Canteen managers, unlike Carnatic artistes, are a confident lot

The December Music Season with its vast following of 20,000 people and its fake statistics of 60 organisations putting up 2,000 music and dance performances is over. The Man from Madras Musings has long doubted the figures that are bandied about but then when everything from the GDP to the Consumer Spending Index are matters of doubt these days, what is a mere December Music Season?

One of the most annoying features of the Season is the tendency of artistes to flood your email, Whatsapp, Facebook messenger and SMS with posters announcing their programmes. All of these will have certain standard features – the artiste holding a tanpura and beaming at the camera and if it is an action shot, a face contorted in what seems to be agony (or ecstasy). There follows a long/short (as the case may be) list of the various venues where the artiste is performing, just the time schedules of which can be most confusing. MMM of course quite understands the need for publicity and the necessity to gather crowds but what he does not like is in-your-face marketing. All his life thus far, MMM has been very wary of sales pitches of any kind – he prefers scenarios where the product does the talking and shows the hard work that has gone into its making. 

But Carnatic musicians evidently think otherwise. What happens thereafter are ‘gentle reminders’ sent via the same media – Whatsapp, email, FB messenger and SMS. Closer to the date come phone calls. And finally, if you do happen to drop in at a concert or two, you are bound to get thank you notes, with details of further concert schedules. The story has a sequel. If you don’t go, then you get plaintive messages – how come you never attend any of my concerts? If that does not work, you get jealous missives – I know you only attend so-and-so’s programmes but you know I am not so bad either. Do give me a try. Carnatic music must be a very desperate profession indeed. Or is it that the current crop has given it such an image?

And then there are the fringe elements – the ones that have not had any success in the field. These usually get together and begin lamenting about how the art has gone to the dogs. MMM believes that they even hold symposiums over this with the audience usually in single digits. At the end of the jeremiads the chief lamenters cite the poor turnout as a further instance of good taste having died out. It is MMM’s guess that they would be most disappointed if they did have a full house.

In all of this, the one place that draws a steady crowd, no matter who is singing, is the Sabha canteen. And this is true of all Sabhas. Those that run the canteen never seem to advertise. They certainly don’t send out messages to all and sundry asking them to come and try their wares. And if you don’t go, they don’t keep track of your movements and accuse you of going to someone else’s kitchen. The reason for their success according to MMM, is that they focus on what they are good at – the preparation of food. The rest is left to word of mouth. Perhaps Carnatic musicians could take a leaf out of the canteen managers’ books and see their way to success.
Otherwise we can always reposition the December Season as a food festival with some music thrown in.