G is for… Giving Fans the Spotlight

Taking my A to Z theme The Music-Fan Connection in literal terms: GIVING fans the chance to come on stage and perform with the band.

Green Day lights



Three years ago, I took my teenage niece to see Green Day and was pretty wowed by their level of fan interaction. It’s pretty standard for the trio to invite three fans from the audience – not staged or rehearsed – and stick them behind the drums, give them the guitar and bass and let them have at it. Typically they bust out a cover of Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge”, which is a punkish, 3-chord cult track.

Billie Joe Armstrong gave a quick demo to the fan chosen to play his guitar – a girl not much older than my niece. She did a fine job, and at the end, Billie Joe actually let her keep the guitar! Now I’m not sure how often they do that at a show, but I’d say that’s a good way to make a fan for life! I grabbed a few pics:

Billy Joe teaches fan the chord structure

Billy Joe teaches fan the chord structure

fans replace band - Green Day

fans replace band – Green Day

I happened to come across a video of the performance and gifting of said guitar, posted by Lindsey, the lucky recipient: Green Day Gives Away Guitar to Girl – Darien Lake, August 2010.

Clever promotion stunt, jaded folks might say. But for that one fan, that one night, for that one song…a priceless memory.


Think it’s always some record label publicist dreaming up such things high up in some corporate office tower? Think again. Let me take you behind the scenes of one of the favorite parts of my day job: helping make fans’ dreams come true!

Last November, I was on a conference call with the other members of moe.’s social media team, their manager and guitarist Al Schnier, brainstorming ideas for the band’s upcoming New Year’s Eve run. It was Al who came up with the idea of a contest that would ultimately lead to 3 lucky winners joining the band on stage to play a song – one fan a night for three nights. I dubbed it the “Sixth Member of moe.” contest and we blasted Facebook and Twitter, asking fans to post “audition” videos titled “I WANNA BE IN MOE.” to YouTube for the chance to show their musical chops to the band and to other fans.

We knew moe. had many fans who were musicians themselves. But we had no idea how well this contest would go over.  The response was massive and impressive. We received over 100 videos from some amazing musicians and the fans went wild with their comments and choices, but it was up to the band to decide. It turned out to be a very difficult decision, given the scope of talent, to narrow it down to just three people.

Matt Mahoney, one of the winners, sits in with moe. on guitar. Photo: Glide Magazine/Hidden Track.

Matt Mahoney, one of the winners, sits in with moe. on guitar. Photo: Glide Magazine/Hidden Track.

“That was pretty humbling to see—these people that are our fans out there listening to us are actually better than us and now that they had this opportunity, they could play with us,” Al said in a jambands.com interview afterwards. “It was cool to connect with that sector of our audience, and we get to do that occasionally when we’re doing workshops or different things. You got the chance to talk to your fans and you get to geek out over the brand of a guitar pedal or something, but this was on a whole other level because now you’re bringing the sit-in to the fan. And it was really cool, like I said, to engage the fans in that type of way.”

Check out the submission videos, as well as the live performances, of the three fans chosen, and their reflections on the experience.

Al credited the social media team with pulling off such a successful contest, but we never could’ve done it without the band’s open-mindedness and willingness to open their stage up to the unknown. And of course, we couldn’t have done it without moe.’s fans. So it was truly a Music-Fan Connection success story!

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  • jackie

    Went to Green Day last night with my son. Same thing. First, they brought a young kid up (to which i thought, wow, they used to be so punk! that’s just so, so, cute!), then a girl to play guitar (which he let her have) and another girl to sing the last verse of Longview instead of him. FYI, the band of three boys is now about 7 or 8…they’ve even got horn players. They shot t shirts into the crowd and gave their best for a bit over 2 hours. We had a blast. So great when a band shows their appreciation to their audience…another band who’s been doing it for years?! You know who I’m going to say, but will anyway….U2. What I wouldn’t give to be picked to play guitar next to The Edge, or dance onstage with Bono. I’ve been a huge follower of their music for over 25 years, and every time they interact personally with us, I still get the same chills I did the very first time I saw them in 1984. PS…you rock Jess!

    • jesstopper

      Thanks for popping by, Jackie! 25 years and they’re still giving you chills – that’s a wonderful thing! And hopefully they have many more tours under their belt, and many more chances for you to get up on that stage! Didn’t U2 just have a blind guitar player come up?
      I love when bands add horns! Go Green Day!

  • Ryan Naylor

    Great post! A bit a fresh air and fun from some of the others. Just goes to show you that many talented people are not ‘famous’ and that these rock stars are just people too. I’m sure they are just as happy to be able to give back in this way.

    • jesstopper

      I absolutely agree, Ryan! Thanks for stopping by.

  • Kristena Tunstall

    Good post for the letter G. Very interesting. Having the band have give aways is a good thing.

  • Kelly

    I always wonder if these huge rock stars realise that they are creating lifelong memories in these kids’ minds when they bring them up on stage. They’ll eventually tell their grandkids “I was on stage with XYZ” Of course the grandkids will say “Who?” But it won’t even matter.

    • jesstopper

      Ah yes, my 11 year old already thinks my icons are dinosaurs. LOL But agreed, Kelly – lifelong memories will keep us old-timers young at heart.

  • http://twitter.com/jenniferhuber Jennifer Huber

    Wow! What an amazing experience!

    • jesstopper

      Thanks for popping by – are you doing A to Z as well? Cheers!