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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeShuxnj6s8 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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Njx7CGZrtWo
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?