Why Don't People Listen to Your Music?
In a conversation, a good listener is someone who can focus on the other person. That's the key part, which is sometimes just being there and letting the other person talk. What can we do, as musicians, to help the audience focus on the music we are playing?
a) Cut out any distractions for them. Maybe even put the space in the dark so that the audience can focus on the music rather than complaining about everything else. Ideally, we want them to enjoy and live in the moment;
b) Pick comfortable venues. People want to get to and from the venue without hassle;
c) Building a habit, such as listening to music, is really difficult. That's why, as musicians, we need to set up a reward for our listeners, something that can push them to attend our concerts again. What about hosting a dinner after the concert? Or, giving them a recording of the performance they just listened to? Make up your own ways to say "thanks," and give people another reason to remember you;
d) In building a habit we also need consistency. People need to get used to attending your concerts or listening to your music. For example, set up a concert that will be held at X venue every Y day of the week for a month, no matter what, and see what happens.
For many people, $10 is too much for buying something intangible, like music. How about we cut that down? Maybe just have a $2 or $3 entry fee, but play multiple sets. If you are used to having a $10 entry fee for an hour-long concert, just do three 20-minute sets for a $3 entry fee. You'll get around the same amount, but by doing so, you will:
a) reach more people;
b) get to know your music rather than playing anything else;
c) guarantee that people will be more likely to listen to you again.
And how about having three 20 minute-long sets with three different bands for the same price? That way you would connect with other musicians, too. Also, we should consider the "free option." From a buyer/listener perspective, when an option is free, there is no risk to making a wrong decision. There is nothing to losenothing to spend. Because free eliminates the need to think, it enables a very easy mental shortcut: if there's an option that's free, take it! That is very important, if we want to build networks.
Networks, Systems and Testing
To make these ideas a reality, it's very important to build a network of musicians who embrace the philosophy described above. More musicians = more music to be shared = more venues = more money = more listeners. It's time to get together! It's also important to focus on one thing at a time and test different ways of approaching it. When a particular approach works, then proceed to the next thing. It's important to build systems.
In the past weeks, I ran several surveys both online and offline. The first one was about choosing the one factor that would more motivate someone to attend concerts. People were called to choose between money (tickets from $1 to $3), diversification (listening to more bands at the same concert), space (alternative venues), time (shorter sets) and networking (connecting with like-minded individuals). It turned out that money, diversification, and venues are the core factors in term of motivation.
The survey also revealed that the top factor is how much people like the artist. If the artist is "worth it," then the other considerations become trivial. That means that people attend concerts of artists they already know. Sadly, the unknown is becoming more and more unattractive, whereas the known is safer.
More survey comments:
Annette says: "With eight stages, I can always find something I enjoy. If I don't like something, it is really easy to slip out and go check out another artist. Coffeehouses and bars offer a similar opportunity, albeit without the selection. But I can still walk out if I'm not into the music and I haven't wasted big money on a ticket."
Jamie says: "Money's price difference is too small to make a difference (I'm used to paying $25-$50). Diversification would be negative unless they were bands I wanted to see. Playing a shorter set would be negative if I actually wanted to see them. The place strikes me as odd because I can barely interact with the people I came with at a concert (I have to do that beforehand)."
In these comments I can easily address the common fears of listeners: (a) losing money on a concert of band/music they don't like;
(b) losing time on music they don't like;
(c) losing money and time on a shorter concert that doesn't fulfill them.
As musicians, we have to challenge these fears.
So, those were my ideas on the topic. To sum up, in the next months I'll experiment with: