How do bands measure their worth?
BY THEIR INCOME? If so, they could be excused for considering themselves worthless.
Musicians today are lucky to earn the same amount per gig as they did 10 years ago (unless they’ve joined the festering mass of karaoke performers) and are doing less than half as many gigs.
BY THE CARS THEY DRIVE? Very few musicians have a fancy 4-wheel- drive to elevate self-esteem (unless they have a day-gig or a working spouse).
BY THE AMOUNT OF RADIO AIRPLAY THEY RECEIVE? (sorry – just kidding).
The only real gauge bands have is audience response. And the ultimate response is the encore. Musicians love encores. Even at 3 in the morning, a band will gladly jump back into the ring for another round if one single drunken voice yells for more.
But the encore is changing. It used to be:
- band plays
- band leaves stage
- audience calls band back to play one more song
- band leaves stage to rapturous applause.
The decision to award an encore was always in the hands of the audience.
Now bands crave the encore. They’ve become cunning. Orchestrating the ritual themselves – finishing 5 minutes early, hinting at but not playing Blister in the Sun, organising the DJ to bellow “Do you want more?” – manipulating the audience to howl for their return. They’ve taken the decision to award an encore out of the hands of the audience, making the decision themselves. Now even bad bands get to do encores and as a consequence the whole ritual has become meaningless.
Recently I witnessed a particularly ordinary band from Sydney take the ritual to new heights of stupidity by refusing to leave the stage until they’d harassed the hapless crowd into a half-hearted encore.
The encore has become a farce. Let’s forget it and begin a new ritual of appreciation – throwing $100 notes at the stage.