How I Earned More in Tips than What the Gig Paid Playing to a Nearly Empty Room

At some point or another we’ve all had or will have gigs where the room is nearly empty. You can’t win them all. But, how those gigs turn out all depend on how you behave and how you perform despite whatever disappointment you may be feeling.

So let me start by saying it’s not easy.

When you’re playing to an empty room, it’s hard to find the energy to put on a good performance. There isn’t an audience to play off of or interact with and so it’s easy to slip into putting on a mediocre show. Especially if they’re not paying attention.

But here’s why you shouldn’t let that happen.

A smaller audience gives you the opportunity to connect on a more intimate level with your listeners. Don’t miss out on that opportunity!

First, I recommend gauging the room before following my suggestions. If the room would rather focus on their meal and not on the music, it might be better to let them do that (if you don’t want the venue manager to be upset with you).

But if they’re watching you or applauding after you finish songs, make them a part of your performance.

Let them call out requests in between songs, get a dialogue going with them. It’s an experience they’ll likely remember and a great way to build relationships with your audience.

Don’t be afraid to talk with those enjoying your music from where you’re playing – just don’t get too carried away and leave too much space between songs.

Perform as though you’re playing for a large audience. Play like you’re on a stage and not tucked away next to the bar. You never know who’s watching!

I recently had an experience where I performed in a restaurant to a small crowd. Rather than letting it get the best of me, I decided to make the most of the situation.

One of the couples sitting near to where I was playing applauded after a song I played and I asked them if there was anything they wanted to hear. They asked me to play something that I really enjoyed playing, which I did, and it opened up to use chatting briefly between songs.

In turn, this got the attention of some of the other patrons in the room and they began to change seats so that they too could engage with me.

It ended up being a fun night and in a way, an almost private and personal concert for those that were there. I didn’t do it to earn tips – I did it to create an awesome musical experience for the people that were there. But it did end up in me tripling what I made that night because of the tips I received.

I am really grateful to have had that experience and for the kindness the people there that night showed me. I am glad that I had the chance to meet them and get to know them.

What about you? Have you ever had any musical experiences that could have gone poorly but you managed to turn them around? I’d love to hear about your music experiences – both the good, the bad, and the ugly – in the comments!

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Published on: August 5, 2015

Filled Under: Music and Career Advice

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