Pop Rocks

Steven Uhles is a guest entertainment columnist

Giving stuff away can pay off for artists, venues

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My wife and I took our kids to the Artrageous Sunday event at the Morris Museum of Art earlier this week. It featured naturalist/musician Okefenokee Joe singing songs and telling tales -- including a grisly little number about a beloved pet that rubbed a hungry gator the wrong way. While we thought the kids might be interested in stories about snakes and spiders and would dig an early afternoon craft project, I would be lying if I didn't admit that the real appeal was the price.

It was free.

For those with the ability, offering something for nothing is a gambit that can pay real dividends. Let's use the Morris as an example. For relatively little -- Okefenokee's fee and a half ream of construction paper -- the museum attracted a fairly significant crowd. Did each family become a member of the museum or make a donation? No. Perhaps none did. But offering something for nothing allows patrons who might not have been familiar with the facility an opportunity to check it out.

It's not that revolutionary a concept. It's really a question of artists and institutions figuring what, exactly, is the right bait.

For the Morris, it's an entertaining afternoon for families. Some bands, most notably Radiohead, have all but given away albums with the understanding that concert tickets and merchandising will make up for the shortfall. Symphony Orchestra Augusta's annual free concert has historically been the best attended of the season. Professional artists, performers and institutions understand that in order to survive, it's impractical to give away what audiences might otherwise pay for. Impractical, that is, except when it isn't.

BONNAROO BOUND: By the time you read this, I'll probably already be on the road, headed once again to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. As in years past, I'm taking the responsible shopper's approach to this mammoth event. While I'll see some acts that, in all probability, will never play a date in Augusta (I'm talking to you, Buffalo Springfield), my real job will be collecting names that might be good fits for local venues. See my picks next week, and if there's an act you would like me to check out, drop me a line at uhlestide@gmail.com.

ON THE RADAR: Here's a little recommended YouTube viewing. It's a video by local art rock outfit the Radar Cinema. Not only is it an impressive piece of behind-the-curtain studio documentation, but the song, Consignment, is almost criminally catchy. Check it out: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lm_moJPo968.


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