What thin line divides a band like Honor Society from the The Jonas Brothers? Why is Miley Cirus selling out stadiums while Esmee Denters plays to a crowd of just a few hundred? Musically you could stand Esmee Denters single "Outta Here" and Honor Society "Over You" against the songs from either the Jonas Brothers or Miley Cirus's, but in the business of big pop bands, music is only part of the equation.
Both Esmee Denters and Honor Society got their breaks through various social networks. Esmee was discovered doing covers of her favorite songs on YouTube while Honor Society found their following via MySpace. As they played to a small but devoted following, many of the teens in the crowd sang along to almost every word of every song. As Esmee finished her set, she stopped and took a picture of the crowd to post on her twitter account (@esmeeworld). Honor Society spent more time after their show meeting their fans than they did playing to them. This kind of personal connection between artist and fan is something that's being taken to an entirely new level. But it is enough?
Esmee's opening set was short, sweet, and slightfully soulful. Touching on some of her most notable work, including "Outta Here", Esmee showed the advantages of texture and range for a female pop performer. Her music was a nice bridge between the bubblegum pop tunes of a Hannah Montana and a more soulful pop star like Joss Stone. Unfortunately her cover of Ne-Yo's "Closer" felt more like something out of American Idol than something from a teen pop idol. Esmee did ultinately show off her talent and inventiveness with a reinvisioning of the classic song "I Only Have Eyes For You", a nice fusion of classic sounds with a modern beat. Esmee returned to the stage mid way through Honor Soceity's set to do a duet which I also liked.
I had previously seen Honor Society as one of the opening bands when The Jonas Brothers played The Rose Garden. Although the crowd at the Hawthorne Theater was about 1% of that when they played the Rose Garden, Honor Society brought the same high level stadium intensity and performance. Playing songs from their new album "Fashionably Late", Honor Society had a few stand out songs, any of which could carry them onward to bigger and better spaces. Of particular note is the bonus track from the album "Where Are You Now", their current single "Over You" and the song that brought them into radio airplay "See You in The Dark". As with Esmee Denters music there was a clear line between the Honor Society songs that hit their mark and the ones that missed, but in this era of iTunes and digital downloads a few strong songs seems to hold more weight over a one solid album.
The only real low point of the evening came at the end of the concert. In this little club with no more than 150 people, Honor Society set up a paid meet and greet. Rather than work to build their fan base they took the opportunity to charge their fans to buy a wrist band that gave them the privilege to meet the band and have them sign autographs. All this took place three feet from the stage in the already tiny club. What's worse is that they issued two different colored wristbands, one for the members of their fan club and another for people who weren't. The entire thing was both odd, uncomfortable and completely out of place in the club atmosphere.
If you need proof that the music industry is in an entirely odd space, look no further than the Esmee Denters and Honor Society club tour. Both bands seem to have all the essential elements of a big pop tour and yet it was booked into a small club with very little promotion. Which brings me back to my initial question: What is it really that separates the mega-pop bands from bands like these? Because in this case the answer doesn't seem to be MySpace, YouTube and Twitter.
Here's a video from the concert of Honor Society performing "See You in The Dark":
For more information on Honor Society see:
- Honor Society Interview
- Official Honor Society Site
- Honor Society Fan Site
- Honor Society on Myspace (including the single "See You In The Dark")
For more information on Esmee Denters see: