The value of fun in music
As a host of a local music radio program and as the emcee of a music night at Trees Coffee House I hear from a lot of musicians who are frustrated with Vancouver's music scene. They cite many issues that leave the ability to make a success of their music quite challenging. Much less often do I hear from people who are actively working to make the solutions that will help themselves make a career in the city. But, it sure is refreshing when I do.
It is up to musicians, promoters, fans and venues to create their own healthy vibrant music scene as it will not materialize without any involvement. For those of us who are inclined to create the change we want to see, this series of articles outlines a vision of how a healthy Vancouver music scene can work.
Part 3: The Value of Fun
Fans, musicians and venue holders, what is music worth?
To the fan
How much do you think should be allocated for music as part of an entertainment budget?
If enjoyment is important to you I think maybe the value of good music is high. Or, If you like to dance, like poetry, or like a good show music ties into your kind of love.
I really don't know anyone, actually, who doesn't often feel better when music is present. And so, when we speak of the value of music maybe we are asking ourselves about the value of fun.
And so what is the value of your enjoyment?
We have the opportunity of a burgeoning local music scene, and this is why I ask. There are a lot of new local music spaces popping up in the Vancouver area like Vancouver Fan Club, Frankie's Italian Kitchen, Mr. Brownstone, all are three months old or less and are real quality spaces. There is something here to celebrate. If we think it's worth celebrating…
Glenn Chatten performing from Frankie's Italian Kitchen
And so, do you want to have fun?
Please support these venues if you do.
To the musician
Before a musician seeks professional work, the question to ask is why would someone go to see what you do. Vancouver is full of skilled musicians, but is not skilled entertainers. And at least 60 per cent of every audience will not know the different between skillful and unskillful playing, and even if you're real good, at least 90 per cent of every audience will not care if you're not also entertaining.
So what's the product? And why would people want that?
Many artists think their naval is fascinating and really interesting to everyone else. And so they write about it, and they sing about it. And it isn't, not even if you're Shania Twain.
But if the navalist communicates in a language of celebration, and can entertain, things can change. When the music is done right, even your naval can be interesting.
Jim Croce is an artist to consider in this regard. He wrote some of the most inward-looking songs around, including 'Time in a Bottle' and 'Operator' but he also wrote 'Leroy Brown'. and 'You don't mess around with Jim' to make it fun. He had a very successful, although tragically short, career.
People who have not heard a musician before make quick internal decisions at the door. Either the energy is where they want to go, or it isn't. And so being attractive is a performing musicians job or no one will watch. To work a venue twice you need to be able to create a space where people will gather and stay. The venues will love you for that and you'll be invited back.
Having the right stuff to be attractive every night can be a difficult task. Especially when you are working other jobs to support your music, when life is tiring. The professionals pull it off, however, because the best musicians can do that.
To owners, directors, bookers, managers
Audiences and venues don't realize just how skillful a tradesman a musician needs to be to work a night of live entertainment. Its value and difficulty is highly underrated.
Good musicians are often underpaid. A musician really has to be in control of the sound as well as super sensitive to the business needs and aware of the vibe around them. They also have to hav a proper pacing for the needs of the night. A lot of the time when a musician is starting to work towards full time, three-hour sets and four-hour sets with inattentive crowds are set upon them. To perform the alchemy that makes a regular night something memorable requires a lot of energy for one hour. Three or four hours is heroic.
And energy speaks volumes. Nothing's better to a venue than a full and happy house. When a venue consistently has musical masters of energy flow at their location, they develop a reputation and become the most attractive venue to see.
What people buy into is the feeling they get from being there. We all do.
To be fun, create fun and inspire fun is a highly skilled talent, and to do so one must also be having fun because you cannot give away what you do not already have. So look for entertainers who are happy, both on stage and off. If they're not enjoying the work, the audience will not enjoy them.
In a society where the most boring tedious or soul-destroying jobs tend to get higher than average pay, it is also important to consider what energy you wish to feed. Do you wish to reward people for having unhappy experience, or do you wish to reward happy experience? Who is getting paid more, the security or the band?
Do you want to encourage the masters of enjoyment, or the masters of suspicion? What kind of place would you choose to walk into?
The perfect marriage is when all interests meet in the place they are designed to go which is the paying public who frequents the spaces that serve them well. If all partners in a night of entertainment are targeting this same ends, the means to the ends will find a way to agree and success will be had.
And Vancouver will come to have the music scene to be seen.