50 Reasons People May Not Be Coming To Your Shows

© 2010 Vinny Ribas


The income for most indie artists comes from gigging and selling CDs/merchandise at those gigs. So if you are having trouble drawing people to your shows, the problem may be one or more of the reasons listed below.

Be honest as you evaluate where you stand in each of these areas. Remember that it only takes ONE of these to keep you from packing the house. If you recognize that you have challenges in more than one area, you may have some serious revamping to do!

  1. You may have ‘friends’ on your social networks, but they are not real fans who have listened to, loved, purchased and spread the word about your music. Getting people to take the time to sign up for your mailing list is one way to know who really likes your music.
  2. Your music doesn’t come across well live. This could happen for various reasons. For example, you might have used overdubs in the studio that you can’t duplicate live, or maybe you used studio musicians who are better players than you. Fans like to hear what they heard online or on the CD they bought. Don’t record songs or styles that you can’t duplicate live.
  3. There are no ‘wow’ factors. You are not doing anything that creates moments of amazement. This can be done with a great vocal performance, tight harmonies, a dazzling instrumental solo, choreography, your set design or anything else that makes audience members elbow the person they are with and whisper ‘Did you hear that?”
  4. Your music is boring, morbid, depressing or just plain negative. Take a good listen to your songs from the audience’s perspective. If necessary, try lightening the mood, changing tempos, adding jokes or something to break the somberness.
  5. You play too many slow songs. This might work in a piano bar, but in many venues promoting an upbeat, happy atmosphere is imperative. It can be fatal if people are falling asleep at your shows. Evaluate and revamp your set list and insure that you keep the pace alive and moving.
  6. You haven’t given your fans a reason to come to your shows by creating some form of anticipation. You can hold an online contest and announce the winner at your shows, or announce that you’re going to play new songs that you’re working on for your next CD and you want their opinions. Play ‘Don’t Forget The Lyrics’ with one person who claims to be a real fan (use your original songs). Give away free momentos at your shows. Give your fans a real reason to be there!
  7. There is nothing unique about your show or music. If you don’t stand out in some way, there is nothing special to come see or hear. Determine what really makes you different from your competition and then showcase it!
  8. You have over-played your welcome. If you’ve performed quite a bit in one area, your freshness may be gone. Keep introducing new aspects to your shows so people want to come back to see what you’re going to surprise them with next. It also might be good to take a break and play in a different area for a while.
  9. You may not have played in one area enough to build up a following. You need to work an area, coming back every 6 weeks – 2 months to build your fan base. Gradually play bigger and better venues as your local fan base increases.
  10. You may have been away for too long from the area and so your fans have moved on to other ‘favorite bands’. Be sure that you have are ‘working the area’ by returning every few months.
  11. Your act or music isn’t unique enough to draw people away from the comfort of their homes. Be breathtaking or groundbreaking in some way. Create a pull!
  12. You are over-charging for your shows. This might be because of what the people in that particular area are used to paying, or because of the economic condition of the fans you attract. Survey your fans and price yourself accordingly.
  13. You may be asking too little, which makes you seem like a run-of the-mill act instead of something exclusive. If you are offering something amazing, position yourself that way! Play with your prices to see where your fans’ comfort zone and thresholds are.
  14. You are not doing enough marketing. Sometimes your general fan newsletter just isn’t enough. Try assembling and mobilizing a street team. Find out what kind of marketing the venue does and fill in the gaps where they don’t do enough. Be very active on the social networks. Send press releases. Hang posters in the area. Be or assemble a marketing machine.
  15. You’re marketing is misplaced. Find out where the kinds of people you attract the most actually look to decide who to go see, and advertise there.
  16. Your marketing is ineffective. It may be the look of the ads or posters you have out there, or the lack of a call to action. If necessary, have a professional music marketer help you design great marketing materials.
  17. Your website and social network pages don’t convey what your act is really like on stage. Have a videographer shoot some live footage showing the highlights of your shows. Make it exciting. Be sure the sites represent you well.
  18. Your online presence is weak. If someone is searching for which band to see and they see your name in the papers but can’t find you online, chances are they will pass. Be sure you can be found!
  19. You are not supplementing your marketing with PR. Getting press (articles in the parents, radio interviews etc.) add greatly to your credibility and can make you a household word.
  20. You may not have mass appeal. It is possible that your music appeals to a very limited demographic, while other artists are appealing to a wider majority of the live music lovers.
  21. You are not offering anything new that music fans haven’t seen or heard before, either from you or from someone else. Keep your set list, wardrobe, stage movements etc. fresh.
  22. You haven’t grown or improved. Fans love to watch their favorite bands evolve. Be sure that you are always working to improve your stage performance, songwriting skills, vocal skills and instrumental skills.
  23. You are not a match for the venue. You may be playing dance music in a listening room, or appealing to a different audience than what frequents the venue. Do your homework before you pursue or accept gigs to make sure that you are a perfect fit.
  24. The venue is relying on you to have the draw because they don’t have a clientele that frequents the venue on a regular basis, while you are relying on them to have the audience for you to entertain. Be sure your wires aren’t crossed!
  25. You just don’t have enough fans. You should know the ratio of fans that come to your shows compared to the number of fans you have in the geographical area. For example, record how many fans can you draw to a show for every 100 fans that you have in a geographical area.
  26. You don’t put on a show. Even DJs spinning records need to put on a show to attract a following. Learn to entertain, not just play songs.
  27. You perform for yourself – not for your fans. Audiences know if you are there to entertain them. They need to be made to feel special. Look at them, talk to them, listen to them, respond to them etc. Let them know that you are there for their enjoyment.
  28. You’re not as good as you think you are. Many acts have large egos that keep them from assessing their talents accurately. Compare yourself, skill to skill, with your competition. Be sure you’re not over-promising and under-delivering. Book venues that match the caliber of the band.
  29. There is too much competition. You may be in a flooded market where there are too many venues with live music for the local population, so the show-goers are spread thin. You need to do something special that makes you outshine all of the competition, or move to a more balanced market.
  30. Where you’re gigging can’t support your kind of music. You may be playing gigs in which your kind of music just doesn’t go over well. Maybe you are selling your act wrong, or your taking any gig that comes along. It’s important to target the venues that thrive with your genre of music.
  31. You’re better than you think you are. It is possible that your skills and experience are beyond what a venue is used to. For example, a polished, high-energy funk band might not cut it in a local bar that is used to classic rock jam bands.
  32. You haven’t learned to read a crowd. You need to know what the crowd wants and how to deliver it. For example, it is vital that you know when your audience is ready for a slow, romantic song, when to play a heavy dance number, and when to keep it easy listening. Learn to listen to and feel out the audience. Ask for requests. Ask the bar servers if you should be doing something different. They know their patrons better than anyone.
  33. You’re not capturing email addresses and zip codes. If you have this contact info from the people who saw you once, you can invite them back the next time you perform in the area. In many cases you can’t rely on the venue to do all of the marketing. This is especially true if your income is based on the door or a percentage of bar sales.
  34. You’re not having fun. It doesn’t take a genius to see when an act is bored or would rather be somewhere else. You need to be ‘into’ what you’re doing 100% no matter how many people show up. You never know who those people are or know and how they might influence your career.
  35. You’re not tight. If your intros and endings are sloppy, or the guitar player is overpowering the vocals, or the drummer and bass player are not in perfect sync, you will sound like a garage band. Unrehearsed bands seldom have a loyal following. Rehearse until every note and move are deliberate and second nature.
  36. You are unprofessional or have an unpleasing personality. Maybe you show up late, dress sloppily, swear from stage, get in fights with the band or the audience or conduct yourself unprofessionally in some other way. If you’re not treating your music and your audience with respect, no one will want to see you.
  37. You’re not getting local airplay. It never hurts to pitch your CD to a local, independent radio station. Offer to do an interview. Give them CDs to give away as contests etc. Give them a reason to play your music and promote your shows.
  38. You choose the wrong songs. It is vital that you pick the songs that your audience wants to hear, that you shine on, that fit the mood or atmosphere you are wanting to create and that get the audience involved (if it is that kind of venue).
  39. You are associated with or tour with incompatible performers. You may often share the stage with one or more performers who either aren’t as good as you are, or who attract a different following. In these scenarios, your reputation is lumped in with theirs. Be sure any act that you perform with will complement, not compete with you or hold you back. Break from the pack!
  40. You come across as phony. In order to draw a crowd you need to come across as ‘the real deal’. For example, wearing a cowboy hat won’t make you play country music any better if you’re really a jazz player. Audiences can always tell when you are bluffing or faking it. Get great at being yourself!
  41. Your equipment is bad. Having unparalleled talent can’t overcome the sound of a cheap instrument or amplifier. Audiences are used to hearing top quality sound from live bands. Great sounding gear is relatively inexpensive these days, and it’s worth it to invest in something that does your talent justice.
  42. Your sound tech is bad. Again, it doesn’t matter how good you are if the sound tech can’t make you sound good up front. Common problems include buried vocals, instruments not blending, ‘canny’ sounding drums etc. Only hire sound techs who have experience running live shows and do it well.
  43. Your volume is either too loud or too soft. Know what your audience and the venue want. Always ask the management and ask the audience if your volume level is comfortable. They will both appreciate it.
  44. You’re out of touch with your fans. You may still be playing the same music you did a few years back but your fans have moved on. You may have changed your act in ways that or just more than your fans were willing to accept. It is important to listen to your fans and know what they want and expect from you.
  45. You don’t build relationships with your fans. Today’s fans are used to interacting with their favorite artists via Facebook and other social networks. They like to feel like they are friends, getting a glimpse into what you are like off stage as well as on. Learn to use the amazing tools that are available to build these vital relationships.
  46. You haven’t built a reputation yet. It takes a while to build up enough of a great reputation that people are anxious to come see your shows. Be sure that you getting as much publicity as possible. Ask for quotes from fans and venue owners to put on your website. Follow what the press says about you, and if it is good, plaster it on your website and social networks. Create your own buzz.
  47. The venues you pick aren’t comfortable, convenient or popular. Maybe you’re not ready to play the real hotspots in town so you’re working your way up the ladder by playing lesser known, out of the way venues. Maybe your particular fan demographic doesn’t like to drive 20 miles to see you, or doesn’t feel comfortable in the kinds of venues you gig at. It’s important to perfectly match your musical style, your fan demographics and the venues you play in.
  48. There may be conflicts with other events in town. Sports games, college graduation, political events and so many more events can draw those who would normally come to your shows. Be especially aware of this when you’re promoting your own concerts.
  49. You’ve gotten stale. Maybe you’ve been doing the same songs or playing in the same band for so long that you’ve stopped growing and getting better. Always find ways to challenge yourself.
  50. You let your personal problems affect your shows. It is vital that the minute you step on stage, the only thing on your mind is putting on the best show you’ve ever done.

Obviously, some of these reasons may be somewhat out of your control. However, it is important to review this checklist and determine if that is really the case, or if there is something that you can change, fix or improve to make coming to your shows a priority.

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.