i sometimes wonder what would happen if we played a rock show & nobody came.
(came as in, nobody showed up, you sickos)
like, if we were to go on stage in portland, austin, tampa, or buffalo (total a coincidence that i happened to come up with the four cities that are lagging behind in ticket sales for our upcoming tour) & the floor was completely empty except for the bartender & the sound guy who keep giving us the “this happens all the time in buffalo” look.
jordan decides to take 3 extra long solos in the spoken part of sanctuary & marcus falls asleep & i wallow in misery from then until eternity.
it’s a branch of the “crippling self-doubt” section of my brain that puts the image in my head, but it finds me at least three times a week, some mornings when i wake up & some nights when i’m falling asleep & sometimes even unconsciously when i’m dreaming. i have no doubt that at one point or another in their career, it haunts every performer. i think probably everyone gets it, actually. nobody wants to throw a party & have nobody show up.
when i even imagine it, i feel miserable. my brain shuts down.
it’s not like we haven’t done it before. at the warehouse in la crosse, wisconsin. november 11, 2010. we loaded our gear through the rain & up 3 flights of stairs to play a show for exactly 0 ticket purchasers. there’s a sign on the wall of the warehouse that details how much debt the venue is in, & we had to play directly to that sign, knowing we were part of the problem. i felt pretty shitty most of that day.
i have no reason to believe that will happen any time soon. tickets for this tour are outpacing every other tour we’ve done, so unless everybody forgets that they bought tickets, we won’t be stuck playing to ourselves, even in buffalo. but i think the more important questions are: why do i care? should it matter whether people show up or not? why is it that even imagining people not showing up makes me miserable?
i make music because i love making music.
that’s what i tell myself at least, & on the most important levels, it’s true. i get excited about writing songs & i get excited when i listen to them after they’re finished. i love rehearsing & performing those songs with my friends, & i love traveling the country, & in a weird way i love the way that shitty, dirty, dusty venue smell. i like to believe that, even if not a single person listened or cared, now & forever, i would still want to live a life in, for, & through music.
if that’s the case, then why is the buffalo nightmare where no one shows up so much worse than the sold out new york city show? aren’t they both just playing music?
is it audience connection?
an audience is part of the experience & that can’t be understated. art is nothing until an audience gives it life. the purpose of live performance is to, through art, open up a glowing & glorious connection between artist & audience.
the more people, the stronger the connection - this isn’t always true, but in the case of 0 people vs. 500 people, it definitely is. i want to feel like i’m a part of something, & having an audience proves that it is something.
but that argument only works in the case of small show vs. big show, which is not the actual question being asking, which is: “why do i feel miserable when no one shows up?” strip away the audience, i’m still playing music & traveling the country with my friends.
connection is important, but doesn’t explain my misery.
is it money?
in thank you for smoking, jason reitman posits that 99% of human motivation is to pay the mortgage. i want to summarily reject that, say there are thousands of things i love more than money & that money isn’t my motivator. i want to say that if money was what i was after, i probably could have done other things that would have made far more than i ever will as a musical artist. i want to say that our generation is a new kind with new values, that we do things because we love doing them, not for money.
but i don’t think that’s all 100% true, for me or for most anyone. i worry we use that candy-painted, usually-hollow rhetoric to misdirect & distract ourselves from the shame we feel about actually, on a deeper level, being addicted to money.
i think below our surface motivation lies a deeper attachment to money & to the things it buys, & that attachment prevents us from doing anything that may endanger our longer term financial security, regardless of what other motivations are at play. we say all is justified in the name of ensuring we have “enough” money, & we tell ourselves that “enough” is just a little more than we have now. that’s why most people place career at the top of their obligations list, & only donate money when they have excess. if we really valued humanity over money, we’d give it all away.
so let me at least say this: i don’t care to be rich, & i don’t write & perform music because i think it’s my best method of getting there, but i am worried that no one will buy my record & i’ll have to pick a different career. i do worry about not having “enough” & i don’t know how much “enough” is.
but one show won’t dramatically effect my financial security. i might be motivated by money on a more macro level, but it doesn’t explain me being miserable if no one came to a show.
is it validation?
i don’t want to care how many people appreciate what i’m doing, because i’m doing it for me.
that’s a lie.
with the rush of fear about no one showing up comes a wave of other fears. people will find out, & as a result, they won’t like me. critics won’t like me, venues won’t like me, the bartender from la crosse wisconsin won’t like me, the band won’t like me, friends won’t like me, strangers won’t like me, she won’t like me, no one will ever want to hang out with me or have sex with me ever again, all of these plans & goals that i had for our band & for music & for my future are shattered because all i am & all i will ever be is the guy who played to nobody in buffalo.
then i go on twitter & realize my last tweet only go 29 favorites & so i rush to tweet about pizza or One Direction because i need to be retweeted to be reminded that maybe there’s hope for my life yet. some people would call it “good business,” or “market research,” but i’ve come to call it by its birth name: “addiction to validation.” i’m obsessed with everyone being obsessed with me. i need everybody to love me.
this is why the image of an empty venue shoots crippling terror through me. this is why we think we’re alone if we’re not being contacted by anyone at any particular moment. we’re addicted to ourselves & addicted to each other.
i need to feel validated, & i wish i could stop needing that. i wish i didn’t need everybody to love me. but i do. so now what?