Music is communication. I believe communication is more valuable when it causes a change for all the involved parties (in this particular case these would be musicians and their audiences). That’s why I’m now interested in studying psychology and how behavior change works. I want to apply those concepts to find an alternative model to experience music.
Experience, that’s key.
I know only two kinds of people:
A. the ones who complain over and over about something that should be different;
B. the ones who make, and actually change the world for the better.
I choose to make, and deliver an experience through sounds.
We, as musicians, want exactly that: conveying an experience that eventually moves the others. That’s our contribution to the world, in a way. That means, when listeners leave after the concert, they should feel different, at least at a subconscious level.
But, to achieve that level of experience listeners must truly listen and accept everything without any psychological barrier. Listening deeply is hard.
How do you solve this problem?
I studied on the internet and it turned out there are different ways to do that.
Our target behavior is: listen to music. Having that clear in your mind, there are two paths on the way. The easy (and sometime convenient I would say) path is to make the target behavior easier to do. The hard path is to educate people, train people and give them more skills and ability to complete the target behavior.
Now, most of the musicians I know choose the easy path. And they walk through it the wrong way. They choose not to make listening to music easier but the music itself.
For me, music is not marketing, it’s my art, my way of expression. “Giving them what they want!” is bad advice. Music is everything and making it easier to digest is not a compromise solution, at least not mine.
I feel like there is no way to adapt to the market and to trends. Music shouldn’t be about either make people have what they want or make people have what you want. It’s not entertainment. It’s deeper than that. It’s about sharing.
Thereby, we want to educate people, with a step-by-step process, as Bill Evans would recall in the “Universal Mind”. We want to facilitate the process of listening to music with baby steps for long-term change.
So, why do people not attend our concerts? Why do people not listen deeply to music? I think it’s about what it costs in terms of time, effort and money.
I’m testing different ways of sharing music with the audience. The following is a set of three factors that I’m changing to better reach listeners.
Attending concerts takes time. Listening to music takes time. Time is a really big issue in music because, of course, there are different times going on when we play. Let’s understand how this factor works from the listeners’ perspective: we have to understand that time is value and we should motivate the audience to keep listening. We are responsible, as composers and performers, of their time. Why should someone listen to you rather than doing something else?
These are some ideas about how to maximize your impact in less time:
- Get to-the-point:
Leave out any speech before the beginning of the concert. Let the music be the words you would say to the audience. Just let the music flow.
- Change the format:
The cd format is boring: just pack a usb or make a digital package with one or two tracks, but treat it like a new cd release. Aim for perfection: while live performances should be in the moment and affected by drama, recordings should be perfect.
For those of you who think the cd format is not boring yet, I have three questions: Do you actually use it? Do you like to use it? Is the company who makes it trying to make it better for you?
Also, leave the audience wanting more from you by doing concerts of 30 or 40 minutes. Not more. Also, do you really think you’ll need to be on stage? Do you think you’ll need expensive sound equipment? Well, I believe it’s actually better to connect with people in such a space where you can feel them, their breath.. so I would say no.
- Choose your audience:
As I wrote here, keep out of the game people who don’t care, let go of expectations. People are lazy. They want to be motivated. From my experience a core motivator that just works is social acceptance: people go to concerts because by doing so they can elevate their social status. But wait! I don’t want that kind of audience! So how to filter?
a) Building credibility: tell people exactly what you did and how you came up with certain ideas for the music you will be presenting at the concert. Tell them also where you have been playing (if relevant). Tell them the numbers of people which attended your concerts or the number of downloads (also, if relevant).
b) Being selective and very specific: you will attract only those who are really interested in your work.
c) Outraging: challenge people with strong statements. Take risk. Again, you don’t want everybody to be your fan. You just want the right people.
In a conversation, a good listener is someone who can focus on the other person. That’s the key part, which is sometimes just being there and letting the other person talk. What can we do, as musicians, to help the audience focus on the music we are playing?
Cut any distraction for them. Maybe even put the space in the dark so that the audience can focus on the music rather then complaining about everything else. Ideally, we want them to enjoy and live in the moment.
Pick comfortably venues. People want to get to and from the venue without hassle.
Building a habit (such as listening to music) is really difficult. That’s why as musicians we need to set up a reward for our listeners: something that can eventually push the listeners to attend our concerts again. What about hosting a dinner after the concert? Or, giving them a recording of the performance they just listened to?
In building a habit we also need consistency. People need to get used to attending your concert or listening to your music.
For example: Set up a concert that will be held at X venue every Y day of the week for a month, no matter what and see what happens.
For most people $10 is too much for buying something not tangible, like listening to music. How about cut that down? Maybe just have a $2 or $3 entry fee but play multiple sets (maybe even let whoever wants to stay for the next sets). If you used to have a $10 entry fee for an hour-long concert just do three 20-minutes-long sets for a $3 entry fee and you get around the same amount, but by doing so:
a) you reach more people;
b) you get to know your music rather then playing anything else;
c) people will be more likely to listen to you again.
And how about having three 20-mins long sets with 3 different bands for the same price? That way you would connect with other musicians, too.
Also, we should consider the “free option”. From a buyer/listener perspective, when an option is free, there is no risk to making a wrong decision. There is nothing to lose—nothing to spend. Because free eliminates the need to think, it enables a very easy mental shortcut: if there’s an option that’s free, take it! That is very important if we want to build networks.
NETWORKS AND SYSTEMS
To make these ideas a reality, it’s very important to build a network of musicians who embrace the philosophy described above. More musicians = more music to be shared = more venues = more money = more listeners. It’s time to be together!
It’s also important to focus on one thing at a time and test different ways of approaching it. When a particular approach works, then proceed to the next thing. It’s important to build system.
In the past weeks, I ran several surveys both online and offline.
The first one was about choosing the one factor that would motivate someone more to attend concerts. People were called to choose among money (tickets from $1 to $3) , diversification (listen to more bands at the same concert), space (alternative venues), time (shorter sets) and networking (connecting with like-minded individuals).
It turns out money, diversification and venues are the core factors in term of motivation.
The survey revealed also that the top factor is how much people like the artist. If the artist is “worth it”, then the rest become a triviality. But, that means people attend concerts of artists they already know. Sadly, the unknown is becoming more and more unattractive, whereas the known is safer.
These are some comments I got:
Annette says: “With 8 stages, I can always find something I enjoy. If I don’t like something it is really easy to slip out and go check out another artist. Coffee houses and bars offer a similar opportunity, albeit without the selection. But I can still walk out if I’m not into the music and I haven’t wasted big money on a ticket.”
Jamie says: “Money’s price difference is too small to make a difference (I’m used to paying $25-$50). Diversification would be negative unless they were bands I wanted to see. Playing a shorter set would be negative if I actually wanted to see them. The place strikes me as odd because I can barely interact with the people I came with at a concert (have to do that beforehand).”
In this comments I can easily address the common fears of listeners: 1. losing money on a concert of band/music they don’t like. 2. losing time on a concert of band/music they don’t like. 3. losing money and time on a shorter concert that doesn’t fulfill themselves.
How can we challenge these fears and make it a no-brainer for people to listen to our music? What do you think?
So, those were my ideas on the topic. To sum up, in the next months I’ll be experimenting with:
1. Find a new model for people to listen to music that actually works for both musicians and listeners who care;
2. Find a relatively new model for spreading the music, giving away the best music I can possible think of for free.
I’ll do this by educating people with a step-by-step process that facilitate the process of listening to music in terms of time, money and effort in order to structure future long-term behaviors, reduce barriers and create networks, spreading ideas and creating attention on music.
- The Universal Mind of Bill Evans;
- BJ Fogg and Charles Duhigg on behavior;
- Seth Godin on the gap between free and paid;
- An open letter from Ben Allison;
- On Function, form and future by Shawn Blanc.