college years that I began to pay more attention to electronic-based music. This letter is not about me though. It is more about what is being observed and the things I have gathered when talking to people that have been behind the scenes.

In the past, I have heard people make mention that your organization is cheap. I have grown to look at it as jealousy, because the sources never seemed to be doing anything comparable to give reason for me to really give creedence to their put-downs. That was until I had a friend who was hired to do some work with you guys in which I got a taste of what your leadership was like. Unfortunately, myopic was the takeaway word that came to mind when I was exposed to the potential squandered.

Let it be known that I respect the level of organization that you guys have inserted into the historically-dysfunctional festival. I admit I balked when we had to pay for tickets to enter a once-free festival, but that was when I was young and dumb. As a less-dumb but still young business owner, I understand your need to produce an event that can actually generate revenue. I could not be more in your corner in that regard; naysayers – whether in the streets or on the DetroitLuv forums – need to find another bridge to troll under.

That said, there is a big opportunity that you have been letting slip away from any major success for the Movement festival. The one thing our poor city of Detroit is terribly lacking is its sense of community. Electronic music has been our claim-to-fame forever, but we have yet to really own it like we should as a community. The Movement Festival should be our opportunity to do it, but it should not end there. Paxahau officially posts information on the aforementioned DetroitLuv forums. Why not provide more incentives for the community to support you?  I guarantee the number of trolls will go down when the stories of your giving back, or however it is phrased, in your way to keep the community flourishing. Whether you care about that is another conversation altogether though.

What I am getting at is there is absolutely no reason that Paxahau does not embrace its own hometown community more than it does. Producing the biggest techno fest in town just cannot cut it anymore. As a Detroiter, I feel we should be more in the loop. You need to give me a reason to want to attend, outside of wrangling a “who’s who” in electronic music today. The age of mystery does not bode well anymore in the days of massive corporate failures. I can understand waiting until the last minute to deliver the schedule for the festival from a business perspective, but it is a smarmy practice. A business should not need to do that if there was more understanding of the people being served.

And with that I want to give some suggestions on how to take your organization to a higher level. Paxahau is a respected brand in the international electronic music community, but it gets a mixed review in its hometown. Sure, that happens to everyone, but you are in a position to fix that before the worst thing that could happen to Detroit happens. By which I mean Paxahau needing to focus its operation somewhere else due to losing the city’s interest in hosting your festival. Detroit cannot afford to lose you, but Detroit cannot afford to have you if you cannot make the money needed to keep the festival running. My suggestions below are geared to help guys like me HELP YOU.

Build a world-class crowdsourced website.

I may be wrong with this and I will accept that if I am, but your website seems to be a dormant space a few weeks after the festival in Detroit and it stays that way until you begin back with the PR push for next year’s event. Every year there is a question in the media as to whether the festival will or will not happen; even though, attendance has reportedly increased each year that we have been able to tally tickets. Use your webspace as the place you can keep us engaged and interested. There is great potential in your trusted brand. The web is a great place to tap it. Invest the money to keep it a secure and trusted place to find information about electronic music and the place(s) where it is fostered.

A great way to prevent attacks is to allow your community to protect it. We have a lot of smart people that probably would help out for a little of nothing. You just have to ask them and be good about showing appreciation. That means you will have to be a bit more transparent.

Find Your Brand Evangelists and Reward Them.

In writing this piece, I made an announcement that I was going to write this letter and I have gotten a lot of feedback. People forget a lot of the details in the past festivals, but many of them know they still believe you guys put on the best festival in the country. A buddy of mine, who has volunteered in past festivals, just told me that he is not sure whether he will volunteer or attend this year, but he is certainly going on the Voyage Royale booze cruise on the Detroit Princess. The fact that he has not been called to help again is kind of weird. If you have gotten great help from your volunteers, then you should keep them in the loop. E-mail them from time to time, give them free entry to your other events and let them know they are appreciated!

Come From Behind The Curtain.

People like familiar faces. Apple has Steve Jobs. Microsoft had Bill Gates. IBM is a big brand too, but we do not seem to talk about them much. Mystery is sort of sexy when you are an artist, but even today’s most successful cases are of those that are more open to share and relate to actual people. People are talking about you, but you are nowhere to be found. DEFEND YOURSELF. You guys do great work. Again help us – those that believe you are doing the best of what you know to do – help you. I have seen all sorts of crazy things said about people in your organization. It is times for you guys to set the records straight.

I extend these suggestions to you as me doing what I feel is need to help Detroit. This is not only your city, but mine as well. As a fellow business owner, I want to see us all succeed. We deserve it. If you need help, ask for it. I am available to lend help wherever I can, if not this year definitely in the future.. Contact me at hubert [at] sorsaw dot com.