The Importance of the Audience?

One of the things that I love about doing this blog is being able to communicate with other fans.  Many times, having conversations help me with my thinking.  It helps me to formulate my thoughts or solidify my thinking.  Perhaps, this is also why Rhonda and I can be best friends.  We both need to communicate when it comes to the band and fandom.  We need it so much that we do this blog, in fact!  Anyway, at times, comments made by fellow fans really get me thinking.  Last week, I did a blog about the intensity of teaching and the intensity that the band must feel about their job.  (If you missed it, you can read it here.)  One of the comments I got about the blog was from a good friend of ours, Heather, who mentioned about how festivals must be easy for the band and she compared it to what my life would be like, if I had someone do all of the preparations to teach and I just come in to deliver the lesson.  My response back was how this was like substitute teaching and in order to teach well and enjoy it, I must know my audience, my kids, my students.  This got me thinking, though.  How much of a difference does an audience make to a band or artist?

I have seen Duran Duran play a lot of shows.  I have seen them multiple times in one given tour.  I have seen them play very large venues to smaller theaters to festivals to charity gigs.  I have even seen them play a “fan only” show.  There are definitely shows that were better, in terms of their performance, than others.  In thinking about the shows that were better performances, what were the audiences like for those shows?  How much did they contribute to a good show or how much can a bad audience make a possible good show, bad?

How do I define good audience or bad?  That’s a good question.  I would say that a good audience is one that is into the show.  The people came to have a good time and are determined to make the show fun.  Does the audience have to consist of diehard Duranies, in order for it to be good?  No.  I don’t think so.  Does it help?  I think it could.  Some of the best Duran shows I can think of were made up for a ton of serious Duranies.  For example, the best show of the southeast tour of 2012 was Durham.  I think it absolutely helped the band that the crowd consisted of a ton of solid Duranies, many of who partied together beforehand at a wine bar meet up organized by yours truly and a couple friends of ours.  Initially, during that show, the band seemed to be not giving it 100% but sensed that the audience was and they came to life!  By the end of the show, they were into it 110%!  I believe that Duranies lifted the band up to a great performance in that one.  Now, that said, I have seen Duran perform really well at shows that weren’t made up of all Duranies.  They did pretty well at the Voodoo Music Festival in 2006, in which they were facing a mixed crowd at a festival.  There was some energy coming from the crowd at that one but not enough to feed the band onstage, in my opinion.  Did they have to work HARDER to achieve a pretty solid performance because the crowd had NON-Duranies, then?  Probably so.

So, then, what is a bad audience?  A bad audience is one that is filled with judgement and negativity before a note is played.  They assume the band or artist performing is going to suck, no matter what.  They probably haven’t heard much music from the band/artist in question.  Yet, they already know that they aren’t going to like it.  Perhaps, they don’t like the genre or style of music.  Can bands/artists overcome that?  Sure.  I’m sure they can win over audiences.  After all, isn’t that what a lot of opening bands have to contend with?  While it can be done, it doesn’t seem that easy.  I’m sure a lot of opening bands put up with it in order to get to the next step of their careers but I can’t imagine an established band wanting to deal with that for long.  Thus, if I was Duran or someone on their same level, I wouldn’t want to play for tough audiences like that.  I would much prefer to play for a kind, supportive audience who will still love you even after you mess up, which is what happened at the “fans only” show in June 2007.  They were playing only to members of DDM and most of those fans who were there, including the authors of this blog, weren’t happy with the performance but we forgave and moved on with the band.

Now, while my examples given above all show that it is better, easier, more fun to play in front of die-hard fans, there may be one exception.  For some bands, playing in front of fans might make them lazy or not work as hard.  These bands might know that they don’t have to give it their all because the fans will fill in the energy they lack and/or will forgive them for a less than ideal show.  For those bands, they might prefer crowds of non-fans.  Maybe, they work hard to give a better performance that way.  I remember seeing Depeche Mode a couple of times in one given tour.  They did much better in the smaller city with less fans.  I assume it is because the band had to push themselves more and did.

All of this has me thinking about Duran Duran playing at festivals this summer.  Right now, it doesn’t appear that they will play much from the new album (according to the surprise Katy Kafe with Simon).  We also know that festivals aren’t exactly filled with die-hard Duranies.  I wonder why they are choosing this route.  If they aren’t selling new product and aren’t playing for audiences who won’t help with energy, why?  What’s the focus?  Maybe it is like it was for Depeche Mode in the smaller city or those opening bands who have to work super hard, extra hard to convince the audience to give them a try.  This might, indeed, be good to get them back to touring mode.  That said, while I always assumed that doing festivals is easier than a regular shows with fans, now I wonder.  Are they really?  Then, are festivals good for Duran Duran in the long run?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Time will tell.

-A

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