Live Music Is Dying (And It's All Your Fault)

You just had to do it didn’t you? Click “maybe” on that event page and not show up. The nerve of you to have something come up. Something better to do? You honestly have a better night planned than to SUPPORT LIVE MUSIC? Well don’t worry, we don’t need fans like you anyways. There’s at least 45 other people that clicked “going” on this event page and they WILL show up OR ELSE!

Great. Now that I have your attention, this is an example of someone who probably gets 7 people, regardless of cover charge, to go to their shows. Can you figure out why? Go back and re-read, I’ll wait. Done? Good. This person has decided to turn against their fan(s) in an exceptional display of marketing because they didn’t show up to a show. You see, it is the fans responsibility to go and support live music venues and therefore support the musician or else the venue will close down and the musicians will have no place to play, right? Wrong. It’s not the fan’s responsibility to do anything. It is ENTIRELY your job, however, to be more entertaining than “The Witcher” on Netflix and a game of drunk Backgammon. You have failed to do that, unfortunately, and have instead decided to shame and fear monger in hopes that this will scare people into coming out and seeing you at your next show.

We’re all guilty of doing this. We take stacked event pages and empty venues as a personal attack, so we launch the ships on our social media. and share all manner of meme that alienate our audience and make them feel like crap because; You. Just. Aren’t. Fucking. Interesting. “This will show them” you think, yet the vicious cycle repeats itself as your next show has even less attendance than the last. Well the time has come to take responsibility, and that’s why you’re here.

People want to have fun, and will want to do the thing that is the most fun. People don’t want to go out to a musical event because it “supports something.” You support a charity, or a buddy going through a divorce, you don’t support live music; you ENJOY live music. The “Support X or you get Y” method of marketing doesn’t work for anybody. Small businesses have to compete with not having a drive-thru, and not having 99 cent deals on hamburgers. So they double down on what they DO have (there’s that magical concept again); ambience, better food, healthier options, kickass staff that go out of their way to make you feel at home, accommodating service, the list goes on. Your band/show has to be the reason people are filling the venue, or else why bother? If you don’t want to be the best that you can be then why do it at all?

If you’re having trouble getting people to come out, go back to the drawing board. Look at your setlist. Does your top 40 section end at the mid-90’s? If you’re an original act, have you written any new tunes lately? Connecting with your fans after the gig. Has anyone taken the time to write any of your followers or friends and let them know you appreciate them coming out to your gigs, sharing a tune or even just FOLLOWING you? Maybe you play too damn much in your hometown. If music isn’t your full-time job yet, you can afford to dial back the gigs and hit-up your local market once a month or every 2-3 weeks. If music IS your full time job then get travelling buddy! Try not to play your hometown twice in the same weekend. If you’ve got a big enough setlist then start making certain nights “themed” (only music by Canadian Artists, only Country, etc). Last, but certainly not least, maybe you need to practice more! Maybe you got a solid year of friends coming out to see you based entirely on the “Support X or I get Y” method, but now the truth needs to sink in and your lead guitarist needs to stop improvising in the same mode every night, your drummer doesn’t need to play that many fills, there’s more than root notes in bass playing, and there’s no shame in lowering the key in “Dream On.”

The problem is you! Whether you had a hit single in your local scene years ago, or used to be the “go-to” party band. If people aren’t coming out to your shows that is your problem and the blame rests on your shoulders (unless you have some hater that stands outside the clubs you play hitting patrons with a big-ass stick, Gandalf the Grey style) and it’s your responsibility to fix the problem. Times are always changing, so get creative in your efforts to pull people away from their screens and into your show. You have to earn a full-dance floor and a packed house, you don’t “deserve” anyone’s support.

© 2019 by Logan Brown.