July 31, 2019

Requiem for a dream

Sent by Jonathan Stark on August 1st, 2019

There’s a famous guitar player from the 80’s named Steve Vai. Well… I say “famous” but unless you’re a fifty-something ex-shredder like me, you’ve probably never heard of him. He played with Whitesnake and David Lee Roth and Frank Zappa and a bunch of others. His first solo album is legendary amongst guitarists of a certain age.

Anyway… for my fiftieth birthday, a bunch of friends and family chipped in and bought me a ticket to Vai Academy, which I am currently at.

Vai Academy is like a combination of conference + workshop + open jam for flashy rock guitarists. I would guess that there are about two or three hundred attendees (AKA “campers”), which is a sold-out crowd because the venue is not super big.

Guitar performance was a huge part of my life many years ago, but these days I hardly play. This has created a really weird emotional dynamic for me at the event because it forces me to face the fact that the goals and dreams and heroes I cherished twenty-five years ago no longer mattered to me much… certainly not in the same way they did at the time.

It feels a lot like running into your high school sweetheart thirty years later. You’re friendly and there’s history there, but the flame is gone.

Which isn’t to say I am having a bad time! It’s just more complex than I expected. I’ve met a bunch of cool folks (including a TBOA listener!), witnessed some jaw dropping artistry, and got to jam with one of my childhood idols. Sweet!

(ASIDE - They say “don’t meet your heroes” but I have to tell you that Steve Vai is one of the most patient and kind and generous people I have ever met. His talent is unparalleled and yet he has no apparent ego. The highlight of the event for me was when this little kid - he was maybe 13 - came up onstage to jam with Steve. Once his guitar was plugged in, the kid just froze. Deer in the headlights. He couldn’t make his fingers work right. You could see it on his face, “I’m blowing my big chance!” but he was helpless to do anything about it. And then right as the crushing embarrassment was starting to spread cross his face and you could see him getting ready to give up, Steve saved him. He got right down to the kid’s level and walked him through it. Patient, kind, generous. It was breathtaking. Here’s this rock star giving a scared 13yo kid a pep talk, a guitar lesson, and creating a positive experience that could have otherwise been an emotional scar - on stage with a full band playing behind him and in front of a live audience, literally without missing a beat! I teared up then and I’m tearing up now just writing it. Amazing human.)


Since I’m obsessed with pricing, I couldn’t help but recognize a slew of concepts on display throughout the event that will probably be a lot more interesting to you than hearing about “that time I went to guitar camp” ;-)

Stay tuned for pricing-related topics like niching down on a laser focused target market, surfacing psychographics with proxy signals, and a TON of experience economy principles in practice.