After touring with Stevie Wonder and Prince, the harmonicist is redefining how artists connect with their followers.
Frédéric Yonnet is redefining the fan/artist relationship as we know it. The French musician, producer and composer who has made a name for himself for his use of the harmonica and his infusion of traditional jazz elements into hip hop and R&B, is proving to not just be a music visionary but an innovative marketer as well.
Yonnet, who can reach twice as many notes on the harmonica than the instrument is traditionally designed to hit, has applied reality TV to music. He pioneered the phrase "Reality CD," which grants fans and critics full access to his forthcoming album, REED MY LIPS, during the draft process.
"The concept of the 'Reality CD' came about when we [were] creating the music. I thought why not share the creative process, my evolution and musical journey [with the fans]," Yonnet told BET.com after he and his band tore the house down at The Iridium Jazz club in New York City on Sunday night (June 15).
With his third album, Yonnet put having a more intimate relationship with his audience first, as he released the reality CD REED MY LIPS: THE ROUGH CUT in 2010 exclusively via digital download card in order to maintain his organic union with his following. Fans are encouraged to comment on his work as their opinions regarding everything, down to song titles and vocals, are taken into consideration.
"So far, we have had nothing but positive feedback," Yonnet said. His friend, comedian Dave Chappelle, confirmed Yonnet’s aptness when he introduced him to the crowd on Sunday. "Yonnet is one of the most talented musicians I know," Chappelle said between jokes. It was Chappelle who helped Yonnet gain fame in America and introduced him to Stevie Wonder in 2006. Yonnet first toured with Wonder and then with another iconic man in music, Prince.
Now, Yonnet is creating a legacy of his own. "Releasing an album like this has never been done before, it’s like we are a family," Yonnet said of his team, which now includes his cyber following.
"When you are an artist, if you don’t try to stay relevant, then you disappear and die. You have to be creative."
REED MY LIPS: The Final Cut is almost ready to be released, as the album has grown from eight songs in 2010 to 20. Yonnet will kick off the DC Jazz Festival later this month and then he plans to lock himself in a dark room and just record. Fans can anticipate the album release later this year, and another single soon.
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(Photo: Larry French/BET/Getty Images for BET)