In any arts organization that provides some sort of live production (and probably those that don’t), there is a constant struggle to fill the seats with more butts. For financial reasons, ticket sales are important. For spiritual reasons, audience cultivation gives one a sense of purpose and the hope that perhaps one is not wasting one’s life after all. And for visual reasons, a full house just looks better and will give a better energy to the performance than three or four people scattered about the theater texting and looking mildly disinterested..
So we know that getting people to come to your performances is a good and desirable thing, but there is a sub-group of people that are always sought after, sometimes irrationally so, who never come to performances and always annoy the krunk out of the people running the show by not showing up. I am talking, of course, about other performers. Why on Earth would the members of the other chorus in town not show up to your choral performance? Don’t they, on the surface of it, love choral music, as evidenced by the fact that they sing and perform it on a regular basis? Why don’t your theater friends come to the opening of your new play? I mean, some do, because they are your close friends, and are thus obligated to come. Audiences everywhere are filled with the family and friends of the performers. But what about everyone else? WHY?! Why would all the other musicians stay home when they have clearly devoted their lives to music?! WHY DO THEY HATE YOU?!
Well, I have a theory about this. I will paint it with a broad brush, knowing that there are plenty of exceptions, and many performers who do attend other performances. But that doesn’t seem to be the norm. Because, as I have observed, there are watchers, and there are doers. There are performers, and there are audience members, and they often do not overlap. I myself have been very guilty of absolutely avoiding performances that I am not in, and I will tell you why.
First of all, I am super busy, and always at a rehearsal or performance of some sort. I want to support my colleagues, but sometimes getting an invite to a concert feels like getting off of my shift bagging groceries, and then having a co-worker ask if I will come watch them bag groceries for a few hours. No! I just did that all day! I just did that all week! I need a break! If I have any down time, I want to drive home blasting Ke$ha with the windows down, and collapse on the couch with some Ben & Jerry’s and watch “Game of Thrones.” The last thing I want to do is go back to a theater and listen to another performance.
Now, I know that there are people who are so passionate in their love for a certain type of music that they would gladly live in it forever at all times. I am not that person. And here’s the other thing: I will never choose watching over doing. Whenever I sit down to watch a performance, I almost always spend most of my time wishing I were a participant. If the performance is particularly bad, I want to be backstage fixing stuff, tweaking things, and otherwise helping out. If it is particularly good, I want to be up there, center stage, having the time of my life. And if it is somewhere in between, I would still rather be singing something than hearing it. This is the same reason I cannot watch professional sports. There is no day in my life that I would not rather be outside playing a sport than inside watching it. Even if I am terrible at it, it’s more fun to do, than to do not. And there is no try.
And perhaps there are other reasons. Maybe your concert is scheduled for a week when the other people have a rehearsal. Maybe your play is too depressing for your comedy loving actor friends. Or maybe they do all hate you. I don’t know you. Maybe you are a jerk. I would hope not, but you are a performer, so it is possible…
I don’t know if there is an answer to this problem. Maybe you will have to accept that the other artists are not going to buy a ticket to support you. But is that the only way that you can feel supported by them? Maybe they will collaborate with you. Maybe they will do a fundraiser, or a flash mob, or a charity event with you. Maybe they will support you after all, if you come up with different ways for them to do it. Just don’t be too mad if they refuse to sit back and let you have all the fun.