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Ruckus Amongstus - Possible model for structuring an Indie concert

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Earlier this month I ran a show called Ruckus Amongstus at the Exapno New Music Community Center in Brooklyn. We did a bunch of different stuff to try to increase the impact of the show itself, and help create an experience that goes beyond a concert, while still featuring the music we love to play. The show itself went really well, and how the content from that night does online will tell us more about whether the model for the show is something we should stick with.

Here's a rundown of some of our most important experiments:

1. Cocktail Bar. A good one. This is contemporary classical music, with some other stuff thrown in, and in a very DIY space in Brooklyn. We want people to feel special, to enjoy themselves. We didn't just but out a bottle of wine with "suggetsed donation $3" in front of it. We had two volunteer amateur bartenders mixing old-fashioneds, aviations, whiskey sours, champagne cocktails and more. This really set the bar for the evening - people felt they were someplace special, and experiencing something unique. It also allowed us to charge a lot more from the audience beyond the suggested donation ticket price. We didn't make any money on the night, but we did cover the venue costs and the gas for out of towners after making back expenses, which is something, especially for a new music show.

2. Film everything. We had some fairly talented filmmakers at the show holding Flip Cams (which they did very well, but under duress), and one of the performers, also a recording engineer, recorded the show. We've started putting each individual act up on youtube - one bit a time. There are two up there so far, including a mostly silent piece that one audience member described as an avant-garde boyband: and one other that leads us into the next experiment...

Filming everything also means that all our hard work to put on the show doesn't just evaporate when the show's done - it can go on online.

3. Youtube Party! Our musicians included some great improvisers, both for serious music and comedy. So we turned some portion of the show into, basically, a Youtube watching party. We played some viral classics on a projector, and improvised new scores to them. That helped plug the show into wider web content in a really fun way, and really made the audience feel like one big party instead of a roomful of people sitting quietly. Here's our take on dramatic hamster:

4. Variety Night. This isn't a new idea, but it's not as common in contemporary classical as it is everywhere else. Lots of short acts. That makes the show more packageable for youtube, and more enjoyable to people who maybe aren't into contemporary classical, and might find a full hour with no breaks of avant-garde stuff a little tough to take. Mixing in a monologue, some spoken word, some theatrical/comic improv, and using shorter pieces overall, made a compelling show for people who don't know the material that well. A lot of people came up after and told me that they loved what they heard, and wanted more, even though this sort of music isn't what they normally hear.

It also helped that we ended with a GREAT rock band, Sylvana Joyce & The Moment.


Now that the concert is done, and we're starting to produce the youtube videos, it'll be instructive to see what the reaction is to the different ones, how well they play online, who likes or shares what.

I'm particularly keeping track of how many people ask me to do it again. So far it's a lot, so I think we will, but next time I want to do more than just cover costs. Next time I want to pay people. I want a bigger splash.

Have any of you guys tried this stuff in your shows? How did it work? Is there other stuff we should be doing that would make a more awesome night, or a cooler web experience?

initiated Jan 30, 2012 in Success Stories by Kevin Clark (1,470 points)   4 8 14

4 Responses

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Not done anything on this scale but for my album launch a year or so ago a few of us sat down and thought about how we'd transfer it from being just-another-acoustic-gig to being something that people would remember and talk about.

So firstly we found a non-music venue, because we wanted people to be able to sit down without sticking to the chairs or the floor and because that also meant we got the venue free, so we were able to offer everyone on the guest-list a free drink from the bar in the private room. By doing it as a guest list it gave us an accurate idea of numbers (you had to reply and say you were coming for a free drink) and it gave people a nice little welcome.

When people arrived they got their free drink ticket and a little goodie bag that had a variety of things in there (hand written set lists, a free promo cd, some sweets and lollipops, some other stuff that I can't remember) including some indoor sparklers, with an instruction to light them during a song called Where is the Light.

Sure enough when we got to the chorus everyone in the room was waving their sparklers and the atmosphere was excellent.

Did it help sell any cds? Possibly, who knows. Did everyone have a good time and talk about it afterwards? Yep. Did it feel different to standard gig? Very much so.

I just wish i could figure out how to do stuff like this for every gig.
response added Jan 30, 2012 by drew stephenson (3,370 points)   3 10 22
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I really like these ideas of taking your event out of its usual element to help it feel more special. I especially like the idea of splitting up your night into different segments so that people won't get fatigued as easily.

Some other ideas that might help raise money:

  • Try a coat check. I've been wanting to try this, but have never had the room for it. Charge something small like a buck for the night. Of course, this might only work in the winter and for places that have a colder winter
  • Sponsorships. My band has been having the same issue of just covering costs and now want to make some money for the entertainment. I've been solicting sponsorships in town. I've had some success and have been building up relationships for future success.
  • Monetize your Youtube videos. We've just started doing this so I don't have any long term data. I don't think most people really get that annoyed by the ads. You get revenue from people seeing it, but a lot more from people clicking on it. This is more long term, too, but I figure every little bit helps.
response added Feb 3, 2012 by Matthew Bile (1,090 points)   3 6 15
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Thanks! Coat check makes me nervous, but that's just because of my own reaction to seeing coat checks, which is along the lines of "really, dude? I have to pay even MORE money?" I'd kind of rather increase the ticket price... but that said, I might be the only one with that reaction. In places like Russia coat check is basically a social obligation for all buildings, though there it's so ubiquitous that paying for it specifically would be very silly.

Sponsorships would be great - I am totally keeping that on the list for next time. Given the cocktail emphasis I might even try to get some Brooklyn distillers or craft food people to sponsor. That wouldn't take it out of the DIY cultural event feel at all, and would totally help save some cash for materials, draw in a different audience, etc.

I am totally going to go switch on adwords right now. I've been meaning to get around to that! It isn't much money at all, but as you say, every little bit.
response added Feb 3, 2012 by Kevin Clark (1,470 points)   4 8 14
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I'm about to write up a fulll piece about my newest project, but it's an outgrowth of what we we did with the first Ruckus concert in January. This time it's a one-day conference and concert about art and the interent. The show has grown up a bit, and gained a whole day-long event! More details soon on a new thread, but here's where you can get tickets if you're going to be in NYC on 9/29:
response added Aug 24, 2012 by Kevin Clark (1,470 points)   4 8 14

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