The dying art of live performance

by Smartie on August 26, 2010

Is live performance imprisoned by marketing and PR efforts?

Back when I worked with independent music artists (we’re talking like a decade ago!), Ariel Publicity was based in Colorado and Ariel was the shit. Her band roster was fantastic. But you would not necessarily see her bands in the New York Times, or even Rolling Stone for that matter.

First, Ariel understood the audience her clients needed to reach. And at a time when the New York Times was putting Britney Spear’s on page A1 above the fold, the Times’ readership was clearly not the same audience of some awesome underground ska band.

Next, even back then, Ariel understood the power of the internet, and this was back in the serious Wild West days. She worked with zines that moved from print to online, and she cultivated a terrific stable of independent writers who celebrated independent musicians.

Not to say she didn’t get major mainstream coverage–I am certain she did–but  the zines/blogs/niche outlets worked magic for her client list. And her clients speak rapturously about her work, without a Gray Lady clipping.

Anyway, I am on Ariel’s pretty fantastic monthly newsletter, and of course she is still the shit, but now based on Brooklyn. She is still changing the indie music landscape, working with her clients primarily online and with social media.

Ariel is a super smart cookie, so her latest newsletter got me thinking… She announced a Live Music Bootcamp that she is doing with Live Music Producer Tom Jackson.

Tom advises musicians on their live performance–as Ariel said, she’s high tech and he’s “high touch,” which she describes as “how do you get the hair on the back of your audience’s necks to stand up when they see you perform.”

Ariel then goes on to say that she has seen her fair share of boring live shows in the past five years, and she laments that the live show appears to be a dying art. After all, she says, “It’s that high touch in-person that will make fans care about your online in social media.”

I get what Ariel is talking about.

Back before the internet, I saw a lot of companies produce for the media. Everything was calculated (actually, I probably should say it was often MIScalculated) to try to get the press to cover. New York Fringe turned into the NY Gimmick Fest, which reached fever pitch when Urinetown, the one good gimmick show, headed to Broadway. (Ok, that’s enough picking on the NYFringe, they’ve had enough of that this past week).

Now that the media landscape has changed, I don’t see this press pandering as much anymore. But I do think that we have to tread carefully into this new social world. There is, rightfully, a lot of excitement about what these tools can do for independent artists. But it really worries me that Ariel said that live music performance is a dying art.

The gimmick might bring them into the theater, but the quality of the work they see will be what turns them into fans.

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2AMt » Blog Archive » Follow Friday: 27 August 2010
August 27, 2010 at 4:31 pm

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