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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #228
Audient Surveillance
David Gunn

If, the next time you're dragged to an alternative music recital or performance art installation kicking and screaming because you know you'll hate everything about it, but then much to your surprise you find yourself actually enjoying the event, there may be more at work here than a sudden identity with a particular artistic genre or aesthetic. The angst you had welled up inside ready to spew all over the entertainment venue may have been suppressed by a diabolical orchestration of market research. No matter you may never have consciously participated in an analysis of your personal supply and demand constituence, the data are retrievable, and a lot easier than you might wish. For if, within the past 12 years, you've attended a rock concert or guitar recital, art gallery exhibit or pottery demolition demonstration, cricket match or synchronized chainsaw marching drill team practice, if you've even only watched 30 seconds of a gymnastic floor exercise routine on public television, then your life with all of its embarrassing idiosyncrasies is an open book. How is this possible? Simple. You're under surveillance.

The moment a credit card number is blurted over the telephone to the box office clerk of the local dance collective to reserve a cheap seat at a mambo carnival, market researchers begin to develop the audient's profile. Age, height, weight, memory loss accountability, nosal flaring skills, fiduciary gullibility, bungled on-the-job larceny events -- these are statistics readily available through common investigative channels. The more specialized data are acquired by means of sophisticated tracking devices, the bulk of which are too classified to discuss even in the context of this blab-all essay. Suffice it to say that before he can figure out who he was talking to when he suddenly exclaimed "le flambeau oriange," an unwitting audient's every personality trait, his hair follicles and his Ouija board inclinations are processed, categorized and labeled. From these informational tidbits is drawn a remarkably accurate audient archetype, which of course is used for market research purposes only.

The statistics are corroborated when the audient actually attends the performance. There, investigators employ even more state of the art measuring equipment. Smellophones and odorometers detect minute changes in his personal aroma; tactilographs register variations in the exterior body temperature; tiny cameras in the seat cushion record his every buttocksian fidget. By show's end, the audient's data has been mined more thoroughly than the diamond pits at Kwangali Bator. And while he may now return home, ignorant of his supporting role in the research, the work of his profile continues in earnest. Focus groups comprised of MBA candidates study the information, then feed it into special analog computers for market analysis. Eventually, a median profile emerges, an archetype to which future concert performances will be geared to more effectively target the audient as consumer.

Some grumps see this as a plot by the business community to closely control the dollars per note ratio in concerts, while hard-core music conspiracy theorists think something even more nefarious is going on, though they've so far been too paranoid to actually verbalize what the plot is. What do we think? Who are we, really? What is reality? Hold on; one question at a time, please! The answers are (a) we don't think; (b) Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar; and (c) this 228th episode is today's only reality this side of a mambo carnival, besides, of course, Kalvos.