You’re Always Too Busy to Go to a Show You Don’t Care About

Is your show more compelling than sitting on the couch being "busy"? Photo credit: “Entranced on the Sofa,” © 2012 @sage_solar, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Is your show more compelling than sitting on the couch being “busy”? Photo Credit: “Entranced on the Sofa,” © 2012 @sage_solar, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

For the next few days, count the number of times people tell you they’re busy. Chances are, you’ll hear it a few times, especially if you bump into people you haven’t seen in a while.

“I’m so busy” has become, I think it’s fair to say, just something that most people say automatically. Instinctively, we all know that and pay it no mind. Oh, we’ll make the sounds that you’re supposed to make when someone tells you that they’re busy, the same pat phrases to acknowledge that you understand and sympathize. We know it’s jive though. It’s just small talk.

“I’m busy” has become an all-purpose, Swiss Army knife of a conversation tool. It can be used to explain anything about why you do what you do, even to yourself. Live entertainment marketers need to understand this, so I’m going to talk about how it affects us.

First, people truly believe that they are busy. Is it true? I guess it’s an opinion question, so nobody can be wrong about how they feel, but what are the facts? The Economist says that studies in the U.S. about people and their leisure time indicate that we actually have more time to do the things we want now than we did in 1965. American men, for example, work 12 fewer hours per week. It may not be true for every person or even every grouping of people, but the idea that all of society has become frantically busy at work is not really supported by reality.

But if you believe you’re busy, you’re busy. As the same Economist article points out, people feel a greater sense of urgency about how they use their leisure time and that makes them more anxious about being “productive” with that time. Being “productive” means you’re producing something and therefore, you are — while not maybe working — busy.

And that’s where it gets interesting for us: people whose “product” asks our customers to take a chunk of their time and devote it to us.

I’m calling B.S. on the “busy” excuse.

Of course, some people are in fact super busy. The President. The single mom working two jobs to get the lights and heat on. Ryan Seacrest. All very, very busy at work with few opportunities for taking in a show. Surely, some small minority of people work so much that they just can’t make time to get to an event. I’ve been through those phases in my life where my most basic commitments (school, work, family, etc.) were so demanding that nothing much was left over.

But in a society where the average person watches almost five hours of TV a day … we just ain’t that busy. Sorry. (And yes, videos on your computer/phone/tablet are the same thing. Pewdiepie isn’t any less of a waste of time than Law and Order.)

A few years ago, we did a survey that reached people at all levels of interest in going out to live entertainment. Some went to shows and events all the time and some almost never did. We asked people who almost never went to things why they didn’t, and the most frequently cited reason was that they were too busy. Fair enough, you’re saying, people with more free time go to more events.

Sure, except that we also asked them what else they did, what else they spent time on, and overall, the people who said they were too busy to go out tended to do somewhat much less in general with their time. They watched a little more TV, but they just did less.

With some exceptions (new parents, for instance), most people have time to devote to going out and they will … if the event, show or game is something they feel compelled to see and if the experience seems like it will be smooth, enjoyable and convenient enough to overcome the inertia of their lives. That inertia is powerful. It gobbles up anything that isn’t even more powerful, leaving five hours of TV a day and endless amounts of pointless web and phone browsing in its wake.

People are never too busy to go to a show they really want to see, but they’re always too busy to go to one they don’t care about. Market accordingly.

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