Recently, I attended a pretty average gig.
And I don’t mean the music was rubbish. In fact, it was pretty top-notch gig and deserved a raging crowd. What made the gig sub-par was the dismal audience attendance.
I’ve decided to retain both the performers and venue’s anonymity, because I feel they don’t deserve to be badmouthed or perceived as inept due to the negligible attendance at that concert. But, put it this way: the band is extraordinary and the poor turnout was a total anomaly for this group.
For those of you who have been fortunate enough to avoid pretty average gigs (PAGs) like this one, they are honestly so sad to attend. Firstly, the audience can’t get hyped up and cheer as raucously as they can in a more traditional crowd without looking like a bunch of barbaric fools. So instead, the audience becomes way too passive in its interaction, only undertaking the usual courtesies of applauding between numbers and remaining strikingly silent otherwise; entirely killing the mood for the whole performance.
Furthermore, the band, who are also probably shocked and saddened by the turn out, can’t perform at its best, because there’s no real audience there. The greatest performers thrive off their crowds, but when an audience is deadly dull and not providing the band any encouragement to go off, the performance quickly falls flat. My recent PAG experience almost felt like a rehearsal with some friends there for support. The band wasn’t performing; it was practically hijacked and simply going through the motions.
Sure, I’ve attended plenty of PAGs in my time, being a music lover and all. But this one, for some reason, really stood out to me. I don’t know if this was because of my age or because of the impressively high calibre of the material being performed. But I left the gig with mixed emotions that unfortunately discoloured the excitement and brilliance of the music I heard. I was angry, confused and disappointed.
While I was fortunate that it was not my own gig, I began to question why this concert could barely scrape together an audience in the double digits. Was it the time of the twilight performance, or the cold Melbourne winter weather? Maybe there was a competing gig or attraction at the same time? Or perhaps a natural disaster?
But, ultimately I deduced that the problem was a lack of publicity and promotion. Despite being a fantastic ensemble, the performance wasn’t officially advertised until a mere week beforehand, and even then, no massive effort was made to attract a crowd. Now I might not be a marketing guru, but I want to know whose fault is it when a gig turnout is milder than mediocre.
I guess it’ll either be the band or its publicity team. If bands make most of their money from live performances, surely they should be investing time and some money into the promotion of the performance. But this band regularly puts on performances and can’t be held entirely accountable for having one bad gig, surely?
Maybe it was up to us, the audience who did attend, to invite our friends along to share a mutual love of fantastic music. After all, I would be willing to rave on about the great gig I saw with them afterwards and encourage them to come to the band’s next concert. If each person who attended brought along one extra person, the performance could’ve been 100 times better.
But where is the line drawn? And what should I strive for and encourage you to do? Both of those questions are difficult to answer. With the arts suffering funding cuts, I’d implore that you all go out there and support your music scene on a regular basis, but I also understand that not everyone can afford entrance fees or any additional costs that come with regular gig attendance. Really, all I can ask is that if you’re looking for a night out, or you’re tossing up whether or not to head out and see your roommate’s cousin’s girlfriend’s punk band next Saturday, remember that even just being at the performance will help our local music scene tenfold. And even better: the social element of enjoying a night out with friends, drinking and good music means you’re hitting a flock of birds with one stone.
In all seriousness, the music industry would not survive if it was not for passionate music lovers and philanthropists, whose personal love of the arts drives them to attend concerts, purchase albums and donate funds to support the growth of musicians. The government has cut the funding of 128 arts organisations and thousands of individuals to a weeny $28 million per year, compared to the $26 million invested into a mere two Olympic Australian hockey teams for Rio. Evidently, the onus does now fall on the Australian people to support the passionate artists who display their emotions and talent for a living. If Australia fails to lift to this challenge, our rich and well-loved music culture might soon reach its curtain call.
Ideally, every gig, especially of high craftsmanship, deserves an impeccable performance with a rapturous crowd. And yes, some of the responsibility of generating a crowd should fall on the shoulders of the band performing. But, remember, it is not the band who decides who will come to their performance: it’s you.