Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Happy To Be Here
And The Experiment Continues...
Today's audiences, if one can even call them that, are more and more inattentive and don't follow any song very long unless it's just incredibly funny or hooky or danceable. It's my experience, playing in front of people since the 70's, that audiences used to give performers their attention and then they had to keep it. Now, I feel a performer has to almost forcefully grab it and throttle it with everything they have to keep it. I've heard of many clubs these days where the crowd, mostly texting and talking on their cell phones, is louder than the band.
I play mostly background music gigs myself and very rarely, maybe a couple of times a year, I get to play for what would be called a "listening" audience. There is no listening "scene" where I live, no place where people regularly go to listen, and I mean actually listen to music.
Still, I put out my sound and see if anyone listens and/or tips me. I very rarely see a person under 35 or so, listen to a whole song, that is, without checking their phone, talking, or reading something. Since I don't travel, the internet is my "tour bus". I have found a few listeners out there on the web, but in general, I think that songs that invite or require real listening have less and less of a market in the world. I would say that the majority of my shows are neutral to mildly discouraging. And I'm talking about the audience response. I almost always enjoy singing and I still do alright in tips which is nice. People are recognizing something they want to support and those tips pay for my all my musical expenses, especially recording and getting my stuff on the net, so I'll take 'em and happily.
Music is becoming like wallpaper, meant to be in the background while people do other things. Sad but increasingly true. I mean, I can be hooky, funny, pop-y, smart, dumb and a bunch of other things and I still have a hard time getting anyone to pay attention for more than a minute or two.
I mainly sing because it's my nature to sing. I sort of have to. But if I was aiming to make a living, I would be hopelessly discouraged. Not only are people listening less and busier than ever, but there are more people than ever before singing, writing and recording music. This democratization of music is good in one way in that anyone and everyone can do it. The downside is that the water is incredibly crowded and muddy. It's never been harder to stand out.
But then, I'm mainly doing it because I have to,and while it is discouraging at times, it doesn't bother me too much. The less I expect the more I enjoy playing. I just keep doing it and seeing what comes back. I have over 20 albums of my music available on my site for downloading free, or with a donation. I've been doing this for about 3 years now and as of today, I've made just over $900.00 in tips. On the one hand, it's a tiny amount of money in the music world. On the other, that's $900.00 freely given to me by people who didn't have to give me anything. So, hey, I'll take it! And I'm grateful anyone listens at all, let alone tips me. Other nice things have happened too, like the man in Holland (youtube name SebastianHawks) who made a video of my song, "Jump You Fuckers", that, as of today, has gotten over 100,000 views. He just did it for free and posted it. I've gotten lots of good comments and some tips, CD sales, and youtube subscribers to boot. So the experiment continues and so far so good!