Christian Pearson

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How to build live music culture in a city

The more you give, the more you'll have.

There are some music scenes where bands/venues compete against each other for fans. They are probably hurting themselves in the process, and OKC would def be wrong for thinking that way.

Think through this with me...

How many people in Central OK are Active Monthly Participants in the local music economy... let's say active means "pays for at least 1 local live music experience per month." We're trying to get an idea of how many people make local music a part of their regular entertainment regimen/personal lifestyle budget.

I don't know the number... but I'm just gonna assume that between Jones, Tower, Saints, Speakeasy, VZDs, Criterion, Civic Center, and other venues that about 20,000 people buy at least 1 concert ticket per month, on average. (let me know in the comments what you think this number is, mine's a guess)

There are ~1.3 million people in Central Oklahoma. Some can't afford entertainment regularly, and some are children, etc. so let's just include the half the population that are above OKC's median household income of $55,000. Everyone above this line probably has $ to spend on a music experience per month, so they're a potential contributor to the local economy (if they're properly marketed to). This is a conservative estimate, because a lot of people below that line can still afford to see live music every month.

That leaves 650,000 people who could be part of the local music economy. If 20k out of 650k individuals are regularly buying tickets, that means 3% of our potential audience is actively engaged in the local music economy.

If musicians, venues, promoters, are trying to siphon fan bases from each other to build up their own business, they're missing the forest for the trees. If you're focused on getting a bigger share of the 3% for yourself (rather than the 97% that we're not connecting with yet) you're not competing for anything... the word for that is squabbling.

The music scene as a whole can truly compete against other forms of entertainment by collaborating to improve communication, media, and marketing for local music. It doesn't matter if people go to your thing this week, what matters is that more of the 97% begin to see themselves as part of the local music culture. That should be the number 1 priority for anyone who wants to benefit from a great live music economy in OKC.

Of course, people like different things, some people may not be into music*, but even moving the needle from 3% to 6% would result in almost every show being PACKED. If 25% of potential participants attended shows on a monthly basis, new venues would be opening, bands would be making tons of money, Rolling Stone would be writing about this crazy music renaissance happening in OKC.

Live music is not a fringe preference, it is a very established entertainment industry in cities around the world, and has been since society existed. The idea of bringing more people into the local music economy through collaborative marketing/media/mass comm is not an idealistic dream, it's a very straightforward solution to a problem that's been solved in many places.

OkSessions' first 3 years will be focused on this simple challenge (note I said simple, not easy) of increasing local participation through engaging live events, and music media produced by OKC's creative community. I can (and often do) go on and on about why we're doing this: music is beautiful, good for society, beneficial to people, fun, cool, inspiring, and we have everything we need to make OKC one of the best places in the world for music. I want to live in that city, as does everyone I talk to about live music here.

The best way to bring new people into the music scene is by taking initiative to actively promote other people's music to people who aren't already "in the scene." For the past 18 months, I have not promoted my own music at all, I've only been an advocate for other musicians; however, if I put on a show now under my own name, I'm confident I would have a far bigger audience, sell more tickets, etc than I ever did before I made building up other musicians/venues my top priority. That was a discovery for me. I wasn't smart enough to know that would happen, but it has. I want to share that experience and illustrate what will happen when we are all on the same page about how to build each other up and move the music scene forward long-term.

Christian PearsonComment