Getting a Great Show

When I did the Landmark Forum (and if you like I can rant about that for a page and a half) there was an exercise we did where one person talks about a topic they’re passionate about, while their partner makes a point of ignoring them. It was amazing how difficult it was to put a complete sentence together in this scenario. When the exercise was repeated only w/ the partner actively listening, speaking became an effortless flow.

I’ve noticed this effect when performing music, with a bit of a twist: the more people that are listening, the easier it is to perform well (and the better my performance is) and the more people that are there but not listening, the more difficult it is to play well (in fact, there have been times where my playing has approached “sucking”). I feel bad when there’s a few people really listening and wanting to enjoy the show but two dozen people actively ignoring the music and that taking it’s toll on the band (btw, it does help to have a band that’s listening to each other. One of the reasons why I enjoy performing w/ the likes of Matt Baranello and Big Time Matt Klein so much).

To drive this home, let’s say you go to see a hypothetical national act, let’s call them “Aerosmith”. Well, if you’re in a stadium w/ thousands of people listening, it enables this fictitious group to do a fantastic show, seemingly effortlessly (which it kind of is, in that a lot of the effort in putting on a great show is dissipated throughout the audience). Now let’s say the next week you go to see a hypothetical local group, let’s call them “John Wilkes Booth” (and they’re performing at a hypothetical venue called “Mr. Beery’s” in an imaginary location we’ll call “Lawn Guyland”). And what if there are only 30 people in attendance, and only ten of them are actually checking out the band. It may appear that this group is not as good as the stadium act, but that would be inaccurate (in my mind) as this second act has to fight through the resistance of most of the audience (though they shouldn’t really be called an audience if they’re not paying attention). I would even argue that if John Wilkes Booth does manage to pull off a good show (which they have done) the effort required to do that puts them in a category above Aerosmith.

But here’s the more important thing: if you go to see the first band, you’ll probably pay at least $50 for a ticket, so you have a high incentive to really listen. If you go to see the second group, it may be a $10 cover at most, and so you may not be as motivated to really pay attention. But from an economical point of view, you’d serve yourself better by skipping the first show, and treating the second one like it was a $50 show. In fact, if you really want to get the most out of local shows, bring a bunch of friends and make sure they understand that you’re there to hear the music. If you can get them to follow your lead (I don’t know what kinds of friends you have and what the dynamic is in your relationship, so you’ll have to determine how possible that is) you will get a $50 show out of a $10 band. Can you turn down a bargain like that?



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