Updated: Apr 18, 2019
See how they’re just laughing with each other and not even LOOKING at the stage?
That’s what you want. Being a musician who is dedicated to clocking in countless hours towards bettering my own performing abilities, this aspect of concerts was not something that I wanted to realize by attending 2019’s GreenFest Concert. It bothered me. For a brief moment this past weekend, I found myself annoyed by some college students who wanted nothing from the concert but a great time and an excuse to post something on Instagram that would boost their engagement rates from 8% to 11.2%. I’m using fake numbers, but I’ve made my point. This event was nothing but a blip on life’s radar. As the people around me were dancing, taking pictures, and in other ways making memories with their respective groups of friends, I was engaged in a more serious activity, closely watching the stage and anticipating that the evening’s performers would shed some light on what exactly it takes to put on a huge spectacle in front of
thousands of energetic college kids.
Is it talent? Passion? Perseverance? No, no, and absolutely negative. Not surprisingly,
when musicians talk amongst themselves, a common thread found across different types of genres is the value placed on originality, creativity, and other universally agreeable themes. The surprise comes from the fact that in order to put on a good show, a show that audiences will generally enjoy, such cherished values by musicians fall to the wayside for familiarity and comfort. Of course, talent and skill level have importance, and I mean no disrespect to what is considered to be “true art” or honest expression through technical songwriting. My intentions are purely to debunk what artists and musicians within the creative community mistakenly believe to be the path to career success. I simply wish to offer my observations as a means of assisting my fellow creatives in going about their performing careers in a practical way. By the way, did I mention that I’m an artist?
Stay true to yourself! Use your voice! It’s important that you make your mark. Don’t
betray your own values as an artist just because somebody wrote some notes about a concert that they attended over the weekend and is passing them off as facts. Quiet Child, Natey Z, Cashmere Cat, and Daniel Caesar all showed the crowd something that was uniquely their own. That’s something to be proud of.
Truthfully, audiences love what they already know and will appreciate nostalgic elements
if they are included in a set, but they aren’t stupid. You aren’t stupid either. (Right?) The main idea that I want to get across here is that a big show has a big audience and if the audience is not enjoying themselves, then your show sucks. In other words: the show’s wack. In today’s social media world, that’s just how it goes. I’m a stubborn person, but I’m not fighting against that. I could literally be rapping like Jay-Z and singing like Beyoncé in the same song; but as long as the audience isn’t getting the experience that they paid for plus more, you’ve failed.
The audience wants to feel and be felt. They want empathy and to be given guidance.
Inspire anger or evoke sadness through your music and you will be remembered. The great performers of the past stuck to a similar formula and as a result, they did amazingly well for themselves in their careers, however brief. As an artist who performs live, the capacity to understand the psychological effects that certain rhythms and sound choices have on spectators is an indispensable tool to have, not only from a creative standpoint but from occupational standpoint as well.
Live music is work, and work at times can be tough. But work can also be enjoyed. One
particular saying that makes its rounds time and time again is, “The customer is always right.” I know some people are punching the air right now just thinking about hearing those words out loud. My fingers just slammed the computer keys a little harder while typing the words out because of how f****** frustrating that phrase is. Yet the life of such a phrase has been prolonged by the resounding accuracy of it, and in the music industry, the “customer” is your audience. So, treat your audience respectfully and give them a show that is fun yet familiar to show them that you care. After all, they are always right.
These are observations, not facts. By the way, did I mention that I’m an artist?!
Written by: Josh Palmer