Improvizone started in Feb 2007 as a monthly gig, but since November last year it has been anything but. We did three gigs in four weeks at the end of 2007. Then we did one in January 2008. Then nothing until the end of May, when we did three in less than a fortnight. Organised gig? Chaos, you're thinking. Chaos.
I'm still quietly looking for places to play in Central London, but I looked at this year's May/June cluster of gigs, and concluded my favourite was at The Plough. The Ember one took us all by surprise when we played to an empty bar. The Design Museum gig was nice, but we got it by chance. Those kinds of gigs only ever happen by accident.
On the other hand, thanks to organiser Dave Hughes, it seems we can do a midweek at The Plough more or less whenever we like. And when we do, there are always a few people who drift in and watch, especially now that we're projecting visuals behind us.
So, I thought, focus on the Plough for a bit. Do a couple of gigs close together, maybe try some kind of promotion or marketing to get people from the local area in through the door.
For last year's promotional experiment, I spent a lot of money and time dissipating one thousand free CDs over the whole of Central London. Absolutely nothing happened. I can accurately declare that not one single body came to our gigs in Southwark after picking up a free CD. Maybe we got a few more tens of site hits. I was surprised it had no effect at all, but as I commented afterwards, I guessed that a scant 1000 copies over the whole of London were not going to tip. The lesson was, I reckoned, if I'm going to try that kind of thing again, target a specific area and keep it local.
I'm not going to dish out free CDs to the general public again, it's too expensive, although I am looking at having a follow-up to SE1 to give to our gig audiences from September onwards. Instead, my latest marketing experiment has been 5000 leaflets distributed door-to-door within walking distance of the Plough, telling everyone about a free gig of ambient/chillout music with visuals. At those volumes you need to hand over to the professionals. For the litho printing I used Visualize in Walthamstow, and for the distribution I used the Leaflet Distribution Company in Leyton.
The printing and distribution are apparently now complete, so if you're reading this after typing in the URL on the leaflet, hi there.
I did have to swallow my own sick on this kind of environmentally unfriendly doorstep litter spamming. Nick Cottam and I gigged a Pulse Engine song on the subject called Invisible Floor many a time, back in the days. But it's become a fact of life, people are getting better all the time at recycling paper, which anyway is biodegradable. And if it's good enough for the Redbridge Council-subsidised Woodford Festival, it's good enough for me.
Besides, there are occasionally things of genuine interest that land on my doorstep. We're not a pizza chain, we're not the eleven thousandth building specialist in every crack, surface and attachment to my house or garden, and we're not the local free newspaper, head office 30 miles away, comprising one sixteenth local news on pages 3 and 4 and fifteen sixteenths advertisements. Those bastards won't even print my listing. If I saw a leaflet coming through my letterbox for someone else's ambient chillout gig happening in a pub near me, I'd go. Even if I also had to cut my toenails that night.
Am I trying to speed up a process that would probably happen anyway if we kept playing there? Yes. Is it going to work? Genuinely haven't the foggiest. I'll tell you after the gigs. Or, why not come to one of them, and find out for yourself!