Tangibility and Transmedia
In Group D1’s essay for Module 4 of our class, two questions were raised that seem particularly applicable to my look into audience engagement in venues. The first is, Do you think human contact and tangibility is important to arts engagement and learning? In the case of live performance, my answer is yes. During the course of this project, I’ve looked at some models of live performance being offered to “audience members” via vehicles other than physical attendance, but I find them lacking. I prefer to think of models such as live concert streams and online supplementary content to be transmedia accessories to the main event, which is the live concert. I do believe that it is better for a music fan to have the option to stream, say, the Coachella Music Festival rather than not attend at all due to financial or geographic constraints. However, most of the respondents of my survey cited a feeling of connection as being the most important factor in their best concert experience. I think it is impossible to fully replicate that feeling without experiencing, in person, the energy of the other attendees, the venue, and the performing artist(s).
The Built Environment
The second question I found compelling concerned space: How has technology affected our built environment (home and public spaces)? In response to this question, I would say that the increased availability of alternatives to physically attending live concerts, facilitated by the Internet, has clearly reduced the necessity of physical gathering places, including and especially musical venues. Summerfield Habener of Luckey’s spoke to this, saying that it’s hard to get people to pay money to see concerts when they can see them at home for free. Mark Loigman of the Hult didn’t directly address the challenges that consumers’ wealth of online music choices pose for venues. He did, however, talk about decreased attendance in live concerts and how venues must combat this by making every aspect of the concert experience as profitable as possible. While this is the reality for music venue management, I believe other steps can be taken to ensure repeat business while deepening audience engagement, and as a side effect, set the stage for a more transformative music experience for the patron.
Evaluation of Audience Engagement
Pitts (2010) talks about the work of the creators of Just Like Jazz, saying their research “…illustrates the ways in which audience members are increasingly active and informed participants in musical events. They write of audiences as ‘taste-makers’—a long way from the passive consumers who must be lured into concert venues through effective marketing; these listeners are themselves the promoters of the music that is meaningful to them” (p.110). This is true, but what must a venue do to ensure this level of commitment from audience members, and encourage patrons to keep coming back? What I found my examination of six of Eugene’s venues is that formal evaluation of audience’s enjoyment of concerts is nearly nonexistent. Generally, venue staff rely on ticket sales to determine how successful a concert was. While this is a valid marker of success, it’s not the only factor to be considered. Again, Pitts (2010) talks about the importance of further audience research into the live concert experience: “By making sense of why live music is appealing to people, musicians and promoters can market the most relevant aspects of the experience—not always, as one might expect, ticket price and accessibility, but also high quality music played by musicians who seem approachable, opportunities for social interaction with like-minded audience members, and a sense of belonging and connection” (p. 109).
Participation and Connection
It seems that it is now up to venues to create opportunities for audience members to participate more deeply in the shows. A venue can do this by creating a warm, inviting atmosphere that facilitates a more meaningful experience for a concertgoer, allowing them to connect more deeply to the music, or invites the concertgoer’s participation through the use of some of the tools (many Internet-assisted) I’ve looked at in this guide. A venue’s collaborations with other (especially nonprofit) organizations, as well as interdisciplinary shows that involve multiple art forms, can also increase an audience member’s level of engagement at a concert. A venue should consider how it can increase an audience member’s personal investment in the venue itself. There are many possibilities to consider. As Pitts (2005) notes, “Individual experience is at the heart of a meaningful concert experience” (p. 269). Ultimately, the responsibility does not just fall on the venue, but on what the patron brings to the event as well as, of course, the attitude, audience interaction level, and performing ability of the artist(s). When all factors converge in an ideal way for an audience member, the concert might become their best show ever.