Do you wish you could do a better job of engaging your fans? Have you ever thought about starting a fan club?
That’s what we’re going to be looking at in this episode of The New Music Industry Podcast, featuring Sarah Beth Perry of With the Band.
- 00:27 – Our special guest, Sarah Beth Perry of With the Band
- 02:11 – How and why was With the Band created?
- 05:41 – What is Fan Crews?
- 11:20 – Fan clubs – an opportunity many artists are missing
- 13:35 – What else is happening with With the Band?
- 15:48 – What was the last YouTube video Sarah watched?
- 16:22 – What is Sarah’s daily routine like?
- 18:02 – What’s the greatest challenge Sarah has overcome?
- 21:54 – What is Sarah’s greatest victory?
- 23:59 – How can listeners collaborate with high profile artists or clients?
- 26:01 – What pain points does Sarah have as a music entrepreneur?
- 27:56 – Sarah’s recommended books
- 33:10 – Closing thoughts
David Andrew Wiebe: Today, I’m passing the mic with founder and CEO of With the Band, Sarah Beth Perry. How are you today, Sarah?
Sarah Beth Perry: Doing great. How are you doing?
David Andrew Wiebe: I’m doing well. Thank you for asking. This has become an obligatory question as of late, but how have you been holding up during the pandemic?
Sarah Beth Perry: You know, it has been a whirlwind to say the least. I feel like everyone is saying the past six months, and now it’s just been more than six months. But you know, I feel like we’ve hit some of our like high-highs but also those low-lows. And, you know, it’s just trying to remind yourself that there is no limit to how much you can do in a day working from home and really trying to get somewhat of a work life balance, but overall, you know, really can’t complain for how we’re doing in the pandemic.
David Andrew Wiebe: That’s good. Yeah. It really is altogether too easy to push the limits, which is exactly what I ended up doing over the course of the summer, which is why I needed a break. But it’s good to find a sense of balance or whatever that looks like during these times because it’s easy to overwork for sure when you don’t have anywhere to go or anything to do necessarily.
Sarah Beth Perry: Oh, yeah. I know I definitely struggled with that too. I’ve been trying to limit myself on certain times I’m not allowed to be on the computer. Because if you don’t, you just are in front of a screen the entire time you’re up.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah, which I’m starting to suspect isn’t great for you. I’ve kind of gotten used to it. Other people say I’m exhausted staring at the screen that long. How do you do it? And I’m like, I don’t know. I just gotten used to it. But I think it’s still good to have limits. Yeah.
So, your website states that there’s an opportunity for artists to better engage their fan base. You won’t hear any disagreements from me, but what opportunity did you see and how did that lead you to creating With the Band?
Sarah Beth Perry: Yeah. So, growing up I actually grew up in Nashville. So, like, I always knew I wanted to work within the music industry. I didn’t exactly know what. And then as I got older, I have a younger sister. She and I became the typical fan girls of, you know, some of the classic boy bands. And that was really when I first got a taste of what fan engagement should be, but also what I felt like was lacking from a fan’s perspective. And then, I didn’t really think too much about it until I went and studied at Belmont University and was in a music business class. You really don’t realize until you really try to dive deep in the industry, how many different types of jobs there are. And so, it really wasn’t until that point that I realized, like, wait, someone is doing fan engagement. Like, that is someone’s job out there. That’s really when I realized that that’s what I wanted to do. And then, I went searching for this company that I thought had to be out there, had to exist, to help artists better engage with their fans, and was super surprised to find nothing that I thought really solved that problem in the way it should be solved. I literally just research for a year before I started the company really trying to figure out what is out there and really where that big gap was in the market.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah. I think a fan’s perspective is certainly valuable. I think there are people in this space who are now experts who basically started out promoting other bands or building fan clubs or things like that for their favorite artists. So, to me, it makes sense having that perspective going into business like yours. It just makes a lot of sense.
Sarah Beth Perry: Yeah. And it’s just so valuable too because even everyone else on our team has been a big music fan before. And so, it’s just nice when you are like, either DMing these fans on Instagram, or just really even writing a blog post, interacting with fans in any way. It’s so good to know like what their mindset is and really try to kind of get to their level on that. Like, almost a friendship type BFF thing and come from that point of view from a company. So, it’s been really a great background experience to have from all of our team members.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah. And I think many of us do start that way. I certainly started as a fan of music before I got into playing music or talking about digital marketing within the music business or anything in that capacity. Looking back, I can see that a big part of it is just interpreting or understanding culture through music. I grew up in Japan. So, I knew that side of things. When I returned to Canada, I had no idea who any of these artists were. I thought I might have a better handle on that but I didn’t. So, it was from step one. And at the time, it was Chumbawamba and Will Smith, and [unclear 05:23] and stuff like that. So, that was kind of my entry point back into the North American music scape. Eventually, I went a little more obscure as I tend to do, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun.
Sarah Beth Perry: Yeah, that’s awesome.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah. I hear you’re also working on fan cruise, modern fan club concept. What does that look like and how does it work?
Sarah Beth Perry: Yeah. So, what we, as a company, had done before COVID is we created these, basically fan engagement campaign. We call them fan activations. We are creating these large fan projects and fan meetups. Thus far, we had only done different shows in Nashville but we are doing these arenas as shows. We did one at the Jonas Brothers concert, and then one for Kacey Musgraves. It was her first headlining show at the arena in Nashville. We were scheduled to do different campaigns like that for different artists through the spring and summer. And then, of course, COVID hit. We were completely live events at that standpoint so we kind of had to step back and really analyze, okay, how long do we think this is going to last? Do we kind of come up with a Plan B on what we can do until we can get back to the shows?
And so, I had actually had some different managers. And so, heads of ad digital of labels reaching out to me just saying like, “Hey, Sarah. We know you’ve done this in the past. What can we do with our artists now besides Instagram Live Stream?” I was honestly having a hard time trying to come up with ideas for them because when I was really trying to just research, I really realised how few tools there were out there for artists in this time to really engage with their fans besides Instagram Live Stream, or all the, you know, the now like 10,000 other live streaming platforms. That’s really where this kind of idea sparked is, even, you know, me thinking about starting With the Band all the way like three years ago, I always wanted to kind of create a modern-day version of a fan club because when I was younger, I was in, I feel like kind of the last few fan clubs that were super popular.
Today, there still are some fan clubs but it’s very much like older rock bands or there’s some male country artists. And that’s really it. I just felt like for such a modern time, we needed an update on this technology that has not been updated in like 20 years. And so, we really sat down and started researching what would a modern-day fan club look like. We really realized that when talking with artists teams that there was this association of fan club with like pre-sale tickets, because that was, you know, like the older traditional model paid 40 bucks a year and the fan club can get pre-sale tickets. We really realized in order to modernize that we had to change the name. We decided to change it to fan crew because we felt that it really encompassed the new modern-day era of a fandom of like, you think of the BTS fans. It’s just like this rabid pack of fans. We thought that fan crew really embodied that. So, that’s what we are calling the new platform.
What it does is it enables artists to create their own fan crew where they can create different membership tiers and price levels for their fans. They actually get complete customization over it. So, they can change everything from how many tiers they are offering, what price they are offering to, what are the actual benefits they’re offering their fans. So, they can do things like private live streams. They can do virtual meet and greets. They can do early access to new music. They can really pick and choose what they want to give to their fans. And then, we sit down with them and really say, “Okay. Well, how much value do you think fans see this for?” Whether that’s like $499 or $999 a month. We made it into a monthly subscription model because if you look at all the other things, especially like Gen Z and Millennials are purchasing, its very subscription model based. We felt like by doing a monthly subscription model, it’s not only enabling the fans to pay a lesser amount just more frequently. It’s interesting. Even like doing studies and we were trying to see what pricing we could use. Fans were like, “Oh, $499. That’s no big deal. That’s perfect.” But then if they saw something that was like 60 bucks a year, they were like, “Oh, no.” But when it’s priced per month, the artists can actually make like almost double the amount that they would on a yearly membership. Just from the psychological aspects of it. It was just super interesting.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And a couple of things by way of comment. The first is what you said about live streaming. Because, yeah, there’s tons of platforms. It was sort of touted that it would be the replacement for live gigs, right, which it never really has become that. It’s absolutely been a great supplement. Some artists have done well with it. YouTube artists and well-known artists. The problem is it’s an equal playing field. I mean, it’s the good thing about it and it’s the not-so-great thing about it is that right now, even the Rolling Stones are live streaming. So, like, how exactly are you going to compete with that? And so, I definitely hear what you’re saying there.
And then the other one is about fan clubs. This is something I talked about as early as Episode 41 of the podcast. I actually called it membership sites but it’s the same idea. You can create a membership or you can create a fan club. I feel that’s really crucial right now. I think it’s a really great opportunity. I think, artists, if they have super fans, if not, you need to build them. But like, if you have super fans, you can get them on a subscription just as you explained for a fee that would be reasonable for them but also profitable for the artist. So, I do think that’s a really great opportunity right now.
Sarah Beth Perry: Thanks. Yeah. Well, really where I saw the big gap is, you know, I do think that there are, of course, other membership platforms out there like Patreon, member full. I think they’ve done a pretty good job of serving those smaller indie artists, where I’ve seen the real big gap is where I really wanted to start targeting was these medium to larger size artists. Because currently, it’s crazy to think about it but the options they have are creating a newsletter, or having like a simple forum website, or completely customizing their own app. There’s no in between. And so, you get a large upfront cost or a fairly old technology. That’s really where I saw the, you know, the first artists where we’re going to target. That’s really where they are. And then, we’ll eventually expand to be able to offer this to smaller artists as well. But yeah, it’s very interesting that so much of the technology has really not been updated in too long.
David Andrew Wiebe: Certainly not. I’ve started exploring, like funnel building software and membership site software and things like that. I think there’s some really good ones out there. I would say that they cost something. For artists to even consider them, it’s kind of like, “Hmm. Do I really want to pay 200-300 bucks a month for the software?” You have to be able to at least break even on that. I think for most artists to even be able to justify it.
Sarah Beth Perry: Yeah, totally.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah. That’s great. I do want to move into a series of other questions. But is there anything else you wanted to say about what you’re up to with, With the Band?
Sarah Beth Perry: I’m just excited. I think that for the music industry, this has been a super tough year. We really felt that in March of, you know, having to cancel these events that we are really looking forward to. But you know, I also think that we’re in a better spot now of like really having a long-term game plan on something that we can use both in this digital time, but then also when we go back and like, we can still do these events along with these fan crews and really just like help them further engage their fans. So, I feel like just the biggest thing is like, try to look for an opportunity even though it’s hard times. I feel like there is something you can gain in this moment.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I wrote a blog post pretty recently titled, How to Earn Real Money in Music. Slightly click baity but the whole point of it was, you know, a lot of people are looking at Spotify going, “I want to make six figures from Spotify.” And I go like, “Well, okay. That’s great but have you done the math on that?” And like, “How close are you to achieving that?” In many cases, the answer is nowhere even near. Right? It’s like, “I have 100 monthly listeners or whatever.” Okay. Well, so there’s like three opportunities I can think off the top of my head that you can totally earn six figures in without much of anything. In some cases, without even a fan base. So, like sync licensing and placements. That’s one anybody can do. You don’t have to be amazing. I also said sales funnels. That’s a growing opportunity in the music industry. And then I said fan clubs. And so, yeah, the fan clubs definitely fall under that category for me. So yeah, I got a series of questions that tease out your personality as well as the additional insights that will prove useful to my listeners. The first question is, what was the last YouTube video you watched?
Sarah Beth Perry: That’s a good question. I’m trying to think of the last YouTube video I watched. I got to say this is just so dorky of me. I literally think it was like a tutorial on how to use the software we use. I guess also, I now watch my church on YouTube, which is a massive transition. That’s probably the last thing I watched.
David Andrew Wiebe: What is your daily routine like?
Sarah Beth Perry: So, I have actually been going on daily morning walks that has been super helpful at this time. I feel like I just made the excuse that I didn’t have enough time to do it. And especially where I am in Nashville, it is getting dark at like 4:30. And so, if I’m not outside before I work, then I never get outside.
David Andrew Wiebe: Same here.
Sarah Beth Perry: Yeah. And so, morning walks have been so helpful to me right now. And then, we usually… Our team gets on and we have weekly meetings of like a whole group team, which I always enjoy. And then, I mainly work with two different girls who are on our team, Mary Caitlin and Emily. And so, we really hit the ground running. During the day, most of my time is usually spent towards working with different artists teams. So, whether that’s giving them a demo of the new software or really trying to figure out what’s going to work best for their fan base, that’s really what I spent a majority of my time doing.
David Andrew Wiebe: While I was exhausted or while I had my burnout, I didn’t really walk at all but I’m definitely starting to look at it again because it’s the same thing here. It’ll get dark pretty early. It also rains a lot. It’s coastal, you know. Vancouver’s coastal. But I don’t mind. I like the rain. So, I don’t mind walking in the rain either. It’s kind of refreshing.
Sarah Beth Perry: Yeah. It got super cold this morning but it’s kind of nice. It wakes you up, which is good.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah, that’s true. Now, you won multiple awards and grant money. You were even named one of Belmont’s Top 100 Alumni Entrepreneurs. So, what would you say is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
Sarah Beth Perry: I honestly think, and you probably know what I’m going to say but I really feel like COVID hitting was definitely a big challenge to me personally as well as the company because I feel like, at any point, that would have been the point where you’re like, “Ahh. I just give up. That’s it. I’m not supposed to do this.” Because we were right on the cusp of, we had just had like some really great projects and we’re really starting to build traction and just hit that wall of COVID. I think that has definitely been a growing moment of learning that even when, like, all this crap is going on around you to just take it one day at a time, one tiny step forward. Try not to get overwhelmed because it’s easy to just let your brain go everywhere when you’re not doing anything else. So, I really think just like trying to switch from these live events to a completely digital platform has been the biggest challenge.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah. And we’re just about to go into second wave lockdowns as far as I know. And you know, the original lockdown was supposed to be two weeks and technically, I mean, let’s just say it like it is. It more or less has lasted since March. It hasn’t fully opened at any point. So, I hear you and I can totally appreciate the difference in changing business models. We hear reports and musicians thinking about quitting, a very high percentage right now, which is also unfortunate, but I guess that’s why I try to bring things to light that there are still opportunities. There are still things you can do right now. Quite a few of them in fact. Especially now that music is in a big way moving online.
Sarah Beth Perry: Definitely. Try to think of completely, almost like off the wall ideas that you would have never done previously. Of course, Tik-Tok is blowing up right now, but like, what are these different opportunities of you either creating like a web series or doing things that you wouldn’t have had time for pre-COVID?
David Andrew Wiebe: Totally. I mean, if people are looking for unusual outside the box ideas, I mean, that’s what I’m here for. That’s what I do. Go to Music Entrepreneur HQ. Go through the archives. You’ll find lots of ideas.
Sarah Beth Perry: Yeah. Even one of those, we, at the beginning of quarantine started, like an IGTV series, where it’s called Behind the Van. We interviewed super fans from these fan accounts on Twitter, Instagram. And these fan accounts have thousands of followers. They’re the typical fans of like, Bubble Gum Pop people. But I’ve honestly enjoyed it so much. It’s been a great opportunity to get to know my customer more, and get to know, you know, what are their habits, what are they interested in. So, I think you can really get some good feedback from those people who you’re interacting with on these new avenues to create your fan base.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah. I think that’s super important too. Like, if you’re doing lives, then definitely consider bringing your fans on or your followers on to talk to them and get their thoughts, their ideas, their opinions. I think that’s a great thing for artists and businesses alike to do.
Sarah Beth Perry: Yeah, of course.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah. Customer interviews. What’s the greatest victory you’ve experienced so far?
Sarah Beth Perry: Definitely my favorite thing has been the Jonas Brothers event that we put on. It was about a year ago now. That was really our first super large event. What we did for the event is we had 16,000 signs made that said, “Thank you for coming back to us” on the front. And on the back, it had instructions for the fan, to hold it up during, the Jonas Brothers have a song called comeback. I don’t know how much your listeners know about the Jonas Brothers but it was their reunion tour. And so, it was like a big deal. They hadn’t, you know, played together in a long time. They said they would never play together again, and then came back on this reunion tour. And so, it was a really big deal for a lot of these fans who had loved them like 10 years ago. And so, that’s why we really felt that, okay, like, I think this could be a super cool project to get fans involved and just to let them know, like, “Hey, we’re launching in Nashville.” And just like, let them know that we’re here.
I had no idea how good that event would go. I was just hoping like a few hundred people would hold the signs up. When it happened, it was just like, all you could see was white in the arena, because everyone was holding the signs. It ended up with like all three of the Jonas Brothers crying on stage and got written up by some pretty major press outlets and really just blew my mind away with what I thought we were capable of doing. It was definitely that moment that has kept me going because I have never in my entire life felt such a feeling in that moment of like, I know that I was born to do this. Because it really was able to connect, you know, it was like 16,000 people in that arena. It was such a cool feeling to be there and see that.
David Andrew Wiebe: So, there might be some artists listening going, “Hmm. I’d really like to collaborate with some big name.” Or there might even be business owners listening going, “Getting that big client would really boost my business. It would give me more visibility or testimonial or whatever.” Which in my opinion, yeah, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but do you have any tips for people?
Sarah Beth Perry: Honestly, I think, first, you almost kind of have to build your little street cred. The way we did that in the beginning was doing some things for free. Definitely make sure that you are not spending a ton of money doing these things but you can get super creative with what you do. Make sure that you’re providing value first before you’re asking for something. Or you have previous success on something else before you go and ask a high-level artist something. But I would also say don’t be afraid to just ask because I would have never thought that… I cold emailed Kacey Musgraves’ manager and got her response. I never thought that would happen. I’ve learned to… After that, I have always just reached out no matter if it’s, you know, like, hey, like, I just want to get your opinion on this new software we’re building or whatever. You will be really surprised how many people are willing to give you a meeting. Or if they don’t answer your email, that’s the worst-case scenario and nothing bad happens. They just don’t answer. So, like, don’t be afraid of just putting that out there and trying.
David Andrew Wiebe: Absolutely. I think so too. I mean, I’ve gotten lots of interviews that way. Surely, it’s possible to get a lot of great opportunities that way too. I’ve sent my books out to various influencers. I’m not sure how much that necessarily helped the book itself. But nevertheless, you know, it’s in the hands of more people than it would be otherwise. So, yeah. Sometimes just asking. So, I mean, you’re an entrepreneur in the music business. Is there any resource that you find is lacking or that would help you on your journey to growing your business?
Sarah Beth Perry: That’s a really good question. I think the biggest thing that has helped me as being an entrepreneur in general is having a community around me of other entrepreneurs. I’ve been super lucky I’ve been involved with the Nashville Entrepreneur Centre a lot when I was just starting out, just trying to figure out, is this even a good idea. And this past year, I think we started in March, I’ve actually been in their music accelerator programme. It’s been so nice to be around other music founders just because it is such a unique industry. I think something even bigger than our little group of 11 people to just get to know other music founders would be awesome, because they’re all going through the same things. Whether that’s, you know, trying to figure out royalties, or, you know, sync or literally just having a bad day. It’s super awesome to just have that group of people to go to. I think having more of a centralised place where you can see it or even like other people who could help your music startup, like different freelance graphic designers, or there’s so many people in the music industry who are freelance, who I feel like can be super useful to startups. That would be an awesome thing to have.
David Andrew Wiebe: Wow. Yeah. That’s a great idea. Absolutely. Are there any books that have helped you on your journey?
Sarah Beth Perry: Oh, I love reading. Ah, so many. I’m trying to think. I get inspired by certain ones. I feel like each year the book and this literally has nothing I feel like to do with business or music. Untamed by Glennon Doyle. That was such a good book for me. She says this one quote in there that I wrote on a sticky note and had put on my mirror. It’s this whole idea of like, you are put into this world to bring forth something. Whether that is a family, a company, a song. Don’t be afraid to push that forward. I can’t think of the word she uses. But to really like, push that out and don’t be afraid of being too in someone’s face because you were born to do this. Put it out there. The word she used was imposed. Like, don’t be afraid to impose your idea onto the world. I think that was a super pivotal book for me this year.
David Andrew Wiebe: That’s awesome. Yeah, I’m also reading something right now that probably wouldn’t have much to do with business or music. Reality Transurfing. Steps I-V. This is a heady book. Yeah, absolutely. But at its core, it’s kind of about law of attraction and how that actually works. It’s so funny how we got sucked into this secret and everybody says think positive, think positive, right? So, that’s the track we follow. And then, there’s so much drop off because it didn’t quite work. It worked but it didn’t quite work. And then, it goes much deeper it turns out.
Sarah Beth Perry: Yeah, I am a huge believer in studying all the things that these top entrepreneurs and top athletes do. You’ll very much see a trend. They have their morning routine. They wake up pretty early. They all exercise pretty frequently. It’s super interesting to really analyse those. And, you know, putting them into practice is a whole different thing but yeah, it’s super interesting.
David Andrew Wiebe: Well, one thing I didn’t think I would get into as heavily is meditation. I’d always been doing it. I have been doing it for years. Kind of on and off. Not consecutively but, you know, you start off doing it for 10 minutes or 20 minutes or whatever, then you would recover some energy, or you’d have an answer to a question or something like that. And I was like, okay. So, that’s the value of meditation. Right? That’s about it. And then, I come to understand that there’s so much more available through meditation and it really depends which one because there’s so many different forms. One that I came across was Dr. Joe Dispenza. His meditation is about heart and brain coherence. In other words, your heart and your brain can talk to each other through meditation. I’ve begun to experience some of the benefits and results of that.
Sarah Beth Perry: That’s super interesting.
David Andrew Wiebe: It’s very interesting. It’s very interesting. I mean, depending on the day, I’ll meditate for 20 minutes or 85 minutes now.
Sarah Beth Perry: Wow.
David Andrew Wiebe: I don’t know if I would give it up at this point.
Sarah Beth Perry: That’s awesome, though. That’s like a superpower.
David Andrew Wiebe: I guess it is. I think a lot of people just kind of make it more complicated than it actually is. Because they’ll be like, “Okay. So, you’re supposed to sit there and turn your thoughts off?” And I said, “No. Let the thoughts come up. Accept them. Acknowledge them. Love them. Let them be. Don’t try to do anything with the thoughts.” Yeah, that’s meditation.
Sarah Beth Perry: That’s super interesting.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah, I mean, I think there are forms of meditation where they tell you to shut your thoughts off, but that’s not what I’ve been learning or have been trained on.
Sarah Beth Perry: No, that’s incredible. I definitely need to do more of that. I’ve been once or twice a week. I will not listen to a podcast or an audio book, like while I’m on my walk. That is kind of become a mini form of meditation. And it’s been super nice. It’s such a good way to just start the day on a nice beautiful day outside, even if it is cold, it’s sunny. It just helps you remember that no matter what happens in your work life today, the world is still going to turn. You’re going to be okay.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah, I think I just heard this recently. But like, psychologically, walking is equated with progress. So, at each step you take, it’s like I’m getting there. I’m getting to the next level. I’m going somewhere. Yeah. So, it’s incredibly healthy to do.
Sarah Beth Perry: Yeah. I’m glad I’m doing it then.
David Andrew Wiebe: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Yeah, no. I also heard walk if you can an hour a day because you need the sun. And most of us just don’t get enough sun exactly for some of the reasons we already talked about. Well, thanks so much for your time and generosity, Sarah. Is there anything else I should have asked?
Sarah Beth Perry: I don’t think so. I think we’re able to cover a good amount of stuff. This was so much fun.
David Andrew Wiebe: Awesome. Yeah, it was a blast. Thank you for being on the show.
Sarah Beth Perry: Yeah, of course. Thank you so much for having me.
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This has been episode 214 of The New Music Industry Podcast. I’m David Andrew Wiebe, and I look forward to seeing you on the stages of the world.