By Holland Cooke
WASHINGTON, DC — If you’re a broadcaster, you probably found this story remarkable. If you’re a podcaster, you probably found it relatable:
“By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.”
If you’re a city-dweller, you’re probably accustomed to running-the-gauntlet, mentally tuning-out beggars. Some simply beg. Looking-the-part, they sit in silence, with frayed cardboard signs that succinctly plead their desperate circumstances. Others are street performers like this one, some surprisingly talented, though none as talented as this one, whose impromptu performance was an experiment by The Washington Post:
“No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made.”
Just three nights earlier, Joshua Bell and his $3.5 million Stradivarius packed Boston’s stately Symphony Hall, at $100 a seat. His take after 45 minutes at the DC subway stop? $32 and change. Same guy, same priceless instrument, same tunes, different platform.
Symphony Hall wouldn’t sell a single ticket, at any price, if they simply lined-up drooling panhandlers on-stage. The platform isn’t the show, the show itself is. The platform is merely context.
Podcasters reading this might already be doing the math. $32+ for 45 minutes = $42+ per hour. Not a career you’d aspire to, but more per-hour than most remaining radio talent make.
Admittedly, it’s an imperfect analogy.
• Working that Metro stop, your “cume” is however-many commuters trudge-by in real-time. It’s like live broadcasting. Only those who-happen-to-be-listening then-and-there hear you. Podcasters offer their work on-demand, and some use Social Media pretty deftly to attract attention. “Long tail.”
• Like Joshua Bell’s Bach repertoire, the most successful internet self-publishers’ acts tend to be specialty content; not as mainstream as FM stations playing “Call Me Maybe” more-often-than other FMs, or AM stations hollering about politics louder than other AMs.
See/hear/read more from consultant Holland Cooke at www.HollandCooke.com; and follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke.