“Give me your cheapest bottle of wine.”
If I were a wine aficionado, this statement would undoubtedly make me cringe. Even though I'm not a big wine guy, it still would bother me to hear this in a social setting (like a fancy dinner, date, or ceremony). Obviously it's not because I'm a wine snob (I hardly ever drink the stuff… give me a good porter or gin cocktail any day of the week), but it does immediately say a lot about one's intent:
“I'm supposed to drink wine at this function, and it would be an appropriate look for me to be holding that glass in this setting, but I'm only going to do the minimum that's required of me.”
Let's shift this analogy only slightly to the left, and imagine opening a bar. There are a couple of ways to go about doing this. One way is to build a low-risk carbon copy of the 3 other dive bars down the street. The other is to put real effort into making your bar stand out by offering something different: an in-house brewery, a major focus on indie music, or a large and thought-out patio area.
In other words, in order to stand out, your bar needs some sort of value proposition. That is, a reason to stand out. What is going to draw people to your bar, instead of the ones they are already familiar with?
This is not unlike the idea of promoting shows, or DJing in front of a crowd. While I'm not suggesting that every single show needs to be backed by an extremely experimental or off-the-wall concept, I do think that the idea of creating something that's larger than the sum of it's parts is very much lacking across the board. It's easy to become a DJ or promoter, so a lot of people do it. And a lot of people do it poorly.
Do you know what happens after a DJ or promoter throws a series of lackluster shows? It loses the original “spark”, you become jaded, and you stop bringing in new clientele. Just like in our run-of-the-mill bar scenario.
Any town needs a basic bar or two to cater to the regulars who are just looking for a drink once in a while. But once you've got those bases covered, it doesn't mean there's no room for another bar. It just means that you'd better be making that bar appear for a reason.
Same goes for music shows. Any town needs a good, consistent, and basic (perhaps free) music night in order to maintain a “heartbeat” for the regulars… the scene supporters. But what it doesn't need is 20 nights doing the same free night featuring the same local guest DJs over and over and over and over again. When that base is covered, it's time to look into adding value to your scene, not just adding more of the same.
Some quick points:
- If nobody is “buying” what you're “selling”… perhaps it's time to finally consider why that might be.
- Pretend you are on the receiving end. You are your customer. Now ask yourself, “what's in it for me?”
- Think about how much you really believe in what you're trying to do, and consider whether or not you have something special to bring to the table. How much time and effort are you willing to put into this?
- To be noticed, you need to create something “premium”, and then promote it. Not just promote the same boring thing over and over again.
In our wine scenario above, I'd much rather hear someone say, “what have you got that's expensive… but worth it?” Not because they are being snobs, or they are trying to impress anyone, but because they are focused on the “worth it” bit. Of course, this is only valid if the person likes wine in the first place. If they don't, they will likely stop ordering it sometime in the near future (once the novelty wears off).
Don't make shows that are needlessly expensive, and don't make free shows that are half-assed and boring. Charge me a reasonable cover, and then deliver on the promise that I'm purchasing with my dollars.
That's the best way to hook me as a repeat customer.