One from the Metro listing. One from the posters on the window. One from the Darkroom MySpace listing. So, wait, that's... one... two... THREE people watching the gig last Wednesday! Pity they they weren't all there at the same time.
If you think that's a crap number for an audience, you'd be right. I took that picture of Mike most of the way through the gig. The one person who was watching at the time is hidden behind him. But suppose instead the audience had been 27 people we knew, plus three we never met before who came as a result of our gig publicity. Would that have been better?
From a longer term promotional view, it wouldn't, because if you only bring people you know to a gig, you're not promoting it. All you're doing is exciting the venue people into booking you for loads of followup gigs that nobody will come to. It's tempting to say, if we bring our friends to a great gig, they then go away and tell their friends, and it spreads by word-of-Facebook... well yes, eventually that happens, but in my experience it's the new people that spread the word, not the people you've known for years.
It might have been better to have hauled along a few friends is because, by making the place look busy, they would have wielded some social proof in our favour. This is the difference between new people being encouraged to think that our gig has any value, because of the number of other people there, as opposed to thinking the gig is for losers because it's empty. Except, I don't think the social proof is that important.
Intrepid gig-goers who seek out interesting things to go to are not swayed by the social proof thing. They go where they want. Those are the people that look at gig posters or newspaper listings. It may feel like London has been over-fished of this species, but with enough nets in enough places, you can still catch a few of them, especially if your gig is reasonably priced. Ours is free.
But here at Improvizone, we're trying to appeal to all sorts of other people too, people who don't go looking for interesting gigs in remote travelcard zones in blustery December, but who do at least go out every so often. But surely, the General Public, as we will call them, are much more influenced by social proof and more likely to about-turn at an empty gig, right? Maybe, but the difference is the social proof has already had its effect by the time they get to the gig. They found out about it because they read an article, or heard something on the radio, along with 100,000 other people, or they looked at the Facebook event and saw that loads of people were going, and thought, oh, it's good then. Once they're there and they see it's not very busy, why should they be bothered? It doesn't take them 20 minutes to get a beer, there's somewhere to sit, and if they really like it, they might even start thinking they've stumbled upon the next big thing. Mmmmm!
No, the person it matters to right now is me. To me it doesn't look sad if there's no audience, it just looks pointless. Another opportunity to disseminate the way of Improvizone fizzles out. Six non-recyclable hours of my life, one fifth of my weekday evenings, down the waste-disposal chute, when it might have been more worthwhile if I had tried harder to promote it.
Part of the problem is this one was only a week after the second Ember gig, to which I had devoted most of my time to filling in listings for and generally trying to get people to. The Plough is so far out of central London, the posters in the venue are the only things that seem to work in bringing people, but I had left those so late this time, they were up for less than a week. Also our listing on the Plough website is completely out of date. While we had a lot of referrals from there in the beginning, we don't get any now.
Actually there were more than three people drifting in and out of the gig. There is possibly a problem with free admission at a place like the Plough. It may encourage people to come to the gig, but it doesn't encourage them to stay.
I was generally feeling a bit drained by the time it came to this gig. I left the house without packing the pedals, and hazard-lit the car on a junction so I could sprint back to the house and get them. I had sorted out the wiring loom the previous Saturday, but had forgotten what went where, and had re-thought the seating plan since then anyway, so we all sat in different places on the stage to usual, and all the cables were about ten times longer than they needed to be. It was exactly the mess that thinking about technical stuff like this in advance is meant to avoid. The cost is that it takes ages to set up, and there's less time to sit, chat and chill out, and get ourselves in the right frame of mind for actually playing chillout stuff.
Then again, musically this was a really good gig. I spent much of the evening looking over at Nick to see a wry smile on his face as he locked in with the drums. Having had to recompile all his plugins during setup, Os seemed even more adventurous than usual, sampling and treating everything. Achilleas seemed a bit more understated at this gig than the last one, but I think he was echoing Os's ambient textural approach rather than soloing everywhere. Either is great! And it was nice to be sitting facing Mike and his guitar, so I can begin to get some vague clue of how he comes up with all those sounds. Me, I think it might be time I used a different drum distortion, as the DP4 one is sounding a bit digital. Which is synonymous for shit, in this case. Also I hardly used my SPDS at all this gig. That's the thing I use for playing nice keyboard pad sounds, tempting me to start leaving it at home if it's not very useful.
That was our last gig this year, and our last but one at the Plough. We begin next year's gigs in mid January with one more showing at the Plough, where we're going to try out a couple of new people, and then immediately after that, we begin a run of ten fortnightly Wednesday evening gigs at Ember.
I still like the Plough though. I usually save eating for when I get home, because lifting half a dozen 20kg items on a full stomach is bad news, and anyway, lifting stuff plus general nobody's-coming-to-the-gig anxiety both leave me without much of an appetite on gig evenings. However, come closing time, there was no way I could refuse a free cornish pasty from the bar as they cleared the racks before turfing us all out. Proper pastry too, none of that puffy stuff that goes everywhere.
BTW if you're wondering where the uploads have got to, they're coming, they're coming. There is so much good stuff, I'm thinking of making another free CD to celebrate our imminent 10-gig fortnightly residency at Ember. The best stuff goes on the CD. The almost-best stuff goes on the site. Or should I be doing that the other way round? Interesting question.