Hear Ye, Gig-Goer! You Have The Power
Perhaps what the average gig-going audience tends to forget is just how much power actually lies within their hands.
*The power to make or break an artist.
*The power to make a gig, show or concert a runaway success (or an epic fail).
*The power to inspire the onstage performers to reach greater artistic heights.
*The power to ensure that quality music prevails over factory created regurgitations.
*The power to actually create this music ‘scene’ we’re all dying to see diversify and grow.
(The scene we spend too much time complaining about and too little time physically supporting). It all starts with the gig-goer deciding to step out beyond the confines of a comfort zone into a car/bus/train, and onto a sweaty dance floor, or into a smokey club, a packed concert hall or a dusty festival ground.
A quality music ‘scene’ is not some glorious phenomenon that is created from the top down. Much like the Bolshevik revolution, it is a phenomenon that begins with the people – starting from the ground up, bubbling up with the unparalleled power of the many against the relative minority of the few industry execs on top. Understanding this equals an understanding that it is in fact in our hands to decide on what artists get slotted to play in our cities, to decide which artists get the support and recognition they deserve, to dictate what kind of music ends up colouring our city’s musical canvas and governing our radio airwaves. It’s up to the audience to decide whether an independent music scene thrives and flourishes, or stagnates and flounders. In line with the indie ethos, the ‘scene’ is a DIY product of our own making.
“I think the enthusiasm is there – but we have to be less lazy about it”, says Uday Benegal, frontman of iconic Indian independent rock band Indus Creed, “It’s a great time for non-Bollywood, non-traditional music in India, and there’s an outpouring of new bands, new music, new sounds. However the audience plays an integral role because it’s a small industry anyway, when you compare it to the commercial pop or Bollywood industry. So when you exist within a subculture like this, and are playing to an audience whittled down to a small percentage anyway, it’s really about an exchange between audience and artist because you’re both part of the same world, you exist in a parallel universe that requires each other for it to survive”.
By simply showing up – and in turn packing out a venue for a night featuring ‘unknown but supremely talented artist X’ who deserves to be heard – we can make an evening a success, merely with our combined presence as a gig-going crowd, showing venues, promoters and sponsors that there is a demand for an alternative music culture. Sustained support like this in turn encourages venues to continue hosting these independent music nights, encourages the media (excited to see what all the buzz is about) to cover events like this and spread the word, sponsors (seeing the crowd, popularity, media coverage) interested in actually funding nights like this – it’s all a snowball effect from there.
Perhaps what many audiences also occasionally tend to forget is how much an artist quite literally feeds off the energy of the people they’re playing for, and how much the physical presence of an audience at a gig or on a dance floor can impact the actual performance. The artist-audience energy exchange is what makes live performances so exhilarating for so many artists (and audiences alike) – and that energy can propel performers to experience what many musicians describe as divine moments of inspiration onstage, hitting notes they didn’t know they could hit, delivering guitar solos they didn’t know their fingers were capable of.
“There are some shows where we are drained and just out of it”, says Josh Fernandez, front man of alternative rock band the F16’s, “We rely on the audience to bounce that vibe back and sort of create this loop of energy between us that keeps us both going. The more intense they get, the more we get to feed off that energy”.
For an audience to make a conscientious effort to grow and expand in their own knowledge of music and diversity of taste is also integral to the construction of a quality independent music scene. If the average listener attempts to have an informed approach and expand their understanding of different forms of music and sound, it encourages a rich and vibrant performance ecology, where it’s the diverse musicians and artists who flourish. Evolving as a listener is as integral to creating a quality music scene as the quality of the artists themselves.
It’s also essential to give musicians the freedom to grow as artists. A trance DJ may want to experiment with techno, a band may want to play fresh tracks from a new album instead of the songs their fans know all the words to. Letting the artist break moulds, boundaries, stereotypes, lines, barriers – and supporting them on their journey – is an important role audiences and fans play in enabling the evolution of the artist. One doesn’t have to like everything – but it helps to be open, listen first, and judge after.
“Having an open minded crowd to play for is the best thing ever for a DJ”, says DJ/Producer Tuhin Mehta, a pioneer in the field of electronica in India, “personally, I love to experiment with new sounds and I am always looking to keep the musical discovery process moving along. When the crowd expects only a certain sound or style from the artist it does tend to stifle the artist’s evolution and growth. Take the classic example of whats happened with the ‘EDM’ scene today. Every single artist in that space sounds the same. Whats the point in being an artist but in the end sounding like a bunch of others and not having anything that sets you apart?”
So the next time an interesting artist is playing in your city, show your support. Physically. Liking the Facebook poster and clicking ‘join’ on the event page isn’t enough. Be there, listen, dance if you feel like it, and if you liked what you heard, tell the artist after the show. You’d be amazed at how self critical musicians can be, and how a little audience encouragement can go a very long way.
So in conclusion, dear and trusted gig-goer, you who cares to see Indian talent grow and prosper, cares to see an independent music culture flourish – it’s all in your hands. Help build your local music scene from the ground up. The future of Indian independent music will thank you.