Milwaukeean plays L.A.'s Whiskey A Go Go
December 20, 2007
Berendt has made lots of friends while kicking around in bands since
the '80s. He didn't realize until recently how many of them were from
MySpace. When he did, the singer-songwriter-drummer decided to put his
cyber connections to work.
Berendt recently returned from Los Angeles after headlining at the famed Whisky A Go Go, a coup for an unknown out-of-towner from Milwaukee. MySpace was the first link in the chain of events leading from the bars of East North Avenue to the Sunset Strip.
"One of my band members put me on MySpace about a year and a half ago. I didn't know anything about it at first," Berendt says. "I started getting a lot of requests from friends—people I never met listening to my music. MySpace can be a monster, but it can also be helpful as a way to search for new bands and listen to stuff without being solicited. And it's free."
Many of Berendt's MySpace friends lived near Los
Angeles, a musical mecca where he had made a few real friends over the
years. "I began to connect the dots together," he says, explaining the
inventive scheme that may have won him a deal with a small Los Angeles
"I put in a call to my old manager, Terri Tilton, who's in L.A. now," Berendt continues, "and told her I'd like to throw a meet-and-greet for industry people and invite all of my California MySpace people."
Sure enough, Tilton knew the manager of the historic Roosevelt Hotel, where Berendt, the stranger in town, held court this January. According to him, the guest list included agents, engineers, producers, photographers, models, actors, musicians and club owners—all of them exposed to a taste of Berendt's music through MySpace and looking forward to meeting him over wine and sushi. Each guest received a bio and a copy of Berendt's latest self-released CD, the earnestly tuneful, lushly arranged yet solidly rocking Don't Look Back.
Berendt followed up by visiting the Grammy Awards in
February as a voting member of the academy. He met the Whisky's booking
agent at a party after the ceremony. "She went to my MySpace page, saw
all the hits I've been getting and gave me a headlining slot in
The Whisky, where many great bands sharpened their chops, isn't easy to break into. A small turnout at Berendt's Oct. 20 gig could have pulled down the curtain on his campaign for West Coast recognition. Hustling on all ends, Berendt organized Rockstar Design and other Milwaukee businesses to sponsor a "Whirlwind Weekend" package deal that enabled Milwaukeeans to fly to Los Angeles, book a hotel room and obtain Whisky tickets for only $750. "I got a ton of Milwaukee fans to show up," Berendt says, plus many of those MySpace friends.
As a result of his favorable reception at the
Whisky, Berendt has received an offer to record a demo in Los Angeles.
The indie label hopes to shop it to a major label in a distribution
deal. Berendt also hopes to organize another "Whirlwind Weekend" in
California next year.
Berendt's story is one example of how to combine cyber networking with old-school, face-to-face relationship-building and business savvy. "I wasn't just playing an L.A. club—I was playing a historic place and made it convenient for people to show up," Berendt says. "It was kind of wild."
Scott Berendt plays Dec. 22 at My Place, 304 N. 76th St.