Unless you’re extraordinarily lucky, if you’ve played a live show before, you’ve had one of those shows where the crowd seems completely indifferent to your band, if not outright hostile. It’s just a fact of playing live. That doesn’t stop it from feeling lousy, though. Like most things having to do with touring, what matters most is how you handle the situation, not necessarily that the situation happened. So today, I thought I’d go over a few things related to this very topic.
• Don’t Take It Personally – Although it’s hard not to do so, the worst thing you can do is take a difficult audience personally. As I said before, almost everyone experiences this from time to time. Maybe they’re just not into your particular style. Maybe you just have an audience of “watchers” versus “dancers and screamers”. Maybe you’re an opening act and people just aren’t familiar enough with your material yet, so they’re just checking you out. There are literally dozens of reasons an audience might be indifferent to you that have nothing to do with you personally.
• Don’t Insult the Audience – Just about the worst thing you can do in a situation like this is to insult the audience. “You guys are fucking LAME!” “This is the worst audience we’ve ever had!” “Our genius is lost on you!” Even if the audience is outright hostile, you don’t have to take the bait. Be the bigger person and soldier on. There are few things that look more pathetic than a band the crowd isn’t digging lashing out at the crowd. Man up and build a thick skin or you’re not going to get far.
• Don’t Apologize – This is sort of the polar opposite of the previous item. “Sorry we suck so bad.” Take some pride in what you’re doing, even if you’re a newbie. Again, it just looks lame.
• Have a Sense of Humor About It – If you’re a naturally funny person and are quick on your feet, a little self-depreciating humor can go a long way. If the audience sees you don’t take yourself overly seriously, they may very well warm up to you.
• Be Gracious – You don’t have to kiss the audience’s ass, but be polite and thank them every now and then throughout the set. It’s a privilege to play in front of an audience. No one owes you a thing. Remember that and express it frequently.
• Do the Show for You – Playing music is supposed to be fun. It can be easy to forget that if you feel slighted in some way by an audience. So don’t worry about the audience. Focus on making the music happen and have fun with your bandmates. Look at it as a glorified practice section. Few things are more infectious than a band that is obviously having a blast onstage. Even if the audience doesn’t dig what you’re doing musically, they’ll at least respect the passion with which you practice your craft.