Who Cares?

Be patient. I mean for that title to be taken literally.

Some time back, we played a gig at a club — any club — in a town — any town — and there were no fliers advertising the show anywhere in the club or on the nearby streets. There was no mention of our show on the club’s website. Turnout consisted almost entirely of people who were friends of one of the bands. There was a total of four people NOT somehow associated with one of the acts who heard about the gig and came because they were interested in hearing one or all of the bands. I know there were only four because I talked to every single one of them. They heard about the show through the grapevine, on BBSs, in chat rooms, and c., and NOT through any advertising. The only flyering that was done was done indirectly by the bands.

Some time back, we played a gig at a club — any club — in a town — any town — and there were flyers everygoddamnwhere. You couldn’t walk into a record store without seeing them. You couldn’t walk around the area of the club without seeing them. Someone showed me newspaper advertisements and plugs, and told me there was a radio contest of some sort. There were more people in the club than I could speak to in a night, so I didn’t bother trying. Many of those to whom I spoke mentioned that they had been looking forward to the gig for some time. They all said that they had heard about from multiple sources.

Why was one show so cared for, and the other seemingly not? Why did one show get plugged, promoted, pushed, and otherwise advertised within an inch of its life while the other was left to fend for itself?

I’ve wondered about the antagonistic relationship between bands and clubs before; the bands assume the club is going to have a following, a group of “regulars” who attend shows all the time, and in addition will do lots of advertisement while the club assumes vise versa. Sometimes one of the parties is correct in their assumption, though it very rarely happens that both are correct. Why don’t both groups just go nuts promoting things? Well, okay. I guess I know the answer to that one.

Doing promotion sucks. Or at least it does for most people. When asked once why he hadn’t toured for so long, Peter Gabriel responded “Well I guess it’s that I prefer to be an artist rather than a salesman.” I disagree with the big G in that I do not think touring is selling, but I agree with his sentiment if applied to promotion. Promoting the gig is selling the gig, and most artistic types just rankle at having to do it, which is terrible because they have lots to lose by not promoting. The killer is though, that promotion works! That’s the bugger about the whole thing! I used to wonder why I bothered flyering, because who reads a flier anyway, and if they do, who goes to a gig because of it? Well, the fliers are just part of it. It’s a combination of handbills, fliers, ads, radio, word-of-mouth, the whole thing. It has to be made to seem like an event, regardless of whether it is or not. Obviously doing this much promo for every gig would be maddening. Sometimes y’need a break. But if you want a show to be an event — y’gotta hit the pavement, especially now, when there is so little incentive for people to see live music. Why go see a show where things can go wrong, the singer can be off-key, a string can break, the weather can suck, and c., when you can stay here with this perfectly preserved and replayable musical object that you can play over and over again and get more-or-less the same musical joy out of over and over again? Why care?

This other band I was never in played a gig in a club — any club — in a town — any town, and they had a huge crowd. They had been promoting for weeks on the radio, in the papers, on the streets, all over. I went to the gig, and they sucked. Sucked with a capital UCK. I looked around the venue during their set and noticed they had quite a large crowd there. Why were we there? Why were we enduring this? Because they promoted the hell out of the show, promoted it to the point where it was an event and you were foolish not to be there. Their music may not have connected, but they sure the hell did one thing right: they made us care, even if just about that one show, they made us care and they got us there.