Making the Best of a Bad Situation


the ideal audience

the ideal audience...i think

Having just played a couple shows in the last week where thing didn’t go 100% as expected, I thought I’d write this post.  Here are some ways to make the best of a bad situation:

When there are only 5 people in the audience
Obviously your promoting did not pay off. This has happened to all of us at one time or another (and it will probably happen again).  Having a small audience is definitely a downer…especially when you’re expecting 50 but there are actually alot of perks.

  • 1.] Fewer people to please:  Engage in an ongoing conversation with the people who did care to come.  Take requests if you can. Play “Free Bird” 🙂 .  Take time to tell the stories behind your songs.  This is often hard to do with a huge audience.  I find that people like my songs better when they know the stories behind them.
  • 2.] Remember: Don’t punish your attendies by giving them a crappy show.  Small crowd should never equal crappy show.
  • 3.] Create Energy: It’s easy to be pumped for a show when there are tons of people.  Make sure to keep the energy up and never give off the impression that you’re boring yourself. 


When the sound system and sound guy are terrible
Sounding good on stage is such a huge deal.  Even if your CD sounds good, people will judge you based on your live performance.  You’ll also make less (or no) money on CD sales if your liver performance is a disaster. So first apologize to your audience and just mention that you’re having technical difficulties (don’t call out the soundguy on stage). If you can’t eventually clear up the situation, let you audience know where your next gig is if they’d like ot hear you under better circumstances.  Basically don’t let people go home thinking you’re a terrible performer simple b/c you didnt come off as sounding good.

Here are a couple things you can do ahead of time to prevent the above from happening:

  • 1.] Do your research: Stop by the venue ahead of time to check out the PA.  If you don’t like what they have, bring your own setup.
  • 2.] Come prepared: If you can’t stop at a venue prior to your show, consider having your own quality microphone. I know several musicians who travel with a personal mic.   Your vocals can make all the difference at a show…even if everything else sucks. Come with an amp. If a venue is small enough, just use your amp instead of going through the PA. Ya, the sound might be smaller but if the PA sucks, go for the better sound.


When the audience doesn’t seem interested in your set
Feel out the audience and environment.  If you’re at a bar, you probably won’t be successful in trying to make people listen to you.  If you’re  at a venue and most everyone is sitting in the back of the room, ask them to move up.  Distance can make all the difference at a show. In this case, make engaging your audience your biggest concern. If the room is out of control, change up your set list a little and work in a song that requires crowd participation.  Most of all, realize that there are three types of audiences

  • 1.] Active listening audience: Listens to you intently and is engaged
  • 2.] Passive listening audience: Most likely a bar scene or restaurant scene.  You’re basically wallpaper music 
  • 3.] Active-Passive listening audience: Zones in and out. Listens sometimes. Talks other times.   


Hope this helps.

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3 Comments on “Making the Best of a Bad Situation”

  1. dynamo starr Says:

    great post

  2. KSE Says:

    Giving 5 fans a great show may end of giving you 25-50 fans. Then everything can mushroom from there. Having great loyal supportive fans is the lifeblood of an artist’s career. Get to know them and give them a really personal show…REMEMBER: Word of mouth is the best marketing too an artist can have…each new fan pushes you further up the music mountain.

  3. […] Grassrootsy grassroots marketing for independent artists « Making the Best of a Bad Situation […]

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