Ensembles treat people they’re coaxing to a concert differently than old audiences. Old audiences know you. They keep showing up because they like what you’re doing (hopefully). They already trust you. It’s easy to take them for granted, so we should check in with them every once in a while. See what they think. Are they getting bored? Do they want to try something different?
New audiences, on the other hand, don’t know you. They might be interested in what you’re offering, but they’re not sure they want it. You have to earn their trust and attention, which requires a lot of energy. Sometimes, though, they’re simply looking for an invitation. These are the people who already want what you have, whether they’ve expressed it or not.
Although they require different strategies, they both require your attention and communication. The currency for both audiences is trust.
What is an audience? Is it a group of people who sit in a concert hall? People passing by on the street? You can turn almost anyone into an audience. Send them an invitation and see if they respond.
When an audience thinks of your ensemble, what comes to mind? That you’re fun? Hip? You remind them of their childhood? You’re surprising? Predictable? Lousy? Sloppy? Would you be scared to ask them? Or excited to hear what they say? Your (their) answers are what define your ensemble. Might as well know where you are, so you can know where to go.
When a audience members shows up to your concert, they’re saying something about themselves and to other people. They’re showing what kinds of people they are. Their interests. Their beliefs. They’re showing what sorts of things they want to support. In supporting your ensemble, what is your audience saying about itself? How do you fit into the story they tell themselves about the people they want to be?
What audiences do you want alienate? Who won’t your group appeal to? Why not? In making choices about audiences, we inevitably alienate some group. You’re too classical, too progressive. Too academic, too popular. If you are evoking powerful feelings of hate from some groups, maybe that means there’s another that believes you’re exactly what they’re looking for. If someone leaves your concert with intense feelings, then you’ve appealed to some and repulsed others. If they leave feeling apathetic, you haven’t inspired anyone to care one way or the other.
Do you motivate your audience to interact with you or does your audience motivate you to interact with them? Ideally, it’s symbiosis--as you interact with each other, you motivate and sustain each other. You value each other. And you both win.
When will your audience see you/ hear you/ experience you? At the usual concert hour in the later evening? In the afternoon? Anytime they go on YouTube? People’s lives are organized. Different times mean that you’re competing with different interests. A 10 PM concert might be too late for those with children but perfect for night-owl college students. Find the time that’s optimal for your audience, and they’ll have fewer distractions and will put more of their attention on your ensemble and what you are offering.
How can your audience meet you and your ensemble? Is your webpage current? Can they call you? Email you? Send a letter? Pigeon? And once they contact you, what will your response be? What will you say to someone asking for more information?
Sometimes we get the unexpected call or email. Maybe people are desperate to learn more, to engage with us. However, that can only happen after we’ve done the grunt work of setting up the initial infrastructure. And, of course, only when they have someone to engage with over something that interests them.
Where is your audience? Are they in concert halls? Schools? Universities? Coffee shops? Homes? The street? The location of your performances affects the audience, or the audience affects where you can perform. Consider them and your goals as you decide on a location.
Does your music do what you say and think it does to your audience? Does it make them feel something? Really? Does it challenge them? How? Does it make them see the world in a new way? What makes you so sure? Lying to yourself about your effect on the audience alienates you from your audience. Instead, consider changing what you’re doing so that you have your intended effect or perhaps change your audience. But lying to them or yourself doesn’t help create a dynamic, meaningful relationship--it prevents it.