Yesterday I played in the world's smallest venue (pictured below) at the Stroud Fringe Festival. It's called 'Folk In A Box' and is a one person concert venue in the dark (yes, it's possible to play guitar in the pitch black..)! Founded by Emily Barker, it's a great way to re-connect with the roots of acoustic music (pun intended) . It takes away the pressure of psychological interaction - I can't see the audience and the audience can't see me - which means I don't have to bother about making them feel comfortable, or worry about what I look like while I sing, or wonder what they're thinking of me. And for them? They can cry, in the dark, and not feel judged... If you want people to really let go and open up, to really listen, and to feel something, this dark and intimate venue is a great way to go about it. And isn't that what every songwriter wants? For their songs to be heard?
I have spent a lot of time thinking about how important the context is in music. How people are much more affected by the song if you give an introduction, or if they have a personal connection to you. Imagine, someone tells you that this singer is the best in the world, and people pay enormous amounts of money to hear her sing - how does that prep you to listen to the music? Or, there's someone singing in a pub, but no matter how beautiful it might be, you're having a conversation with a friend and the music is nothing but an interruption. Those are two very different experiences of music, despite the fact that it may be the same singer, and the same song sung in the same way. The difference is the context. So, my concern, is how to provide a better context for my concerts. What can I do? Jokingly I told a friend of mine I almost have the urge to create rules like in a classroom 'sit comfortably, take a deep breath, let's start with a moment of silence'. She said she would ask the audience to remove their shoes and encourage them to move their body if they feel like it. I haven't hit on the perfect setting yet, but I'm enjoying the experiments.
So far, I like the context of a donation based concert. People are free to come and enjoy the music, and to pay whatever they feel moved to. It puts me in total artistic control - I hire the venue, arrange the support act / accompaniment and I can decorate the space how I like, or arrange a start time that suits me (seriously, a 10pm start for my music is not ideal!). This way I can try to create a particular setting for my audience to have a better musical experience. No background noise for goodness sake! Silence please! But some artists love background noise, or the humdrum of pub environments. I want people to be seated, some want the audience to stand, or dance...
In a world full of singer-songwriters (wonderful!), doing this as a business, I have to think about what will be the best way for people to be introduced to my music. To have the deepest musical experience, and to take the most out of a concert? My success as an artist and as a business depends on the context, on how I create value for my audience members and for my singing and songwriting. So, any ideas send them my way! Concerts in the dark? Too weird! Candlelit? Maybe! Black tie and glam themed event? Maybe... I thought of a doing a series in old out of the way sacred sites - ancient chapels and what not. Atmospheric! Or even garden concerts...house concerts...etc. etc. The possibilities are endless!
For anyone who wants to come to a donation based concert, check out my upcoming October Series! I am really looking forward to seeing how they go...
Till another time!