This is a story about how a musician persuaded an audience aged 60 and older, who expected a classical music concert, to listen and dance to rap music.
A musician called Chilly Gonzales played in the beautiful Eldphillarmony in Hamburg, Germany. I know Chilly’s music as a mix of rap and classical music. His concert was part of a classical music festival. Most of the other concert goers were 60 plus years old, attending the festival. I had bought my ticket just to see Chilly Gonzales.
There was piano and drum kit on stage. I was curious how this older audience would react to Chilly’s music. How could Chilly end up playing rap music, in this classical music concert hall, and to an older audience expecting a classical concert?
Chilly achieved this in two ways: gain trust, then nudge.
Chilly first started by showing competence. That he is a guy who can play the piano. Although he entered the stage in slippers, and a bathrobe. (A type of Hugh Hefner robe, the playboy guy.)
He started by playing old classical piano pieces: Bach and Mozart. Music that the audience knows and is familiar with.
Then, he established credibility by showing his knowledge. Chilly explained how music is always changing and evolving, and that classical music was the cool new music of the time. He spoke their language and gave examples from different centuries of music. How one composer influenced the other. How they competed. And how sampling was not something that was invented in the 1980s, but much earlier. Because one composer just took a passage from another and turned it into something new. And he demonstrated this by example. He shared his insight, then played a classical piece.
After showing his competence and knowledge, Chilly had won the trust of the audience. Now he could take it a step further into his direction.
Nudge. Just a little at a time.
In between the old classical pieces, Chilly played some of his own slow piano pieces.
And between songs, Chilly was chatting and making jokes. Gaining rapport with the audience. Then playing another beautiful piano piece.
He then found a way to lead over to jazz. He started telling stories about how classical music laid the foundation for jazz. Playing an old piece from the 1930.
He played a few more jazz pieces on his piano. He told more stories and jokes in between.
He called Jazz musician “Jazzies”. Because people were strict. That you were not allowed to play Jazz in any other way. And that everything else, apart from Jazz, was seen as not good. People laughed.
Nudge a little more, and always relate to what they know
Chilly always mixed his songs with pieces from other musicians, to show how he was influenced by other composers.
Speak their language
Then he introduced the metronome — a familiar concept for the audience — and he called the metronome the first drum machine. He had one standing on the piano. Tapped it. It started clicking. Chilly started rapping to it.
This was about half way through the concert.
Give them time to adjust to the new perspective
Then, he played another classical piano piece. Familiar stuff for the audience. It made them feel safe again, after the introduction of this new idea of the metronome as a drum machine.
Towards the end of that classical piece, Chilly started rapping again. And a person walked onto the stage, pass the piano, pass the drum kit, where this person suddenly grabbed a drumstick, hit the drum kit once. Continued to walk. Left the stage again.
Another calm familiar piece. To make the audience feel safe again.
Then, more and more Chilly moved to rap music. And more and more the drum kit was used to acompany the piano.
At the end of the concert, people were standing and dancing. Most 60 plus year old people who came for a classical music concert, were dancing to rap music.
How to persuade
This story shares a powerful example in persuasion, and the way to achieve this: gain trust, then nudge.
- Know what they know and how they think.
- Start from what they know. Accept it. Empathise with it. Embrace it fully. This makes them feel safe.
- Establish credibility by demonstrating your knowledge and ability.
- Speak their language.
Gaining trust was the prerequisite for being able to nudge the audience. Without trust, Chilly would not have been able to nudge them. It is noteworthy that, he spend around half of the duration of the concert to establish that trust.
- Nudge, just a little at a time.
- Always relate back to what they know, and are familiar with.
- Give them time to adjust to the new perspective.
- Speak their language.
- Use humor.
To this day, I am impressed by the skill in persuasion that Chilly showed in this concert. I often refer back to it often in conversations, when people seek a way to persuade someone of a different point of view.
Have you experienced a similar situations like this? Have you learned about persuasion in an unlikely context? I am curious to hear about your story. Please share it in the comments.
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