Derek Sivers

Hillbilly Flamenco


Two words, to describe your music, can change your career.

David and his band had always wanted to play at the big music festivals.

They had been performing at clubs for years, and doing pretty well, but he could never get the attention of the agents that book the big music festivals. He’d call them and submit their music, but those agents would never reply.

One night at a show, a drunk fan shouted inbetween songs, “You know what you guys sound like? Hillbilly flamenco!” The crowd laughed, and so did the band. They joked about it on stage that night, and again on the drive home.

The next day they all still remembered those two words, “hillbilly flamenco”. It was funny, and the crowd liked it, and it actually described their music well. So they decided to use it more often.

They started telling the audience, each time they played, “If you are wondering what kind of music this is, it’s hillbilly flamenco!”

And the end of the show, they’d ask the audience, “When you tell your friends what kind of music you heard tonight, what will you say?” The crowd would shout, “hillbilly flamenco!”

And believe it or not, it worked! People started telling their friends about this band, because it was so easy (and fun) to describe. Attendance at their shows started going up and up.

Then one day, David once again called one of those agents who book the big festivals. But this time he told him, “Our music style is hillbilly flamenco!”

The booking agent laughed and said, “Ok — I’ve got to hear this! I’m going to give you my home address this time.”

The agent finally listened to their music, and loved it. Now David and his band are playing the festivals they always dreamed of.

When he told me this story, he finished by saying, “Our career had a clear turning point. Those two words, to describe our music, made all the difference in the world.”