THE MUSICIAN AND THE AUDIENCE … A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

Bruce Springsteen - An artist who knows the relationship with his audience

I don’t think I’m passing on any new revelation here when I say that at every woken moment of our lives, the world is constantly trying to screw us over.  In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that most of the plotting goes on while we’re asleep. So yeah.. 24/7 the world is constantly trying to screw us over.

We have , bills to pay, kids to feed, rents and mortgages, pressures at work or at school, health issues, loneliness, financial issues, we lose faith in those we want to look up to, put up with shitty and stupid decisions by people who get paid to make smart and good decisions, you worry about friends and family dealing with their own demons and you feel the whole world is claustrophobically crushing you and stretching you to the limit at the same time.

Then one day, you convince yourself to get out of your fortress home and routine, meet up with people you like to hang out with and go and take in some live music. You really look forward to this because this may be your big night out for the week, month or even the year.

It could be a local beer garden listening to an acoustic act or it could be at a stadium watching a major touring act. From the moment the music starts, it takes you away from all the shit. Whether it’s just one 3 minute song, or a whole gig, the music brings back blue sky, let’s in fresh air. It let’s you breath and allows you to be the emotional being  you want to be rather than who or what you’re expected to be.

You may hear a new song or an old favourite that brings back a memory or an emotion and whether it’s happy, sad, funny or angry it let’s you feel it the way you want to feel it.

When the music is good, you spend that time immersed in the moment, with the people you like to hang out with, and exorcising the demons that posses you during the week and you are no longer just another expendable member of the ant farm. When the music is good, it doesn’t matter who or what the songs are about, in that moment those songs are aimed right at you and you’re convinced that you and the writer of that song have a connection. When the music is good, you head back home with a smile on your face. cleansed from the grey grit of the working week and when the music is really good, that experience can stay with you for weeks, or be the epiphany you needed to make some life changes for the better.

And then we ask what musicians really do for a living!

Musician’s are not like doctors or plumbers or tax accountants who you see regularly and pay for their services. You’ll see a doctor because you’re sick. A plumber because you’re knee deep in shit or a tax accountant because you’re also knee deep in shit. You may never hire the services of a musician and if you do you’d be one of the many who yell “HOW MUCH???” when they quote you for a gig.

Surely a band can’t be that expensive. It’s only music right? I mean it’s not like a doctor who’s making you feel better or like a plumber who’s getting you out of the shit. It’s just music for goodness sake. Well the fact of the matter is, that music DOES make you feel better and it DOES help to get you out of emotional shit even if it’s momentarily. When the music is good, it helps to recharge your emotional and mental batteries and allows you to face “the shit” again recharged.

But none of this emotional liberation happens without musicians. Whether they take part in their vocation on a full time or part time basis, musicians are as valuable a vocation as doctors, plumbers and accountants. Just like all professionals, musicians have to learn their craft, invest in plant and equipment, practice their skills, travel to and from jobs, eat and pay bills too.

The relationship between a musician and an audience is very similar to that of doctor and patient or teacher and student. It may not be as personal or on a one to one basis, but when the music is good, the connection is definitely there.

It is rather puzzling that a profession that directly impacts on one’s deepest emotions is treated with less respect than someone who can run real fast and kick a ball between two wooden posts. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not devaluing the value of sports people but geez a lot of them get paid a lot don’t they!

So when you’re humming along to a song on the radio, kicking back with friends at a pub watching a band or tearing it up at  stadium concert, just remember that none of this can happen without the hard work of musician’s and other professionals who work with them!

THE VICE VERSA

Now bearing all of the above in mind, there are members of the music profession who either don’t realise what effect they have on people or they simply don’t care.

Musicians need to understand that the biggest compliment anyone can pay is just showing up to a gig. For all of the shit they have to face ever day and for all of the other things they could do to cheer themselves up, they have chosen YOU play a major part in their emotional and mental liberation. It doesn’t matter whether they have paid to see you or not, the simple fact is that they are there in front of you.

They may even pay you the extra compliment of buying your CD and T-Shirt and asking you to sign it for them. For all the things they could spend their hard earned money on at any given time, they have chosen YOU.

Because at that moment, they thought that the music was good and when the music is good….. ( refer to the paragraphs above).. and just like a doctor or a plumber you made them feel better and dragged them out of the shit for a while. They will take that memory and/or your CD home as a reminder of that.

Musicians ask a lot from their audiences. No… They really do. They want them to come to gigs, buy their merchandise, “like” their social media and support them in all of their endeavours. But with some musician’s the compliment isn’t returned. The public are being asked by supermarkets, retailers, banks etc to buy their products, like their pages, go to their stores and musicians add to that commercial pressure.

When someone goes to a gig and really enjoys it, they often talk about it with friends or colleagues the next day and if the music is good, they may even look the artist up, buy some back catalogue, join a Facebook page and even leave a comment.

There is NOTHING cool about not replying. Especially when you are an idependent act with a few hundred friends. It is WAY COOL to reply back with a “hey thanks for coming along, we really appreciate it”.  Some musicians have no idea how that makes people smile. OK if you’re a Keith Urban or Taylor Swift it’s hard to reply and if you do, punters won’t believe it’s you but who cares? A nice comment never goes astray.

When a musician is booked to do  gig, don’t accept the booking unless you are willing to play to the heads that are going to be in front of you. If you don’t want to play Creedence, don’t accept gigs where people want to hear it. You’re only doing your image harm and you are ruining the experience for the audience.

Now I’ve been around the traps long enough to know that we don’t live in a perfect world and that some times, despite our best intentions there will always be people who won’t be happy with the music being played. Not everyone is going to have the same emotional and mental liberation but it doesn’t help when musicians get all self indulgent and act too cool to give the audiences what they want to have a good time.

Sometimes musicians need to be able to adapt to veer away from what they prefer to do in order to get more gigs. There is nothing wrong with that. A smart musician would use well paying gigs to find their own projects that ninety-nine out of one hundred times, won’t earn them any money.

When the music is good, the musician has aimed the music on target to the people watching and the more people a musician can do it to, the more often they will be accepted and people will continue to come back and use you as their emotional and mental liberators. And when the music is really good, the musician just might be able to make a half decent existence out of it.

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About Tony B

Musician, producer and fledgling blogger. I like writing about the world around me including the people I meet and the places I visit. I also like writing about things that are cool and things that piss me off. This a place where I vent about stuff. Opinions are entirely my own and feel free to agree or disagree. Cheers :)

6 responses to “THE MUSICIAN AND THE AUDIENCE … A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP”

  1. Nia Robertson says :

    engagement is key…..when someone engages with you….acknowledge it. Say happy birthday, wish them luck on their wedding, offer up a little of your personal selves (an I don’t mean what you had for breakfast)…..too may artists keep everything such a secret…they don’t offer anything of themselves so their ‘fans’ (i hate that word) can get to know THEM as REAL PEOPLE.

    Like

  2. Duncan Wood says :

    Great Post :-)..

    An insight I have seen during my 36 years in it, is the huge difference in the roles of audience and Musician. Back in 1976 when I did my first professional gigs, the roles were very defined. I was the entertainment and they were the audience. The audience respected that line and knew their place. Also back then you walked into a venue and it was simple, there was the stage in one corner and the bar in the other. The audience drank and had a great time listening to the music coming from the band in the other corner.

    Sadly today, thanks to the likes of Australian Idol , The Voice etc, the audience now thinks that anyone can do it, and they let you know at the venue either directly or simply not turning up. “nothing special to see here” is their chant. Most times the only reason a Venue has entertainment is to simply fulfil the requirements of having entertainment so they can get their Alcohol license approved. This of course leads to the venues only allocating a very small budget which in turn means that the money I received for my very first pro gig back in 1976, which was $160, is the same or more than a lot of solo artists get now 37 years later.

    Sad but true. So you are right, the music and talent are no longer enough to engage the audience. You have to win the fans over one at a time face to face. I am sure everyone who has 500 “friends” or more on Facebook knows it doesn’t translate in anyway to an increase in dollars for album sales (physical or electronic) etc.

    We are in the middle of a huge paradigm shift in not only our industry but in every facets of peoples lives, due to technology and perceptions. Our job as musicians is to work out how to navigate these changes and keep our careers making money. It’s always been hard but right now it is really harder than it has ever been.

    But don’t give up, keep believing and keep turning up, and most of all keep making fantastic music that is honest and true to who you are as an artist. That is the key…. best regards, Duncan Wood

    Like

  3. Rob Foenander says :

    Excellent post. I’m with you Brother !!

    Like

  4. Chante says :

    Heya! I realize this is sort of off-topic but I
    needed to ask. Does running a well-established
    website such as yours require a large amount of work? I am brand new
    to writing a blog but I do write in my journal on a
    daily basis. I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my own experience and feelings online. Please let me know if you have any ideas or tips for new aspiring blog owners. Appreciate it!

    Like

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