Here’s an awesome but fairly creepy idea from Japan:
AKB48 is a girl group with 48 members. They’re terrible performers, but very successful. Why? Size confers a few advantages:
1) A band this big clearly doesn’t need everybody to show up for every gig. They can tour three places at once and still have somebody perform at their resident gig every day.
2) A small army of teenage girls means something for everybody. Every fan can have their favorite. Everybody that likes teenage girls, anyway.
3) 48 members means 48 variations on every bit of merchandise – a collectors dream.
4) A big band can meet and greet a big audience. If the fans are creepy enough, you can charge extra.
5) You can engage fans by letting them pick who gets the solos.
6) You’ll never run out of people to do press appearances. Bonus points for borderline child-porn photoshoots.
It’s tempting to just make fun of the RPO and Juilliard for inventing a few of these scams, but there might just be something to learn here.
Orchestras have lots of people, they sometimes use them in smaller groups for promotional appearances, they occasionally create marketing materials featuring individual members, but they rarely use them to reach out to the audience individually, they almost never encourage you to pick a favorite and it’s a fairly safe bet that nobody would make the players compete with each other for the public’s attention and loyalty, rewarded by career advancement. Wouldn’t that be fun though?
Thanks to Scott for the tip. You know about some really peculiar stuff.