Do you live in a medium-to-large-sized town that, despite having plenty of available live performance space, rarely sees anything in the way of major concerts? I used to, and it really confused me at the time. I mean, sure, Sioux Falls, South Dakota wasn't huge, but still, were there not another 3,499 Drive-By Truckers fans in town who might want to see them rock the Washington Pavilion?
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Probably not, but even if there were, who would tell them all the band was in town? That's a tougher question to answer than it seems. No matter how huge a band may be, those concert tickets don't just sell themselves. In every case, there's a promoter of some sort whose sole responsibility is selling tickets to those shows. It's a job that, technically, anyone can do.
You don't even have to ask your parents first, kids!
The number of people interested in doing that job, though, decreases in direct proportion with the population of the town you're in, and even if some enterprising young buck does decide to go into the concert promotion business, the acts that play your local venues are going to be mostly determined by the tastes of the person booking the shows. For example, when I lived there, someone responsible for bringing live entertainment to Sioux Falls loved the shit out of Toby Keith, because that bastard was in town like every six months, with Larry the Cable Guy showing up at a similarly alarming pace.
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Of course, that person might just as well have been playing to the audience they had. I did see a few decent shows in Sioux Falls, and without fail, they never even came close to selling out. I saw Bob Dylan at a minor league baseball stadium and I swear more people turned up for the actual minor league baseball game I saw at the same venue a week later.
And I'm being super generous with the "minor league" part.
Same thing with Elvis Costello. I suspect he probably makes his way to Sioux Falls as often as comets come close enough to Earth to be seen by the naked eye. Nevertheless, the one time he magically appeared in town, he didn't come remotely close to selling out a relatively small theater. I've talked about it in other columns before, but popularity is not a globe-spanning kind of thing. Sure, Elvis Costello has sold millions of records, but there are billions of people on the planet. Speaking in the most general terms possible, the majority of the world has never heard of the majority of the world's artists and musicians. Because of that, getting a lot of people to show up to an event, in most cases, is a hard thing to do.
If you're looking for a more close-to-home example, take the live comedy show I host.
Plug plug plug!
I work for a website that gets millions of visitors every month. The club where the show happens holds maybe 90 people, and that's only if we're willing to work under the ever-present threat of becoming the Great White of comedy.
That's a "hundreds of people die tragically in a fire" joke, in case you're unsure.
Realistically, it's closer to 75 people. You'd think that millions of monthly visitors would translate to bloody combat in the streets among rabid Cracked fans hoping to get inside when we put on a show at a venue that small. You'd be absurdly wrong. It took us having six people in the audience on a night when we had what still stands as one of our strongest line-ups of comics ever (Ron Funches! Jerrod Carmichael! Nate Bargatze! And more!) before I realized that just slapping the name "Cracked" on something doesn't necessarily mean people are going to show up to check it out. Six people. Six. And I'm pretty sure all of them were on the guest list. It was horrifying.
It was at that point that I actually started promoting the show through every channel available to me. The next show sold out and we've come close to that every show since then, but it doesn't happen by magic. I imagine it's the same for just about any live performance. So if you're wondering why no concerts ever come to your town, it's probably because the job of making that happen is a shitty one that no one wants.
Fuck. You. This entire entry could be just those two words and I suspect most everyone reading would understand perfectly. I mean, back when being a DJ required hauling gigantic crates of records from shitty club to shitty club, I could totally understand why a person would claim such a thing as a profession. But now? No. Plugging your laptop into a PA system and sharing the playlist your personal assistant assembled with a crowd of drunken revelers does not make you an entertainer. If it doesn't involve vinyl records and a mixer and some sort of skill, you're just playing music. I suppose those contraptions that allow you to mix CD's like records are fine also.
Beyond that, if you're paying someone $15,000 to play songs at your club, the only way you're investing your money wisely is if that person brings a few thousand more hardcore drinkers along with them. So I guess my problem here isn't that "DJ" is a job everyone thinks they can do, it's more that people think they're doing anything at all. The DJ is to a party what the redneck pushing the buttons is to a carnival ride. They're both necessary components of the process, but it's mostly the manual labor component.
Last night a carny saved my life.
The guy running the Tilt-A-Whirl doesn't breathe new life into the experience thanks to his unique style of pushing buttons, and DJ's don't do anything remotely similar for great songs. In both cases, you're just operating a machine. It's that machine that makes the fun, not you.
Yes, I get that "celebrity" DJ's do indeed sometimes draw a larger than usual crowd to a club, but it's still the same principle. People are just showing up to look at the freak in the booth. If you're one of those people, it doesn't make you a skilled performer, it makes you the modern day equivalent of the bearded lady.
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I think this is Paul Oakenfold.
Your face is the attraction, your talents are not. Until the apocalypse hits and you're the only person in town with an iPod, no one gives a shit about your "skills" as a DJ.
Adam would like it a whole lot if you'd download the latest episode of his podcast and/or watch him tell jokes at Rooftop Comedy. Then come see him do that in person the first and third Tuesday of every month at Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica. Once you have all of that out of your system, follow him on Twitter and Facebook.