written by Bob Baker
Most of the time, playing in the middle won’t serve you well. You blend in or stay stuck in a homogenous pattern. Sometimes, playing the extremes can help you cut through and serve the needs of a different audience.
Let’s consider what people use to watch television. In the middle are a lot of average-size TV screens. But on the edges you’ll find extremes. On one end are the huge flat screen TVs and home theater systems. On the other are iPods and smart phones with tiny screens that play video. They all serve a need and appeal to certain people at different times.
Live musical offerings are no different. In the middle is the four-piece band. On the edges you’ll find a range of choices – from solo acts and duos to big bands and symphony orchestras.
Here are some good examples …
CD Baby’s DIY Musician blog once featured some Portland acts that exemplify this idea. One of them is Nick Jaina, a songwriter who has learned the value of being versatile. He plays out with a full band but also performs solo on the street for tips. Being able to get small pays off.
As Jaina states in the article, “That way, you can do your big rock show at the club AND do a simple acoustic set for the local radio station, for the cool indie record store, or for passersby on the street.”
On the other extreme is MarchFourth, described as a “mobile big band spectacular.” Along with a huge lineup that includes saxophones, trumpets, trombones, a drum/percussion corp, and more … the group is accompanied by stilt-walkers, dancing girls, flag twirlers, clowns, and acrobats.
“The onslaught of visual and audio sensations is stunning,” reads the article, which goes on to deliver this gem:
“The lesson here: Create something memorable! Do something dramatic. Do something at your show that people just aren’t going to see [at] someone else’s concert, something they won’t get from the TV or X-Box, something that must be captured in the moment.
“Consider what it is that only YOU do. Now magnify that thing so everyone in the crowd can feel it, whether you’re a solo singer-songwriter or a traveling funk-rock circus.”
Great advice. Don’t play in the middle. Go to the edges. And get really small or go really big!