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Disney Comes to San Miguel
Herding Cats

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

A month ago, I heard that a new online event calendar would be opening here in San Miguel. As I make my own online event calendar, the news was quite close to my heart and my pocketbook. Asking around, I learned that it would be focused on nightlife and that the force behind it was a retired Disney executive, R., a new 70-something kid in town with deep pockets; "A friend of Eisner's, he's got bank."

I asked someone who knew him and his contact info to convey that I was interested in speaking with him. I got a message back by way of that intermediary, "R. told me thanks for the message, but at the moment he's too busy to speak to anyone. He wants to get together with you soon, however."

It was like a Zen koan. R. is too busy starting a calendar of nightlife in town to speak with me, even though I ran a calendar of nightlife in town for more than two years. That's really busy.

Having been there and done that, as part of my general events calendar, I have a thing or two to say about R.'s endeavor. Maybe someone will show this article to him, and he will profit by it. At least I will profit by getting it off my chest.

1- Trying to organize musicians is like trying to herd cats, in this case, cool cats. If rockers and jazzistas were amenable to order, they wouldn't be rockers and jazzistas. Musicians need to be loose, to swing. They are not promoters. They are artists.

Are musicians going to come to R.'s site and make use of the entry form to list their gigs? The simple answer is no. If the site goes viral, some will. But the Catch 22 is that the site administrators have to aggregate the gigs onto the calendar first, and do it long enough and well enough to make the site popular enough to go viral.

2- Trying to organize bars, the main venue for musicians, is like trying to herd cats. Are they going to come to R.'s site and make use of the entry form to list who is playing when? Restaurants and bars usually don't list their own shows on their own Facebook pages. They're not going to list their shows on someone else's webpage.

To be fair, musicians and bars don't have much incentive in this direction. Listing on a nightlife calendar doesn't make much of a difference. People interested in hearing the band, their fans, already know where they are playing. Other attendees are coming to the bar regardless of who is playing. Like in a restaurant, the live music in the background is a plus, but most people come for the food.

From his Facebook page, it appears that R. has a few local personalities on his payroll. Can he pay enough people to talk up his venture, creating some gravitational field that draws musicians and bars in to list their events? Can he get enough attention with the launch parties he throws to create a buzz? Money talks.

I might just be a sore loser. I'm just some small fry. I've never had lunch with Michael Eisner. But even if R. is willing to go on spending his money, there are other logistical problems and market forces that Southern California bank or Hollywood pixie dust cannot overcome. You just cannot aggregate all those cats into one calendar. You can't be, as R. proclaims his new venture, the "ONE place," the reference where the whole music scene can be found.

3- When I was attempting what R. is now only dreaming about now. I made several visits to Restaurante Los Milagros, trying to obtain their music schedule and the contact of someone to keep that schedule up to date. On my last trip the busy man in the back room had compassion on me and gently explained that they themselves, the management of Los Milagros, often did not know who would be playing that very day, at one or more of their show times: noon, 2:00, 4:00, or 6:00.

A lot of gigs, at a lot of venues, are scheduled or rescheduled at the last minute. If on Monday the bar does have a band set for Friday or Saturday, and tells you who it is, and you care about getting it right, then you'd better check back on Thursday to make sure that nothing has changed.

4- If your business plan is based on the public doing your work for you, uploading the data through an entry form, then you're in for a surprise. I initiated well over a dozen contacts with musicians and venues each week, regularly showing up in person at venues, to maintain my calendar. Often the information I received was incomplete, needing follow up: Bobby Kapp was playing at Tio Lucas, but who were the other members of his quartet that week?

Were we just waiting for someone from California to arrive and introduce us to the concept of an entry form?

But even if, for love or money, R. overcomes these obstacles, he still can't get blood from a stone. His vision is illogical. Mathematically, it just does not add up.

5- R.'s promo says that his website will have the capacity to list 100 venues. But ours is a small town. There are not 100 live music venues in SMA. There aren't 50. I doubt that there are 25 that have anything more than a solo guitarist playing once or twice a week. Once you eliminate the guys playing piano and crooning cover songs, I bet there aren't 12. Off the top of my head, I can't name 12 venues for live music in town. I wonder if R. can.

R. boasts that on his site we will be able to search for live performances by venue, artist, genre and part of town. But that is overkill. How many live musical performances are there on week nights? Three? Four? How many are there on Friday or Saturday night? Not eight.

Someone else, B., posted, on R.'s Facebook page, his own plans for starting a regular concert series, four bands one after the other, playing in the extensive courtyard of B.'s country villa. If successful, he will be in direct competition with every other musical venue, most of whom are already struggling to make ends meet. It's another version of the Ugly American. Come down to San Miguel and start throwing your money around.

It's globalism come to San Miguel, like Starbucks coming to the Jardin, an imposed uniformity, a flattening of the local, distinctive culture.

It usually looks easy from outside. "I never would have started, if I knew how difficult it would be," is a common refrain. R. has already postponed the launch of his site... twice. Now it's scheduled to launch in early December. December, like August, is a terrible time to launch anything. And if "early December" becomes mid or late... And really, if it's so much trouble before you even start...?

This town is littered with the digital corpses of those who thought it would be easy to run an event calendar. Over the ten years I've been here, I've seen them come and go.

R., if you're reading this, you can go on losing your money as long as you like. You've got a lot, and it's a free country. When you realize your cause is lost, you can even shift your site's focus to include all events, not just live performances, and compete with me more than you already will be. But I hope by then, you realize that you are not really helping anyone and take up a hobby instead.

What you've written on your Facebook page, "The more we all can do to support live performance is good for everyone in SMA," is naive, grandiose or just silly. The live music scene is completely irrelevant to well over 95% of San Miguel's residents. On the other hand, if you really want to be useful to the community, I've created an online platform, a digital town square, that actually is good for everyone in SMA. That's the other thing I wanted to speak with you about. Drop me a line when you're not so busy... and welcome to San Miguel.

**************

Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

events @ sanmiguelevents.com

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