When I was living in four-season countries, one of the most awaited events on summers was concerts. As the weather became friendlier for three months, bands would go on many more tours beyond the confine of indoor stadiums. Actually, I consider outdoor summer concerts as one of the most romantic dates—the sun is out, the music is loud, the drinks are cold, the guy is hot—a moment when all is right in the world.
The demand for entertainment in Indonesia has risen sharply in the past decade, a phenomena that should not be a surprise for anyone watching the steady growth of Indonesia’s income per capita numbers and familiar with Abraham Maslow’s 1943 theory of hierarchy of needs. That some of Indonesia’s leading academics and media have chosen to judge it as an irresponsible over-consumptive behavior of the growing middle class is blindsided at best, if not self-righteously cynical.
It’s heartening to see the growth of promising domestic talents, and international artists taking considerations to perform live for their loyal Indonesian fans. What is disheartening is the availability of appropriate venues to showcase these talents in the current entertainment style (that the famous band Train was only granted a makeshift stage in the hall of a mall was such a travesty). These days, when a song, a movie, or a museum tour is one convenient click away on a personal gadget, the need for entertainment goes beyond the actual art, into the access and presentation. Beyond wanting to see an art form, audience also demands the whole experience, from procuring tickets to getting to and from venues, to be pleasant. And they will pay accordingly.
Music concerts have long been one of the most popular entertainments and now, thanks to the TV show Glee, so are stage musicals. In the past year I observe not only a spike of concerts and musicals presence in Jakarta, but also the mobility of audience. I’ve seen Yogyakarta youngsters chasing some obscure indie Japanese band to Jakarta, Jakarta crowd flocking to Solo for an outdoor musical previously shown indoor, and Indonesians from different cities flying to neighboring countries for shows they could’ve caught in Jakarta or Bali.
I tried asking around and aside from diehard fans or the vanity of watching shows before your peers, most people went for value of money. If the pass for a concert in Jakarta is priced almost equally to the same concert in Bali or Singapore, while cheap airfares and lodgings can easily be found online, audience might as well fork over the small difference and make it a 2-day holiday instead of a mere 2-hour concert.
Ambience and convenience were also invariably cited. Perhaps tired of the confines of concrete jungle, more city warriors find outdoor concerts alluring—yet aren’t necessarily inclined to deal with unnecessary trash and mud. As someone who has braved enough muddy, outdoor concerts in my 20s (a particular 3-day concert in White Flint, Colorado, featuring Ziggy Marley, Jamiroquai and constant weed haze came to mind), I can understand this. As public transportation isn’t exactly a forte in Indonesia’s growing cities, commuting to certain venues, like Ancol or Sentul for Jakartans, can be excruciating—sometimes, sucking the fun out before the actual show. Not to mention procuring passes—many Indonesian performance venues still require physical presence to buy tickets, and the ones dabbling in online system has often failed willing-to-pay customers. The recent Maroon 5 concert was a perfect example; the promoter canceled the usual early bird booths less than 24 hours before, redirected customers to online system that miraculously managed to sell out 2,500 passes in 2 seconds (really, much faster than the rate for World Cup and Olympic passes), only to announce after a while that many passes were still somehow available. With concert dates some 2 months away, no wonder many dejected fans decided to spend the same amount to watch not only Maroon 5, but also a handful of other world-class performers and, oh, Formula 1 Grand Prix race, on litter-free and bug-free grass field accessible easily by cheap subway, where the big stage accompanied by first-rate sound systems that made audience feel listening indoor, and which passes were easily obtained through a hassle-free online ticketing system. All the way in neighboring Singapore.
You can call them spoiled middle class, or you can call them discerning, paying customers who actually value their hard-earned income. I’m a staunch supporter of less commercial art forms, as you might’ve read in one of my earlier columns, and have often trudged into unpopular exhibition halls to walk my talk, but as far as music concerts are concerned, where the market has long been established, I feel that local promoters have had enough time to learn the ropes and can no longer rely on patriotic supports from domestic audience. We demand good entertainment and service, the whole pleasant experience, and we will choose with our wallet for the best value on offer.
While our dear local promoters are (hopefully) reviewing their sales & marketing plans, I’m going to peek into my wallet and jot some numbers to see whether in December I’ll see ‘The Englishman’ in town, or somewhere else. I’m sure the moon will still be over whatever street I eventually see him in.