Have you ever noticed that many times the best restaurant in town is usually in the smallest space? Because my dad’s career is in the food and beverage industry, I have always taken a keen interest in food and restaurants, and I’ve been thinking about these small restaurants.
The biggest restaurants are always the chains, the places where the food is “good enough.” It’s not the sort of fantastic meal you’re going to write a blog post about, but that’s not what these places care about. The corporate restaurant’s number one goal is to get as many people in and out as possible, with the fewest number of complaints as possible. Diners don’t have to love the food; they just have to not hate it.
But what about the place all the foodies rave about, the place at which you’ll stand in line for a table? Those restaurants are small and intimate, with a handful of tables where diners linger over their plates. The smaller room gives the chef a chance to create edible art—and folks do more than just not complain. They tell all their friends about the place, write five star reviews online, and come back time and again despite the long lines.
The musical world mirrors this same paradigm. Pop music has been processed to the point that it is merely good enough. It gets your toe tapping for a few minutes, but the songs will rarely be remembered a month after they are off the radio. Even in the classical realm, which concerts sell out first? The pops concerts, of course—the music that may not be the most meaningful or expressive, but it gets the fewest complaints from the audience afterward.
We should consider this analogy closely. Rather than striving to make our music more palatable for the masses and seeking to perform in the largest concert halls, let’s emulate the chefs working in their small restaurants, giving diners an experience they will salivate over for weeks after it is over. As artists, we should focus on creating music that means the most to us, music that is so intimate and special our audience will never forget it.