Evan Rowe is a local songwriter and performer best-known as
Catalonia, a professor of political science and history at Broward
College, and a small-d democratic strategist with no party affiliation.
Each week, we surrender our space for his thoughts on the music industry
and how they relate to our region. This week, why ebony and ivory should fit together with local venues in perfect harmony.
I was at the Poor House in Fort Lauderdale a few months back, and I saw some dude in the back playing a piano and singing the blues. Now, I didn't know the Poor House had a piano, but the word on the sidewalk outside was that the piano is tucked away behind the stage and that they roll it out when they need to -- like when they can't book bands and they call somebody in to play the piano. I'm not saying every club should have one, but it would be nice if more clubs had real pianos.
Pianos are obviously not something that can be expected to be lugged
around by local artists. The weight is heavy, the cost is high, and the
overall feasibility of bringing a piano to a show would be more of a
stunt than a practical reality. But I think having a house piano in
more clubs would be a major contribution to the local scene. I've
played and lugged keyboards around for years, and keyboards, no matter
how weighted the keys are, are not pianos. It's fine if you're playing a
synth because a synth is really played in a very different way from a
physical piano. So it doesn't cut it.
Unlike the radio democratization plan, there really isn't much of a
political play to get more club owners to purchase pianos. So this is
more of a throw-it-out-there suggestion. But it does speak to the issue
of what is called "exogenous demand" in the economics department.
Exogenous demand is demand created by external motivation. So
in our house-piano scenario, if more venues have pianos, then artists
will have more incentive to rehearse and write more for piano to perform
(pianos to practice on are easier to find than performance pianos at
venues, in my experience).
If the piano push is successful, then other venues that attempt to keep
up will be able to justify the cost as a price of doing business. All
that being said, I'm not holding my breath for this one, and again,
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unlike the radio plan, I don't have much position to press the issue
because, unlike the airwaves, society doesn't have a right to force
club owners to all purchase pianos in the same way that we have the
right to take public property out of private hands.