I recently had the great pleasure of performing as part of a 9 day music festival cruise. We musos spend a lot of time wringing our hands over a dying live music scene but certainly the success of these music cruises makes me wonder. This particular company just announced, after a few years in play, that it sold out its full series (ranging from Country through to Classical) of themed music cruises for the year. And that’s around 2000 passengers and 30 bands per cruise. Sure audiences are attracted by the cruising life and the exotic destinations but these passengers pay a significant amount more for these concert cruises than a standard affair, so they must be coming for the music. On my ship, the shows were hugely well attended and well appreciated. So audiences are there, for the right shows. Maybe we need to find more creative ways to present live music. I’ve been to a small bar in Sydney that combines sneakers, champagne and fried chicken and that seems to work. What else can we merge with music?
I can’t help but think that if you treat live music with love, it will love you back. Could it be the lessening of respect given to live music over the years that has caused the scene in pubs and clubs to wither? In most industries it’s a given that if you treat your workers well, they will give the best of themselves. I really felt that was a guiding principal of the people who ran the music on my cruise. Looking at the 1000 seat theatre I was working in, at the incredible calibre of the production crew and facilities around me, I couldn’t bear to give anything but my best. I was told I reached ‘a new level’ during one of those cruise shows and I’m talking about feedback from my harshest critic (my Mum). Do you think, if venues and bookers on dry land followed suit and instead of cutting back, paring down, they threw everything they had at providing the best conditions for their live entertainers, that the scene would be healthier?
Over the years I’ve seen venues shrink their entertainment offerings until they are only content to hire solo performers with backing tracks. They are removing stages – my local pub has just spent a fortune on renovations and a bar maid told me they ‘didn’t bother’ putting the stage back even though they are continuing with their live music. Do you think the performer on the Opera House stage is automatically more talented (or more deserving of respect) than the one performing on the floor in the corner of your local pub? Even though we know the answer is ‘no’, you can be pretty sure which one would get more love from an audience. Without the trappings that mark out entertainment as something worth looking at and listening to, how can audiences be expected to hold it in high esteem? As time has gone on, venues expect more, with some asking 4 or even 5 sets for the same fees they used to pay for 2 . How can artists be expected to deliver this at the same quality and without resentment?
The standard of the musicians and the music itself on the cruise was very high, but what stood out most was we were all chuffed to be there. We were well paid and the conditions were fabulous. That was something the passengers commented on too, which in turn made them feel good. We felt valued and those extra touches like artist-only cocktail parties and notes of appreciation under the cabin door (the spacious cabin that featured a balcony and free room service) ensured that we did our best, if only to clinch an invitation on the next ship out…
Hint hint!Till next time,
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