new forms of live shows

Conversation on the kid gig 12/8 post developed around the interaction between changing music and existing forms of performance. The internet is changing recorded music. How can those changes be reflected in live shows?

Live music for most musicians is either in a bar or in a stadium. These contexts are in a continuum where one leads to the other. But stadium shows are an artifact of the economics of the 20th century recording industry.

Said Pribek:

I play too much in bars. It’s like going to a football game and already knowing the outcome.

The times that I have had an opportunity to play for kids, have all been a blast. Kids give honest reaction with no preconceived notions.

Playing in bars is all about reducing the musical experience to the lowest common denominator. I’m not complaining. I’m glad to have a chance to fire up the Tele tonight regardless.

T-Bone Burnett once said something like; “The music industry is based on the principal of selling music to people who don’t like music”.

Who knows how the selling of music shakes out in this “brave new world”? Personally, I don’t care.

I have a hunch that when the dust settles, there will be more opportunity to find a venue to play live for people who do like music.

(As always, I have made lots of edits to comments while converting them to full-fledged posts).

gurdonark replied:

Lately, I want all music to be in matinee’ form.
The “nightlife prison” for music does conjure up some rich, almost cinematic associations. Yet live music becomes so limited when its trapped in that dates-and-drinks-and-diversion mesh, and perhaps limited in a different way in the “concert as religious experience” groove.

I don’t play live, but if I did, I’d always play starting no later than 2 p.m.

Also, I’d rather have my music accompany a planetarium show or a multi-media presentation than be a performer. I am all for concerts and performances, but I like the idea that one can be one component of a fun in which music is incorporated into a multi-media activity.

Most of my things appear at netlabels like NSI.
I am not opposed to CDs, but they’re almost irrelevant to me, as you suggest. I made and even sold some a few years ago, but now they’d be more a curious gift for friends than anything like “music distribution”.

I love meatspace performances. But I think the consructs for them are all rooted in performer/audience assumptions that are no longer the right assumptions. By this, I mean that
I have no desire to hold a candle up for a superstar anymore, but instead want to be drenched in an interactive medium. I love what Kristin Hersh and radiohead and Issa (nee’ Jane Siberry) are doing with self-directed payments, and what numerous people are doing with netlabel creative commons. I recently was on’s “collusion” dark ambient piece–12 artists contributing to create one whole–not for the glory of anyone, but for the sheer participation of the thing. That’s the present, and the future.

And Jay Fienberg said:

The last live show I did was a band reunion where most of the audience was made up of band members’ kids, nieces and nephews. Playing for kids is really great–in many ways better then when I was a kid and most of the audience would be our parents, aunts and uncles.

btw, Seattle has lots of live music in bars, pubs, coffee houses, laundromats, etc., and it’s really a great thing to be a music fan and be out at night and be around live music. It looks like it’s a lot more fun to play here than the places where I used to play (in LA, SF). Bar gigs are not glorious for a musician, but they’re often a big break from spending one’s whole life in a cubicle, etc. And, if there’s a crowd of real music fans in the mix, it can approach some real glory, IMHO.

So here’s the question: the recording industry is changing dramatically. What aspects of live music rely on aspects of the recording industry that are going away? What new kinds of live music does the internet enable?

6 thoughts on “new forms of live shows

  1. I believe that the recording industry “mid-list” of artists who will be advanced tour money despite solid but unexceptional sales is a thing of the past. Although for some artists, this seems like a very bad thing, I believe that it’s in the long run a good thing, as a more independent mid-list will develop which creates its own recordings and gets to keep more of its album sales. Already we see ticket prices for “A” list performers going sky-high, as concert promoters seek the “big win” from each show, while we see some nightclubs expand to include concert space to accomdodate gigs by this newer, leaner meaner “mid-list star” that might formerly have played the local fieldhouse between basketball games, accompanied by an extortionately financed media blitz.

    So far, the internet has meant that live gigs for some break-out bands get promoted by myspace pages and message boards. As it stands now, the internet enables niche fans of so many genres to find one another. I believe this is going to mean lots of small gigs by newly-bonded such niches of similar listeners. We’re seeing already the return of the “house concert” after public spaces prove too expensive for this group of folks to rent. It’s no longer “shameful” for a band to play a corporate private party one gig, a house show another gig, and yet still hope to move 1,000s of digital downloads.

    I think we’re going to create a new set of troubadors. We won’t worry so much about venue and the “concert” experience–we’ll instead enjoy people in new ways in homes, in unlikely public places, and in niche fan groups we’d never have found but for the internet.

  2. “What aspects of live music rely on aspects of the recording industry that are going away?”

    The notion that an act will tour to promote a record. The industry is shifting focus from the recording side to big shed concert promotion. The industry will hedge their bets, as they always do, and spend promotional budgets on perceived, sure thing, established acts. It seems to be a one way street as the sure things will go by the wayside due to attrition.
    How does the next sure thing evolve?

    “What new kinds of live music does the internet enable?”

    I have played some house concerts and the idea is evolving. I have had some great experiences and some disasters. The disasters have all been tied to situations where the promoters were disorganized or, the space was not conducive to music performance. There are some well known and very well done house concert series’ that I am familiar with. These people have been inundated with artist submissions. So, it seems that there is a supply/demand issue.

    Lucas, when I saw your original post yesterday, I thought about a show that I played about 20 years ago. This was a deal where a small town had a summer concert series at a band shell in the city park. Each week a local business would sponsor a show. It was up to the business to chose and pay the performers. So, it was a combined effort between the town and local business. Good venue and a diverse set of acts, ranging from the Marine Concert Band, local college choir to the rock band I was in. I don’t know why there isn’t more of this type of thing.

    I would not have ever been exposed to Lucas’, gurdonark’s or Jay’s music, if not for the internet. Just these three examples demonstrate the creativity and diversity that are available.

    I am not as tech savvy as any of you. I’m probably last-gen. I am not familiar with CC Mixter, NSI or meatspaces. The concept of a niche audience is great. How does that apply to live performance? You would have to have a good number of niche fans in any given area to make it a practical idea to put on a show.

    So, given that I don’t have the tech chops, I wonder why it wouldn’t be possible to develop some type of a live, hi fidelity webcast, in which niche fans could participate in some interactive ways. Live video from a suitable room with the performer getting real time audience feedback in the form of applause, conversation or even disapproval. Maybe this has been done.

  3. A pattern I notice in both of your comments is the move to niche audiences.

    In my experience with internet socializing, online communities that I spend any amount of time with end up forming a real-world equivalent. In New York and LA I have gone to meetups for the Pho list. I have permanent friends from the FoRK list. A friendnet I’m in has deepened the relatively shallow friendships that it started with.

    With something like this, you get together with your internet friends here and there, and the real-world meeting cements the cyber relationship as well. And a gig that you went to in the real world as a result of meeting an act on the net would feel like this as well — the two spaces would complement one another.

    Pribek, I love your anecdote about local shows sponsored by local businesses. That seems completely natural. I could see similar events sponsored by internet advertisers, so somebody who advertised on Myspace music would also get inventory at real-world concerts of acts who are big on Myspace.

    I also worry about the recursive nature of big-venue shows. If pop music culture is splintering in a million niche cultures, how is a band going to reach that size?

  4. By the way, the kid gig was great. There was a big mosh pit and plenty of adults came over to say they enjoyed it. I played with just as much intensity as normal, which made me wonder if I was overdoing it, but what the hell.

  5. I’m glad you enjoyed the gig Lucas. I find your remark about intensity interesting. Backing off the intensity seems to be a refuge that performers often seek, sometimes subconsciously.

    As far as the niche audience idea goes; this has been the big promise of the digital revolution. Diversity of quality content and the ability to reach every possible member of a certain niche.

    As musicians, our widget (recorded music) has become impractical. So, if we can figure out how to turn this niche audience into gigs, well..that’s always been the best widget anyway.

    I’m not a proponent of MySpace because it’s somebody else’s real estate (Rupert Murdoch) and they control the best part of the potential revenue streams.

    One thing I would like to see more of is, artists that develop/market through their own web real estate and, along with that, actual sponsors on these web pages as opposed to the hit and miss type of advertising currently available. Said sponsors could theoretically be involved in live show promotion.

  6. I’m so glad the kid show went well. I think it’s important–and fun–to bring your intensity to that show just as you would with a club show.
    At the same time, it’s fun to think “what if I played every show as if I were playing to kids”, which has a pleasing sense of wonder about it, too.

    I think everyone is grappling with whether big-venue shows will mean the same things in a new music climate. My sense is that there will always be big-venue shows, but that’s because I am a bit starry-eyed in thinking that new ways of granting mass appeal will arise even without record company marketing. The potential profits to be made from a new generation of large venue/no label performers is the basis upon which I base this hope.

    Me, though, I’d rather make music to which kids

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