Ace blues guitarist and host of the highly successful Friday Night Blues Jam at the Salty Dog Mike Sedgewick recently posted on Facebook some thoughts about musicians’ complaining about poor turnout. It’s worth taking a moment to read what he suggests.
I hate seeing posts from musicians who get angry that people don’t go out to their shows or that the live music scene is dead. I never hold it against anyone who doesn’t make it out and I always try to make a point to thank people that do come out, especially those that I always see at venues who constantly support live music. If you want people to make it out to shows try doing things like:
1. Make it a better experience for the listener. Have an act that gives reason for someone to spend their night/money at a venue. Make it exciting. Have appropriate sound levels! It’s great fun to blast through classic rock covers at rock concert volume but it’s an attack on the senses on people who would otherwise enjoy the music for a longer duration. There’s only so long anyone can handle deafening volume. It’s exhausting. Also, don’t think that because your band can competently get through tired covers or your original material it makes for a good show. If you are on stage disconnected from the audience just going through the motions then what reason do people have to not just stay at home and listen to the radio?
2. Engage the audience. I always make a point on breaks to go around and say hi to strangers or friends at tables and thank them for their patronage. It might seem silly but it makes people know they are appreciated and only serves to make a night more memorable when they can talk to the musicians they see on stage. Be approachable. I always see people walk by and you can tell that they want to talk/say hi so I make sure that I at least acknowledge them and look friendly so they have that opportunity.
3. Realize that the live music scene HAS changed immensely from what it used to be. But it is not dead. Be grateful that it still exists. There are plenty of great local acts who constantly pack venues. Obviously they’re doing something right to consistently draw and I doubt anyone would leave these gigs thinking “oh the live music scene is totally dead now why bother”.
4. Don’t take yourself too seriously and try to have fun. If you’ve been toiling for years to write groundbreaking original material that’s gonna change the world and finally are ready to debut the masterpiece, realize that a lot of people are just out to have a few beers and chat with their friends. The next day they’ll remember the night before as “that was fun to get out and see live music”.
Rant over. That’s just my perspective. I’ve been lucky to have had some grassroots success with some of the things I do and when asked why it works I can only guess that the above points have something to do with it. Also I’m sure some great musicians who I respect a ton may have issue with some of these points and would love to hear any feedback as to what I’m missing or got wrong.
At the time of this post being written, there were 60 comments following his “rant”, and all positive. Mike just may be on to something!
Happy reading and be well!