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Monday, 8 October 2012

Musicians are starving and it's ALL YOUR FAULT (or not)

It's not often that I'm prone to ranting, but over the last couple of weeks, something's been starting to bug me; a worrying trend in music promoters (and some bands for that matter) employing the 'If you don't come to gigs and support local bands, you're a complete asshole'' tactic of trying to convince people to attend their shows.

OK, maybe 'you're a complete asshole' is a bit strong, but there does seem to be an increasing number of people (particularly on Facebook, where pics like the one below spread rapidly and with a self-satisfying agreement of 'yeah! right on!') who seem to focus more on lambasting those who don't share a passion for live music, than in convincing the ones who do to attend the next show.

Truth be told, I get the idea behind pictures like this, and I'll even admit guilt to posting a picture which said 'Without unsigned bands there'd be no superstar bands' or something to that effect. It's a sentiment I agree with in some respects; there's a lot of great unsigned bands out there, plying their trade in dirty dive bars across the world striving to reach more people, and personally I do think it's important to support them. 

That said, from a marketing and promotions stand-point, it just seems like a really ineffective way to convince people to attend live shows.

'Support the Scene' 
Though the way to reach those people isn't by making them come to a show out of guilt or because some promoter says they should 'support the scene.'

Apparently, 'Supporting the scene' means different things to different people.

To one Manchester-based promoter, 'Supporting the scene' means hosting gaudy pay-to-play shows and using their promotional tools to mock and criticize artists and fans who don't do things exactly the way the promoter thinks they should.

To others it's posting images and status' on Facebook to lay on the guilt 'If you don't come out to a show and support your local music scene, some band might not eat tonight, won't get a record deal and will probably die of some horrible disease, and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT!"

And then there's the third group, who chose to support their local music scene by putting on good shows, giving bands an opportunity and actually promoting their shows by using their marketing tools to showcase why these are good bands people would want to see.

As a music fan (and at the end of the day, no matter where my professional life takes me, I'm simply a fan of good music), I know which promoter's show I'd like to attend. 

Who cares?
Truth is, not everybody cares about supporting local live music.

While this may be a sad fact to digest for those with a real passion for our local scene, it's the truth. 

Should we criticize and mock those who don't care? Should we post snide, almost arrogant comments on Facebook chastising those who'd rather stay at home and watch TV than go to a show?

We could, but instead why not give people a reason to care about your shows beyond trying to instil a false sense of duty in them towards some band they've never heard of and probably won't even like?

Instead of saying 'Hey, we have some bands playing on Saturday night, and if you don't come to watch them, they'll starve, you asshole', why not try telling people just how good those bands are and just how amazing it's going to be dancing and singing away in a room packed with like-minded folks as some band with all the gusto and heart in the world play like their lives depend on it?

Focus on your target audience

Target audiences exist for a reason. According to that ever-reliable Font of All Knowledge, Wikipedia, 
'In marketing and advertising, a target audience, is a specific group of people within the target market at which a product or the marketing message of a product is aimed at."
For music promoters and others at an unsigned level, that target audience should be the people who really care about music at all levels, are passionate about hearing that next great song that may just impact their lives in a profound way and will do anything they can to get it.

Who cares if somebody wants to sit home on a Saturday night and watch The X-Factor rather than coming to your gig? The people who do so probably aren't your target audience and wouldn't enjoy themselves no matter which band were playing or what a great service they'd be doing for their local scene.

Leave them alone and concentrate instead on finding the people who would enjoy your show and convincing them that they, not the artist or the scene at large, would benefit immensely by attending this gig. It's a simple facet of all advertising: Give people what they want (or as it's sometimes said Give people what they want before they know they want it).

The most effective advertising in the world is that which promises a person some benefit that they absolutely can't live without. As much as we might like to think otherwise, most of us can be pretty selfish with how we chose to spend our time, and as much as 'supporting the scene' may benefit the scene itself, it ain't gonna do much for the average music fan.

The average music fan won't really care about supporting the scene just because a promoter says they should (most people, music fans or not, don't like being told what to do), but they probably will care if there's something in it for them; the chance to experience a once-in-a-lifetime event packed with great music that will stay with them forever, for example.

I'm not saying that supporting local music scenes isn't important; to me personally, it's very important. All I'm saying is that to really support their local scenes, promoters and artists might be better placed giving people what they want than chastising them for choosing to watch The X-Factor instead.

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