One of my least favorite things to sit through (and one of my favorite thing to rail against) is the encore.
The first problem is that the encore is supposed to be a surprise bonus—the fans demanding more; the artists giving just a little extra. Now, though, the encore is baked in. Regardless of the audience’s reaction, the musical act thanks the crowd, walks off stage, and three to seven minutes later, to no one’s surprise, they return to play that hit song they had somehow forgotten during the main act.
This leads to the second problem—the encore is a waste of everyone’s time. The false “end,” the seven minutes the artists spent backstage, the disingenuous continuation of applause. Why not just skip the whole charade, end the main set with that hit song everyone came to hear in the first place, and let everyone go home?
In Nothing is Real: The Beatles Were Underrated And Other Sweeping Statements About Pop, Hepworth writes:
“Audiences only really like two parts of a show — the beginning and the end. You should prolong the former by rolling directly through your first three numbers without pausing. Then make sure you end suddenly and unexpectedly. Audiences rewards who stop early and punish those who stay late…” (via Tyler Cowen)
Not having read the book, I cannot say if Hepworth backs his statement up with data or if it’s simply his intuition. But either way, it confirms what I’ve long thought: everybody wants to leave early.
My own intuition is that concerts frequently start late, run long, and include an encore because the artists and their managers want you to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. They are worried you’ll be upset if you paid hundreds of dollars to see Beyonce and the show only lasts an hour and a half.
But that is backwards. Time is your most valuable resource. Unlike money, you cannot get more. The more a ticket costs, the tighter and more concentrated the whole experience ought to be.
It’s not just concerts, of course. It’s classes, podcasts, movies, seminars, and books. These things all frequently run long. Overstay their welcome. Those in charge think they’re giving you more bang for your buck.
But the greatest gift you can give someone isn’t more of what they paid for. It’s packing exactly what they paid for into ten minutes less than the time allotted.
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