So I’m not sure exactly how rural you are, but I can sort of identify living in a small city in New York State, in the United States.
As far as the events themselves, I do a take what you can get philosophy. If you have big expectations, those can be broken and can hurt your feelings. If you just take what you can get and love what you have, everything feels a lot better.
Practically what that means for me: I have an ongoing electronic music series called Alternative Electronic Music. I’ve done ten shows in the series so far. We do it in a small venue, which once everyone sets up all their gear can fit about forty people. I basically will put on a show for anyone who is willing to come to Utica to play. I figure if someone is putting themselves out there enough to ask or to play out anywhere, it will probably be good enough that someone will enjoy it. So far I’ve been pretty lucky.
I don’t make any obligations as far as payout. It seems to be to be generally accepted that if someone is driving somewhere to play one show, and play some kind of experimental or otherwise electronic music, 1) they aren’t expecting to make much or any money 2) the $20-$50 dollars I could guarantee them won’t make or break them. They’re doing it because they love it and are comfortable enough financially that they can do it. We always give the artists a nice 11x17 poster my partner designs for the show, and that I hope that is a special for the artists as it is for us.
That said, we actually have a pretty nice community of people interested in electronic music, and I’ve been happy to send the traveling artists away with more than $150 the last couple shows. We have a monthly meetup called White Noise Workshop where people can showcase their music and then there is an improvised jam, and that community helps a lot getting people out to my shows.
I invested in a PA system, and that made a big difference. I was borrowing one for a while and it’s just a headache. So if you’re getting serious I’d consider it. I have RCF Art 312-A speakers I would recommend highly. It also takes a financial burden off you (as far as renting each time, which I believe is expensive).
Reading your post though it sounds like you may be “truly” rural (I don’t know how else to put that ha ha). If there really isn’t any interest, maybe you could start organizing something in a place nearby with a some more people? Either that or really investing time and energy into promotion could be helpful. There is a place sort of near me called The Barn, which is really in the middle of nowhere, but has very successful shows a couple times a month. They somehow have built up the interest and get the word out, and have turned it into a success. Granted, they are usually getting bands there, but hey it’s something to think about.
As an aside, I believe the issue faced by both of us is an interesting consequence of the internet. We can be exposed to things that are happening in different places around the world, and we are very interested in them, but we may not realistically have the community to support these things vibrantly in the areas we happen to live in. As far as I can tell, in the past you would have had to go to a place with a vibrant community to learn about this (or any) style of music at all. And then it’s obvious the difference: this does not happen where I’m from. The flip side if of course that you can expose people to music they wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. Recently my parents sat through a set of truly experimental electronic music. They would have never done that unless I had brought these people to our city.