Last night we were all gathered around the door of our show, trying to entice a small trickle of patrons from the downstairs bar to come up and enjoy the music while watching the game.
We’re a bit threatening in our overwhelming friendliness and team t-shirts, and so any time more than three of us congregated in a clump I made an effort to peel away and lurk somewhere else. Maybe if we were summer camp counselors, but at a concert the sight of eight people in matching t-shirts advancing on you can be a little disconcerting.
At one point I peeled in tandem with someone else, and we got to talking about our trickle of visitors. “We have such great music here,” they said. “Why don’t people want to come in and hear it?”
It’s certainly true that we had great music – probably the best three-songwriter bill Philly would see all month – Josh Albright, Bevin Caulfield, and Blueberry Magee and His Hot Five. And, it’s my job to be able to be able answer their question with sophisticated marketing plans and communications approaches.
Last night my answer was much simpler. “Most people just don’t know,” I explained, “that this music even exists.”
That’s not a matter of marketing or communication – it’s really education. Much in the way we live in a liberal bastion of a city and frequently underestimate the power of people’s ability to disagree with our beliefs, we have also ensconced ourselves in a local music community that puts a huge value on genre-bending and sheer-musicianship.
It’s a community that I didn’t even know existed until earlier this year, and I’ve been a musician in Philadelphia for years. I really thought I was going to walk into a bar one day with some original songs, play them, and that everyone would fall madly in love with me. And, well, maybe they will. But there are a lot of other people out there deserving of that love that I never knew existed.
This year my eyes have been opened to just how much music is in the air in Philadelphia every night of the week. So many open mics. So many amazing local artists playing shows. How on Monday one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen could play to a room of just two dozen people. How our best-bill-of-the-month was playing to a small crowd of dedicated listeners and a bar full of football fans.
I’ve been lucky to experience the thrill of playing to a full house more than once this year, but I’ve played to exponentially more empty or inattentive rooms. Nobody likes the latter. But, I’m starting to understand that you can’t just fill that void with communication – that just informs people you already talk to, or marketing – that just reaches out to people predisposed to you.
What you need to fill that void is education. People need to understand that this creative community exists, that there is diverse music to be heard, and that artists all around the city are striving for an opportunity to express themselves.
Last night’s show was not Lyndzapalooza‘s biggest success, but it might have been the best reinforcement of our mission. We exist to celebrate creative community, diverse music, and equally opportunity expression. And, that celebration extends past the people who we already talk to, and the people predisposed to like us.
The celebration is for everyone.