What Do We Do Now Jimmy Buffett?
“Played hurricane season, drank margaritas, and in my show I do songs by you. And its son of a sailor, looking at 40, how I got here I haven’t a clue. What do I do now Jimmy Buffett? Listened to those records all these years. Now all that remains is for you to explain, I gotta know, this really blows.” (Hurricane Jim, Savannah Georgia, 1992).
So what do Jimmy Buffett and Economic Design have in common?
- We tell stories about places.
- We hope to inspire people to migrate to those places.
- We look for ways that people are connected to place.
- We encourage people to create and innovate and not be scared to be entrepreneurs.
- We use music and other arts to create places people want to be.
- We look for opportunities to fill a gap in our customers’ and constituents’ lives.
- We look for potential and design our ideal places.
- We position our places as desirable concepts in our prospects’ minds.
- We want small entrepreneurial endeavors to grow and reach second stage, and become unbelievable success stories.
- We hope to build a loyal tribe that gets it the way we get it.
Successful Economic Design is creating economic spaces for all; in other words, its creating places people want to be. That is what JB did, he created places people wanted to be, both real places and places that were states of mind.
I first heard Jimmy Buffett when I was a kid, I came to know him because of Jerry Jeff Walker, the Texas icon, and it’s Jerry Jeff actually who took him from Nashville to Key West where he really found his voice. He is a musician that was made by a place, and by the idea of a place.
It was during my time in Panama that I started connecting to his music, because his music connected me to that place, that tropical place. I started to get it, I was not in Texas anymore, I was in the tropics and it was relatable. It made me want to come back, and that’s how I ended up in Florida after I got out of the Army and finished school.
I learned a lot about playing in front of people by playing Jimmy Buffett songs at Port Royal on River Street in Savannah in the early 90s. I learned a lot of the deeper catalogues of artists, but especially Jimmy Buffett. Sitting in with Hurricane Jim I really learned, you know, the depth of Buffett’s catalog and a lot of songs that became more favorites of mine than the big hits.
Jimmy told stories about places. About Paris. About California. About Tampico. About Florida. About Hialeah. About Coconut Grove. About Key West. All of a sudden, I was living in the places he sang about. Right after I moved to Miami, he released ‘Everyone’s got a cousin in Miami.” Boom, another connection. I would venture to say that until Covid, Jimmy Buffett was the leading cause of migration to Florida, Miami, and Key West.
He didn’t just sing about these real places; he had stories about aspirational places. The places he wanted to be, and thought, and hoped, you wanted to be there too. Places like One Particular Harbour, and Margaritaville. Margaritaville is the ultimate place made by music.
Margaritaville is a state of mind, it’s this aspirational place, this perfect place to be if you’re a Parrothead. You know you want to be part of it. It’s how he connects with his audience. If you think about market positioning, think about advertising, what we want to do is connect a concept with our prospects and our customers and our tribe.
Once Margaritaville was a state of mind, what that led to was the creation and the formation of his tribe, a very organic evolution of the Parrotheads. If you get it, you get it. And that really grew into this tribe of people that he could connect with and that’s what you always want to do with a brand, especially a place brand. In places where we work, in the cities we try and help what we want to do in economic design is help them create places that people want to be. That’s what he did with Margaritaville. That’s the place all the parrot heads want to be.
From there, with the tribe in place, it was natural to turn that into a real brand. You know, there was no guarantee it would work. It started off as an entrepreneurial venture in Key West with the Margaritaville store. Ultimately, it became the cafe and now you know, resorts and casinos and cruise ships and it’s become one of the biggest lifestyle brands in the World. In his tribute, Sammy Hagar, no slouch himself in the laid-back lifestyle department, said “The Godfather of lifestyle. Jimmy started it all and took it farther than anyone. He taught us all how to live.” The first time he met JB Sammy told him, “we all want to be you.”
It started out small and you can see instances where he’s still connected with the smaller entrepreneurs. We always think of musicians and artists and athletes as larger than life. But we have to remind ourselves that they all started in the same exact place where we all start. The Margaritaville story started the same way that other entrepreneurial endeavors begin and it had no guarantee of success. Jimmy Buffett started as an artist the same way that every famous artist and not so famous artist starts, struggling day by day busking on the streets, looking for gigs, playing for free, doing all of that and just trying to connect with an audience and find their space, and that’s what he did when he found Key West.
So after Saturday’s sad, unexpected news, this Music Monday obviously had to be dedicated to JB. One of my inspirations. He is one of the main reasons that I live in Florida, and that I came here and was able to build an awesome life. His music is part of how I learned to perform in front of people even though I ultimately played a different style of music. I learned how to be comfortable in front of people by playing his music.
There are so many different influences when I think about it, there are so many different places over the course of my life and especially my adult life where he’s been an influence of one kind or another whether it’s music, where I live, entrepreneurial endeavors and building a brand, and being part of an awesome tribe of Flareheads.
He knew where he wanted to go. He knew what he wanted to do. And he stayed connected to his audience and his customers. He’s going to be missed but Parrothead Nation will carry on. The lifestyle will continue because he and his tribe built something that’s resilient and will last forever.
So as Hurricane Jim asked, you know, what do I do now? I guess we just keep looking for that last shaker of salt and our own one particular harbor.