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The Relations With Fans...


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I have tried a couple of times to devote an issue of the blog to exploring what I think is the changing relationship between fans and performers—something Lorelei Loveridge, founder of Performing Songwriters (United Worldwide) devoted a legal paper to recently. The legal paper, though, raised questions, and I want answers. And I thought of some. But I haven’t been able thus far to express them in the space I allot myself for issues of the blog.

I treat these “bloggies” like songs—I have an arbitrary length I do not want to go over, and if I can’t express a complete thought in that space, I won’t. I will try again. It’s training in being economical with words, that is going to carry over into (among other places) songwriting.

The argument I was trying to make is that while the relations between the Big Boys and their fans can be expressed in contractual terms—the parties being remote from and isolated from each other, and their “interfaces” consisting of transactions involving the exchange of money—mine aren’t like that. My relations with my fans are a lot more personal; our communication is a lot more two-way—I listen as well as speak, and they know I do (I think)—and our transactions often do not involve money. I think a lot of (maybe most) small-timers are in similar boats.

I think that’s an opportunity for me (us). I (we) are delivering something the market (if we can apply such a crass term to a bunch of individual people) wants. In an increasingly encapsulated world, folks crave personal contact, and they also need to feel they’re important to somebody besides that small circle of family and friends they hang with. Point Two: I (we) can deliver that, and the Big Boys can’t. And every thing that I (we) can do that they can’t do needs to be looked at real carefully, because it’s an opportunity to level the playing field.

Now, I don’t have too much trouble satisfying the fans right now. The numbers are pretty small, as are the venues I play at, and while I don’t have money to let me travel around a lot, I sure do have time. But what if—by some wild stretch of the imagination—things get better? I’ve said repeatedly that in five years, I want to be making half my income off music. That means—since I do not and will not have access to what Joni Mitchell called “the Star-Maker machinery”—I’ll be playing more gigs, to bigger crowds, and staying in touch with a much larger number of people.

And therein lies a big challenge. I have to be able to hang onto those two important aspects of the relationship—(1) those folks feel I know them, and (2) those folks feel they’re important because I know them—and I accordingly can’t let myself get sucked into “the Star-Maker machinery” even if the chance happens because it will “remotify” me from my people, transforming our relationship from a personal into a contractual one, and I don’t want that. I would be jettisoning the very thing that enabled me to be successful in the first place. Instead, while I’m small-time, I need to figure out ways to be more efficient at the same time I’m continuing to be effective. (That is a lot easier to say than do.)

UPDATES: The music store in Tillamook got my last 5 CDs—and a poster to hang in the window. A bunch of people have asked for DVDs of the RVTV shows, and I’ll try to accommodate them (I need a DVD myself—I can’t receive Ashland public television here on the Coast). While I’m down in southern Oregon, there will NOT be a SOSA showcase at Johnny B.’s in Medford—it’s been postponed, to a date when I can’t be there. I “MySpaced” Johnny, asking if he needed an opening act for the band he’s got coming in, but I’ll probably have to call him—he’s usually too busy to answer messages.

And the reason I’m anxious is I’m looking for opportunities to perform the new song. “Always Pet the Dogs” got the nicest comments from fellow songwriters that I’ve seen in a long time, and it makes me wonder whether I might have something good there. The setlists for the next 3 shows are set, though; I’m not going to change them. But I do want to see how live audiences react to the song. I have a feeling I want it on the next album.

And it just occurred to me—I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to obsess about the job interview next week. That is cool.

Joe

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