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Thoughts of a Thirsty Troubadour Part 6: The Audience

The Audience.

What do they want? What kind of mood are they in? How old are they? What kind of venue am I playing in?

I had a gentleman ask me this question on Facebook:

What are you thinking when you are playing to a crowd that really isn’t listening to you?

Now THAT is a question! That is a question that will garner many different responses depending on which musician you ask. In my years of performing this has happened many, many times. Especially in the early days when I was still trying to find my place in the vast and diverse world of music. When I had an agent booking my gigs, I was booked in such a diverse array of rooms and most nights I had no idea what to expect from the different audiences. It was so important to be able to adapt to the vibe in the room. Sometimes though, there’s just no grabbing an audience’s attention.

Love this! So funny

The Sound of Silence

It’s a great Simon and Garfunkel song, but the sound of silence is NOT what a musician wants to hear when they finish performing a song. Although, I have to say I’ve known a few musicians who are so confident in themselves that they don’t give a shit if the audience doesn’t clap or acknowledge them in some way. In fact, they will heckle the audience and keep talking to them and encouraging them to clap and before you know it, they are engaged. This is a very admirable trait and skill, one which I do not possess. When this happens to me, I tend to crawl into my shell. It is a major “flaw” in my performance skillset. I lack the confidence to engage an audience if they are not “with me” for the evening. My mind says, “…Glenn if they are not paying attention to you singing, they’re sure as Hell not gonna pay attention to anything you have to say”. So I sing one song after another and try to seek out someone who might be tapping their foot or mouthing the words as I’m singing them and I focus on that person.

I never think of the aloof audience as rude, I don’t dislike them. I think of the times that I’ve met with friends in a bar and sometimes you just get caught up in catching up with each other. It’s as simple as that. As an entertainer in a bar situation you have to accept that some nights, you are not the center of everyone’s attention and just sing the songs for yourself.

Clapping is Contagious

It’s true. If you can just get one or two people to engage with you, or a table of people then that can turn an entire room around. To me, as an entertainer, clapping is a polite courtesy that lets me know, “hey buddy, we hear ya!”. Even a small amount of clapping can lead to the start of a conversation, or at least saying thank you between songs. But when there’s dead silence at the end of a song, for me, it is so awkward and unsettling. That’s just me. So I put my head down and crank out a bunch of songs like a jukebox on repeat. I put on my instamatic grin, and muscle through the night.

Singing to the backs of people's heads and that's ok!

After saying all this, I’m gonna tell you something. I’m kind of known for not taking many breaks, but on the nights when I’m not getting a lot of audience feedback or participation, I will often take a break (maybe even two!). I’m gonna say that probably 90% of the time during my break, someone will approach me and say something nice or make a request. Man, does that lift my spirit. It assures me that they are listening, the sound is good and the songs are good. So my advice? Always take a break on these nights and kinda make yourself available to people ie: don’t go sit in your car and cry (I’ve done that…. very unproductive!)

These Days

These days. Hmm. Well, this is gonna be a hard paragraph to write. Hard to write because I’m worried I will not be able to find the right words.

Over the years, obviously, if you stick with music you will evolve. You gain experience. You start to find your place. You find your sound. You find your SELF and you find your audience.

I am a person who will not just play anywhere. That’s something that’s changed. I’ve chosen to stop playing a lot of rooms over the years because for some reason or another, I just haven’t felt comfortable in them. I have slowly weeded out bars where the entertainment is an afterthought and I’m all in with bars who cherish their entertainers. I am very lucky that I have been able to do this.

When one plays a bar that cherishes their entertainers, a few things happen.

First, we are treated so nicely. All the staff know your name, they know what kind of music you play, they know what to expect from you and they know what to expect from your audience. I have played bars before where the staff had no idea who I was, what my name is, what kind of music I play…Major red flag for me!!

Second, the patrons of that bar are usually there for the music. They might not be MY fans…yet! But, they are generally receptive and appreciate Live performance. This helps build fans!

Thirdly, there is usually a beautiful spot in the bar where the performer is the focal point of the evening. They are not stuck in some corner far away from people. The closer you are to the audience, the easier it is to engage and make eye contact with them.

So this is where I get a bit gushy. Over the past ten years, I have been blessed, to say the least. The audiences that I play for these days are simply the best, most appreciative, most beautiful , heartwarming people. Somehow I feel like they appreciate me as much as I appreciate them…although I doubt that’s possible. I have made so many lifelong friends and fans in the past ten years that I sometimes have to pinch myself. I’m sure my wife could write her own blog on the conversations we have had in the middle of the night about how fortunate I am (we both are) to be in this “place”.

And this place is good, and I want to stay here for a long, long time.


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