I’d Rather Play for Free
Music is infinite and freely available. So if you’re a small band it’s hard to get someone to take a look.
If you an admission fee for a small band’s concert, you will win that band no new fans. Who is the consumer that pays for live music from a band they’ve never heard of? That person is a chump.
That’s why it’s my solemn goal to play as many free shows as I possibly can with my band The Push Push.
I do not hate money. On the contrary, I love money. I’d be happy to pass the hat at any show. But charging even a nominal fee for a concert is really counterproductive, because it keeps people from coming into the show in the first place. The artist can’t control many of the most important aspects of a concert. How much you enjoy a band has a lot to do with the audience: how familiar are they with material, how do they react to the venue, do they jump up and dance and, importantly, how many other people are attending?
An empty concert venue feels awkward to the performers and the audience. As an audience member you have too much attention coming your way, when you should be there to be entertained. Social cues from those around us go a long way toward shaping our experience of the music we’re hearing.
So what social cues do we see when we are at a typical music venue? The majority of the people usually gravitate to the part of the club that’s free to access, not where the music is. They actively avoid taking in the performance by talking over the music and sitting where it’s quietest. If the band is too small to have casual fans, the people around the stage will clearly be closely associated with the band members’ social group. None of this is conducive to enjoying a show or valuing the music you hear.
Now contrast this with a free show, here people are open to the band. The listeners may have come to hear the band play or they may have been attracted by the natural draw of the venue. Here the social cues from the fans of the band can have a positive effect on those watching the band and nobody is actively avoiding the music area. Not everyone who sees your band will be impressed or care to see you again, but if even one in 20 of those fans cares enough to talk about you on their social media, seek out your music or come to your next show, you’ve made real progress.
It’s one of the few ways to make your band stand out when you’re competing with for attention.