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Small audiences, small venues

The Sensible Flutist: Small audiences, small venues

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Small audiences, small venues

Performing for a small yet supportive audience

Upside: I had a successful performance this past Saturday at Moonstone.

Downside: I had 6 people show up. My online audience that tuned in via Ustream was larger than my in person crowd.

Some might be devastated by this, and this detail consumed me for most of Sunday as I tried to take the day off. I've chosen to put things in perspective though and I'm regrouping. I'm not sure what my next performance project will be. I'm interested in self-producing because I want to maintain creative control of what I'm doing. And I still feel that smaller, more intimate venues make my music more accessible; however, I cannot afford to finance my own concerts. I want to play to generate income. 

Was my program too niche? It was still a flute and piano recital and although I undertook huge promotional efforts online and via social media, did I only just appeal to a small group of people? I have some ideas brewing. I wouldn't be moving forward and asking these questions if I hadn't undertaken this project.

There are no regrets. Just brutal honesty that in spite of our best efforts to get people to show up, we're not going to get the numbers we'd expected. If people come out for live music, they want it in an intimate, accessible setting. As a performer, I'm sharing in the experience with my audience. I don't want it any other way.

Can a show at a small venue be self-sustaining with income generating potential? It's a question I'm pondering now so that subsequent shows that I play or any future concert I help someone else produce will have favorable results.

On to the next one.

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3 Comments:

At April 3, 2012 at 6:41 PM , Blogger Jamey said...

I'm sorry you didn't get a larger live audience. I'm sure a great deal of drumming up business, so to speak, is learning how to promote your event. Do you live in an area where the art scene is not as robust as it should be? This is a bit outside your control, but maybe you can focus efforts on arts education when promoting your events. Also, and I'm sure you've considered this, I wonder if collaborating with another soloist could work to your advantage. Just some thoughts. Again, I can't wait to see a video of the concert.

 
At April 30, 2012 at 9:54 AM , Blogger Peter Amsel said...

There are many things that can be said about the experience you had at Moonstone, but the first thing that must be said - before anything else - is thank you: thank you for the commitment that you made to promote new music. It was an honour to be part of the event, and I greatly enjoyed hearing the portion of the concert that you broadcast live, and I'm very much looking forward to the piece that we're going to do for flute and piano with Erica ... it's going to be a lot of fun!

Having said that, there are some things that I'd like to offer that might help you as you continue to pursue the idea of a self-produced solo career. There are many things that a young soloist can do to strike up new interest in their instrument and, for that matter, for new music; relying on "traditional" venues, however, is something that I am convinced is not one of the things that is going to work in your favour for the simple reason that they are looking for one of two things: a name or a guarantee draw at the door (number of seats filled).

Having personally produced a concert featuring a world-class viola soloist - someone with dozens of CDs to her name and appearances with every major orchestra in the world (Rivka Golani) that drew an audience of 12, I know that having a name isn't enough. There's politics involved in music these days, and it's ugly stuff. One of the ways that this can be circumvented - a bit - is to leave the music scene behind ... completely.

What I'm suggesting is that you seek non-traditional venues for your performances. Art Galleries that are hosting modern art displays - speak to the curators about the possibility of doing a concert that would "compliment" their show - it would probably be possible to set up at least 100 chairs in a large gallery space, if not more. You may have to use a digital piano if an acoustic cannot be brought in, but ... that's one of the concessions that performers have to make in the new paradigm of non-traditional concertizing.

Another option is the "house concert". There are a number of people (upper-middle class - rich - etc.) who have become "hosts" of "parlour concerts" - true "chamber concerts" as it were. The trick is finding them and getting yourself invited to the show. I know of one here in Ottawa, for example, that does jazz concerts in their living room.

Then there's the "Church" recital - using the sanctuary of a church is a natural choice for producing a concert, and most churches charge only a nominal fee for the rental of their sanctuary (and, as a bonus, most have a decent piano - and will allow you to use it - with an additional fee if you need it tuned).

The greatest price - in every case - will be (and should be) advertising. As the saying goes, you have to spend a buck to make a buck. Social media is great, but it's not enough for concert promotion - neither is email. Press releases to print media and radio are essential, as are offers to media for interviews and "exclusives" about the "upcoming event" - you have to "create a buzz" about the event for them (the media) to take notice and cover it - BEFORE it happens. You need to send invitations to concert reviewers so that your performances are reviewed and written about in the paper - when that happens you have more ammunition when you begin preparing the NEXT concert.

 
At April 30, 2012 at 10:03 AM , Blogger Peter Amsel said...

To conclude (I think my comment was at the length limit) - when I was working for as music director of the new music society called "Espace Musique" we had many debates about the amount we would spend on promotional material and advertising. Running an ad in the newspaper was expensive, but - depending on when, and where it was placed, it could hit a target audience that would come to the show. The board usually wimped out on the spending and didn't want to pay the extra, until our final concert (we'd lost our grant for the rest of the season). We had a great ensemble coming - The Gryphon Trio - and I insisted that we run ads in the paper and in programs on other concerts. Well, it worked - we had a packed concert hall for the event. Was it the advertising or was it the ensemble ... since we didn't have another concert after that one to test the methods, I'll never know, but I'm quite certain that it was a combination of the two as I've seen those results for other new music events in this city at other times.

Suffice it to say, don't give up - what we need in new music is a drastic paradigm shift to the way things are done - music has to leave the concert hall and become more accessible to the people, to people who wouldn't ordinarily find themselves in a concert hall.

Good luck - and again, thank you.
-p

 

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