“God vs Fame” or
Here’s what it was/is like performing for “church gigs”:
At the church concerts that we were used to, we’d usually be at a church for Sunday morning services. We’d do special music and/or lead worship that morning. We’d usually have lots of opportunity throughout the day to visit with people at lunch or at a fellowship dinner. Being at the church that day and giving a “preview” on Sunday morning was the bulk of my responsibilites of “promoting” the concert. Sure, I’d send posters and pictures and that sort of thing ahead of our arrival, but in booking us to come do our thing, the minister or music minister knew that I was counting on them to talk it up and get people interested in coming to the concert that night.
The concert itself was usually just over an hour. I’d play my original songs for an attentive, interested audience of anywhere from 50-200 people. Even if they didn’t know me, they showed up because they trusted the minister or music minister to provide at least acceptable programming. They were usually friendly, and engaged. They listened and laughed at my stories and clapped heartily at the end of songs. On really good nights, we’d have friendly banter going on between audience and stage.
It’s pretty much a captive audience. Many came and listened because they had a pretty good idea where I was coming from and for the most part agreed with what I had to say. At the end of the concert, the audience would happily take up a “love-offering” to help us continue what we were doing. After the concert, there was often a dessert social where people who’d experienced the concert would come up and encourage and compliment me, buy CDs, tell me they were excited to be able to say “I saw him when….” They’d tell me stories of their own and tell me how some particular song really encouraged or touched them in a particular way. They’d buy CDs and sign my mailing list to where at one point, I had well over 1500 names. We’d come back to churches and always be greeted by people that remembered us from before and treated us like old friends.
Here’s what it’s like performing at a “secular venue”:
I take the posters wherever I think they’ll be noticed by people that might be interested. I email my list of about 60+ names that are local that have signed up over the last 2+ years of playing every month locally. I try to tell everybody to “come out” and “bring your friends” because I know that, as a performer, it’s not only my job to entertain, but it’s my job to get people to the show up and (hopefully) those people will buy drinks and food enough that will continue to justify the venue manager’s letting me play there again.
On a really hopping night, 50-75 people might come and go through the doors of the coffee house during the 2 hour set with maybe 15-20 folks actually coming and staying just to hear me play. Many people walk in during a song, cross right in front of the stage between me and the audience, buy their drinks, and walk back out right in front of the stage without a glance my direction as I’m singing. Sometimes, people just happen to be hanging out at the place, and sit and visit or play games and don’t really pay attention to how loudly they laugh or how distracting their winning a round of Uno can really be. Eventually, these visitors/game players get frustrated enough with trying to talk over my singing that they pack it up and head out, never thinking twice about passing right by my tip jar and CD display. All of this is going on with the coffee machines making their horrible noises all night long.
Most people don’t even pay any attention to what I’m saying or singing, let alone actually think or care about it.
Now, I will say that I am so thankful for everybody that intentionally shows up. There are a number of people who come out on a regular basis, actually pay attention to my stories, and sing along with the songs they know. Once in awhile, some folks get up and dance. There are a few faithful who really do encourage me and enjoy my playing and are always trying to be attentive and are generous to our tip jar. Sometimes, these faithful few do a lot in encouraging “newbies” to come out, tip generously, and buy their own CDs.
The point is, if I were really seeking fame and the adulation of the crowds, it was much easier to feel really loved and appreciated by lots of people when playing the “church gigs”.
Next up: True stories from the church/secular tour!
(the point is coming….)