What to do when you have a “bad” gig – i.e. hardly anyone shows up…

April 11, 2010

It’s inevitable that, as a performing artist, you’re going to have great gigs and “not so great” gigs.

All you can do is control how you react.

I’ve managed artists that, upon seeing a poor turn out at a gig, decided it “sucked” and decided to play a crappy show and complain about the lack of a crowd all the way through the set.

Think doing one bad show doesn’t matter?

Think again!

What happened?

The promoter heard the band did a bad set and the promoter never booked that band again.

A better thing to do would have been to say, “Fine, there are only a few people here. Well, I’m going to make sure I win over each and every one of them. I’m still going to give it my all because this is what I love doing so I might as well make the best of it.”

And, in fact, I’ve managed bands that sold more CDs and merchandise at a show with 5-10 people in the audience than a show with 400 people in the audience.

The artist was so amused at the small crowd, he even took a bathroom break in the middle of his set. Now while this generally isn’t a good idea, he did it in a cute/funny/amusing way. He charmed the audience. He stopped caring and taking himself so seriously and that night he really made a break-through in terms of how he performed.


Now I know, as an artist, one of the hardest things you may ever have to do is perform to a crowd of none. Or a few people. Or a club with just the bartender, door guy and waitress there.

But hey, you rehearse and there’s no one there, right?

So maybe look at any gigs you do with a poor turn out as a fancy dress rehearsal.

Have fun.

Who cares?


I’ve managed bands where one day they’ll be in front of a crowd of 10,000 people at a festival – and the same night (or very next night) they’ll literally be in some dive bar performing for almost no one.
I know this must be hard on the ego — but as an artist you have to figure out a way to deal with it.

Say to yourself, “Self – Well, this is still more fun than going to the gym or doing laundry or rehearsing in front of the mirror” — tell yourself whatever gets you through the set.

If the crowd is THAT small, have fun with it!

Get each and every audience member up on stage with you at some point.

Jump off of the stage and go talk to them — or sing to them from the audience.
Mix it up.

I guarantee that if you connect that well with a small, small group of people, they will remember YOUR show as the one where they got to go up on stage. I bet they’ll go home and tell 10 friends. Or they’ll tell 100+ facebook friends, “Hey, I was in this club with 3 people there and this guy/gal/band put on the most incredible set. He even made me a drink in the middle of his performance” or something to that effect.

You never know what could happen from just winning over ONE fan.

One tastemaker.

One person who just LOVES you and tells EVERYONE they know about you.

Try it next time.

And remember.

Gigs are like day jobs.

You’ll have great days.

And not so great days.

You’ll get through the not so great days.

And the next day, the next gig, will be better!

Have a sense of humor about it.

Have fun.

Life is too short to get upset.


Feedback on this email (already!):


Your emails are always great but this one takes the cake. I am the person that I am today for always making the best of small crowds! Talk about building character and humility.

So many of us artists get so lost in the whole ego part of it that we totally forget what it’s all about when we let a small audience stop us from putting on the best performance we can put out for the people that actually bothered to show up! I always treated each and every challenging night as an opportunity and treated those in the audience like they were the only important people in the world!

Shame on any musician that doesn’t learn to leave their egos at home when their job is to entertain the people that actually showed up! It’s a bigger challenge than having a much bigger audience hence why the potential reward is so much greater, the artist approaches each and every situation the same! It’s their job!




Dear Jennifer,

As a footnote to your e-mail, for which thank you :

“On their first American tour in October 1978, The Police gave a concert at Poughkeepsie in upstate New York. There were less than 10 (ten) people in the room, but instead of packing up and going home, the group decided to amuse themselves and gave an excellent concert before coming and talking to the public. As luck would have it, among the rare spectators were three enthusiastic DJs.

Thanks to them, the song ‘Roxanne’ was in constant rotation on the radio from the next day. It was the beginning of a huge love story between The Police and America.”

(Roughly translated from ‘The Police and Sting’ by Christophe Crénel, published by Librio.)

Best wishes,



Jennifer Yeko
True Talent Management
9663 Santa Monica Blvd. # 320
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

~Music Marketing~Music Licensing~Music Publicity

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”
— Jedi Master Yoda


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