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Blog: What Does It All Mean And Why Does It Matter?

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We've now come to end of my Month Of STATS, and before the bell rings and we're all free to go outside and play, I thought it might be WISE to take a moment to try and work out what it all MEANS, and more importantly, why does it MATTER?

For me, the primary learning from all of this has been COR there isn't half LOTS you can do with a dataset like this. Yesterday I was working on the publicly available dataset (more news of that tomorrow) and was surprised to see that it's actually quite SMALL. I boiled it down to just three tables - gigs, the people who played them, and the songs they played - with none of them having more than a few columns each, and yet I've managed to get 15 entire BLOGS out of them and could have done MUCH more. The STATS I've dealt out here have been very basic indeed, only occasionally touching on the ways in which different aspects could interact with each other, and an Actual Statistician could have done multiple metric TONNES more.

Practically speaking, my main takeaway has been that Indietracks and/or Fuzztival needs to come back so that I can have another go at emptying my cupboards. More generally it becomes clear that the places where it's easiest to sell merchandise are EITHER at gigs where people haven't seen you before OR at gigs where they have but you have new things to sell them. Also, it turns out that you can't sell much at all to people who have already left the building and gone to watch something else. These INSIGHTS will, I'm sure, have a seismic impact on the business side of the business of ROCK!

But the GRATEST thing I've got out of this is a reminder of how much FUN I've had over the course of these thousand gigs. I've played with some BRILLIANT people, in various permutations in all sorts of places, and along the way I've unleashed a PILE of GRATE songs on audiences who, every now and then, wanted to BUY some to take home with them.

With so much ROCKING OUT going on all the time - in the scenarious mentioned above but also recording songs, making videos, and even sometimes (when I can't get out of it) PRACTICING - its always very tempting to just focus on what's happening NOW and especially NEXT, so there isn't an awful lot of space to REFLECT on what's gone before. Using STATS has been a lovely way to go about it, and I'm hoping to do a bit more of the aforesaid REFLECTION next week by glancing back at some MISSED MILESTONES.

I hope it's been of some INTEREST for those of you who've read THE LOT. Obviously My Exciting Life In ROCK is enduringly fascinating to EVERYONE, but I suspect quite a few people have read this and been reminded of their OWN lifes in This Krazy Business, whether it's seeing, or playing in, bands in some of the same places I have, or lurking round with some of the same people, or just the daft experience of going out and DOING this sort of thing.

Which brings me onto the POINT of the whole exercise, which is twofold. Firstly, obviously, the plan was to highlight ME and my immense exertions in ROCK over the decades, but secondly, and surely ALMOST AS IMPORTANTLY, it's been to try and encourage other people to look at this aspect of Cultural Activity in a more detailed way. We hardly EVER see examinations of music-making at this level, down around the nether edges away from the stadiums and promotional budgets, whether it's indie or rock or jazz or rap or ANY of the many and mighty forms of music that people get involved with, and that is RIDICULOUS.

Every single day, all around the UK, there are HUNDRED - possibly THOUSANDS - of gigs happening, almost ALL of which never get reported or documented in any way at all. The media, traditional and social, and thus the historical record will tell you about the big bands playing the arenas, but there are many many MANY times as many people going out to toilet venue gigs, or open mic nights, or any of the other sorts of gigs that happen outside my little world of indie pop that I have no idea about. Going To See Small Gigs is probably THE BIGGEST CULTURAL ACTIVITY in this country, in the WORLD even, and yet there is almost NO record of what happened or where, and I think that's appalling.

Even if you don't think that this type of activity is important or has meaning just for its own sake (it does!) then it still has relevance to broader cultural analysis. For example, I went to see Mark Lewisohn talk about The Beatles a couple of months ago, and he had spent YEARS tracking down details of their earliest gigs - it took all that time to find out because there was no existing resource available to uncover it, despite them becoming the biggest band on the planet. He talked about how many gigs they were doing at the time, but there's no way of knowing if that was a LOT, or NORMAL, or NOT MANY because there is quite simply NO DATA to tell us what other bands were doing. This carries on right up to the present day, even in the era of the Internet - on many occasions during this process I tried to look up BIG GIGS that I'd been a small part of, expecting to find line-ups and stage times, but in some case the only online reference to these events - some of which featured HUNDREDS of people - was on my own flipping website!

By not recording this information, and not taking the idea of it seriously, we are losing a WEALTH of data about this country's - this PLANET's - main artistic endevour. I know that some of this information IS available now on places like Songkick, but that's HUGELY weighted towards certain types of act, and is basically warping the historical record so that it looks like it's something ONLY carried out by artists and bands signed to massive major labels, playing in massive corporate venues. This, of course, is precisely what THE MAN wants - by ignoring what the vast majority of us are getting up to for OURSELVES and off our own back EVERY SINGLE DAY - whether that's playing gigs, promoting, or most importantly of all GOING TO SEE THEM - then these large organisations can claim to be the only true carriers of the ROCK FLAME, taking all the money, all the credit, and all the control.

And THAT is why all of this matters - not because it allows us to discover that I've played more gigs with Steve than anybody else (not JUST because of that anyway) but because it's a way for THE REST OF US to stake a claim to OUR part in the human endevour of CREATION. And that in turn is why I hope other people will look into their own lists and spreadsheets (I know loads of you have them!) and do something similar. The more we make this data more widely available to researchers, the more THEY can get a truer picture of what ACTUALLY goes on - and that's why, TOMORROW, I shall be making all of this available to everyone. See you then for a STATS FINALE!

posted 21/2/2023 by MJ Hibbett

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This something that should be FUNDED (Arts Council: where are you?)
posted 21/2/2023 by Tim

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