Is there too much to do?

By Jenn Watt

Published Oct. 31 2017

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing?

Over the last couple of weeks a concert in Minden was cancelled due to low ticket sales and the recent folk society show left the not-for-profit with a $1500 deficit.

Those who attend cultural activities in the Highlands will be familiar with the under-appreciated world-class act. A place as small as Haliburton has a hard time drawing the audiences needed to break even on many events whether it be a Juno-award-winning songwriter or impeccably cast and tirelessly rehearsed theatre production.

Each year this county offers up literally hundreds of such opportunities. Between opera summer theatre little theatre the blues series bluegrass festivals (yes plural!) folk concerts house concerts open stages variety shows battle of the bands the classical concert series there is plenty of opportunity to see live performances any weekend of the year.

We rightly hold our heads high about this abundance of culture. Our population is one that is engaged and enthusiastic – and that goes for arts-lovers and community organizers alike.

But sometimes even with volunteer labour and grant dollars to subsidize the concerts organizers still end up short. (Not to mention those private businesses that go it on their own paying full price without outside assistance and taking the losses themselves.)

Reducing supply would likely boost demand – and local organizers are taking that option seriously – but offering less doesn’t have to be the solution.

Bringing acts of more interest to a younger demographic would bring out new audiences as would offering discounted ticket prices to accommodate those with a tighter budget. Other incentive programs and partnerships could help but they come with additional pressures on organizers without any guarantees.

Those decisions will be made by the boards committees and business owners who go to the trouble of bringing incredible entertainment to the rest of us throughout the year.

For those who appreciate the live entertainment – and having that perfect retort when your city friends ask “what is there to do up there anyway?” – there are some things that can be done.

First trust local organizers. They know what they’re doing. Just because you’ve never heard of the band film or play before doesn’t mean it won’t be good. The people who plan these events bring top talent. Trust them.

Second buy those tickets and buy them early. Imagine how distressing it must be for someone to book a band only to see a handful of tickets sold the day before. Buying ahead of time often means a discounted price and it gives peace of mind to the organizer. (Plus the more who buy the less likely the show will be cancelled.)

Third remember supporting local performances is an investment. Unlike buying tickets for a performance in Toronto or Ottawa when you pay to see a musician in Haliburton you’re telling organizers that it’s worthwhile to plan more. The more they plan the more options we all have and the more rich our arts offerings are.

Fourth talk to the organizers. Did you love that dinner and a movie deal? Did the season’s pass discount motivate your purchase? Did you like the later show because it was easier to book a babysitter? Is price keeping you from affording a night out? Let them know. Fine tuning comes with audience information.

Do we have too much music in Haliburton?

Only if we don’t show up.