05 October 2013

Secretary of Outreach

George Colligan relates a familiar story, drawn in this case from his early years on the East Coast scene:

What often ends up happening is that whomever can convince every friend they had from middle school on and every extended family member to come out every time they play will be the successful ones. If you spend all of your time shedding, and have a small circle of friends and family who also have a life of their own, you can't expect them to come out every time you play! (I used to do OK at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. when my Dad or Mom would really organize folks to come to my performances. But I did a lot of gigs with local singers who were secretaries by day; they would invite the entire office to their gig once a year and they would pack the place. So this was the beginning of what I thought was an imbalance. The really good local musicians who played on the scene regularly couldn't draw a crowd at Blues Alley; but the amateur folks could do really well with ticket sales.

Indeed, it has always astounded me just how well "amateurs" tend to do with ticket sales and the like, and this dynamic is clearly at the heart of it. However, the dark matter here, that which lurks beneath the observable dynamics and outcomes while dwarfing them in severity, deserves to be articulated too: could it be any clearer that listeners can't tell (or don't care to) the difference between professional and amateur productions, whether they are personally acquainted with the band or not?

No comments: