Published on October 8th, 2014 | by Dylan Lott1
Moonshot: Providing Distractions
Moonshot thinking involves proposing bold, sometimes radical ideas that can influence an industry or culture. What’s proposed usually isn’t a solid product or idea, but instead more of a line of thinking that should be built upon. Take these kinds of posts lightly but use them to think about what can be done to better your band or brand.
About a month ago, my girlfriend and I went to a pop punk show at a very noteworthy venue in Pittsburgh. The show featured a who’s-who in the genre with a plethora of local artists and was billed as a “fest,” much as shows with ten bands do. It started in the early afternoon and didn’t end until the late evening.
It dragged. On. And. On. And. I. Aged. A. Few. Years. Every. Minute.
It wasn’t the festival’s fault, per se. The event was billed as a large pop punk gathering of bands. There were a handful of distractions, such as two organization booths for showing off their agendas, and one food truck outside, that, later on, couldn’t operate due to a no re-entry policy suddenly enforced.
But it’s the age of the hyper-connected, and my mind is just so filled with things… I get bored quickly. Everyone does. It wasn’t the fault of this festival in particular (in fact, they executed very, very well), more so that this happens too often.
Most shows, people don’t stay until the end. It’s unfortunate but real. Promoters have taken some steps to remedy this, such as not posting the order or times of each band on an event page, or providing a discount if you come early (or in the hip hop scene, I’ve even seen increasing the cost of the event as the night goes on), or, not to get personal, provide free food to the first however-many people at the show. But regardless, it’s an uphill battle.
Here Come The Hipsters
A few days ago, a certain music blog posted a link to an opinion article regarding limiting shows to only 3 bands. Some of the arguments included that the bands would have a longer set time and this would help combat the onset of undiagnosed ADHD the world is suffering from.
As any venue and promoter knows, this can only happen if the turnout for each of those bands is very high. For my standards, I’m talking 75+/band. Most bands can’t even draw 15 people to a show. So this is unreasonable in most cases.
Though it is an option. I want to offer another.
Providing Distractions to Help With Distractions
I got my feet wet in booking shows at a teen center in 2009 in a smaller city outside of Pittsburgh, Monroeville, called The Headquarters. The center was meant to give teens a place to hang out after school, and keep them off the streets. There were some old computers with Internet access, but the kids went to the multiple TV’s with N64’s, Playstation 2’s, an arcade machine with Galaga and Pac-Man, air hockey, foosball, a pool table, and many, many couches.
It was cool. But there was also a PA system! After some years, a friend allowed me to help him make shows there. We did $5 doors, no presales, and we split the money with the center. Most times we walked away with less than $50. This is when I learned about sustaining a music scene. The center closed a few months later due to not enough funds coming in (obviously) and a few years later, the vacant building was torn down, and a parking lot was built.
I’m assuming your shows are being run sustainably, in a way that makes sense, and clearly not as how we tried to do it. Nowadays, we use tools that work, such as presales with minimum requirements, possible pay for bands, and renting venues many, many times. But at the same time, we focused a lot on the music itself, by upgrading the PA system and getting more and more bands to play, but I feel like we forgot about the people that matter.
I want to focus on what I’m doing in my scene, as a promoter, and perhaps you can take some of this for your own events and music scene.
Part of what made The Headquarters awesome was the ambiance, the allure, and, yes, the distractions. The venue itself was plain. It looked like a high school cafeteria in a way, with generic linoleum tile on the ground, but it had those distractions that made it fun to go to.
Something I’m working on doing is bringing some of those things to some venues where I can. I have a great relationship with a legendary DIY venue in the Pittsburgh area, called The Keynote Cafe, who has some storage space available. Why not take some of the money made from a show and put it into things for the fans?
I’m not saying that only pool tables and air hockey and video games are needed to get people to come to shows, but watching bands mindlessly for hours can get tired. The amount of time between bands also doesn’t help. It can with socializing a little, but the drain of spending time in one place without things to let your mind explore and engulf the art is too great to allow a scene to sustain itself.
There needs to be a push to have more vendors, organizations, and people with a message or a product at events too. Not only will that help with advertising efforts, but it’ll also get people involved and spread the message that a music scene involves many people in many walks of life. A scene isn’t just bands, venues, and promoters.
Shows should not just be shows. Shows should be events. Events need many facets to not only attract people, but to also keep them there. What works in your scene? Leave some comments and keep the ideas flowing!