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FDP Forum / Performer's Corner / Engaging the audience

Contributing Member

Vero Beach FL

Tbird Greg
Jun 29th, 2019 07:21 AM   Edit   Profile  

How can you start off with a fairly good crowd, number-wise) and end with an empty room? We know we sounded good and our material was appropriate for the audience (all being old folks). They said so as they were leaving!

I realized later that we did nothing to draw the crowd in. We stood there, played our songs and mumbled a thank you after. We hardly interacted with anyone and I think that's the problem. So, my question is, how do you draw the crowd in so they become involved and get a party atmosphere going? BTW, we're an acoustic band w/3 gtrs & bass, 3 vocals w/good harmony.

Rick Knight
Contributing Member

St Peters, MO USA

Busy doing something close to nothing
Jun 29th, 2019 07:45 AM   Edit   Profile  

Not to minimize the importance of engagement but unless you're playing to a young crowd, a lot of people aren't going to stay out for the 3rd and 4th sets at the typical (around here, anyway) 9:00 to 1:00 bar gig no matter how good you are.

(This message was last edited by Rick Knight at 09:49 AM, Jun 29th, 2019)

Contributing Member


The Escalator
Jun 29th, 2019 07:59 AM   Edit   Profile  

It might not have been so much you guys as the crowd. Their early bird was settled and they were ready to turn in.

Contributing Member


Jun 29th, 2019 03:57 PM   Edit   Profile  

So they ran out of beer? Seriously, if you've played a college gig, this is a definite thing.

Or at least it was back in the day.

Contributing Member


Jun 29th, 2019 05:57 PM   Edit   Profile  

yeah this is a common problem but not well understood by lay people.

its about the show

We have all heard the joke about the jazzer playing a million chords for 3 people and the pop star playing 3 chords for a thousand people.

What are you doing to put on a "show", apart from playing well ?

Just think of Chuck Berry duckwalking, Mick Jagger strutting, The Temptions dance routines , Jimi Hendrix playing the guitar behind his head.Angus Young running all over the place.

Didnt help the music but kept all the nonmusical people entetained.

In our old man blues band our singer frontman is getting much better with his "banter" between songs but in reality we dont put on much of a show.

(This message was last edited by windmill at 07:58 PM, Jun 29th, 2019)

Te 52

Laws of Physics

strictly enforced
Jun 29th, 2019 09:38 PM   Edit   Profile  

Hmm, maybe it's your instrumentation. Try adding bagpipes and a banjo.

Think Floyd
Contributing Member

Eastern PA

Jun 29th, 2019 10:25 PM   Edit   Profile  

"So, my question is, how do you draw the crowd in so they become involved and get a party atmosphere going?"

More cowbell?

Rick Knight
Contributing Member

St Peters, MO USA

Busy doing something close to nothing
Jun 30th, 2019 10:49 AM   Edit   Profile  

As previously stated, I think it is likely that the dwindling audience over the course of the performance isn’t because of anything you did or didn’t do. That said, verbal engagement is fine if you have the knack, but not if it sounds forced or contrived. However, there are a couple of potential pitfalls. One is that everyone has their own ideas about when engaging with the audience turns into screwing around between songs. What appeals to some people may annoy others. The other thing is familiarity. When a touring band tells a story or joke, most of the audience has no idea whether it was spontaneous or a regular part of the show. For local bands, especially those who have a following, it is obvious and can get old.

Also consider the visual aspect of performance. There is a theory that audiences hear what they see. I think there’s something to it and in our last band I wanted, but never managed, to do more with lighting than just a stage wash. Another theory says that band members should be distinguishable from the audience and that the front man or woman, if there is one, should be distinguishable from the rest of the band. I’ve played in jeans and a t-shirt many times, but it was interesting that at one show where I happened to be better dressed, a guy from another band told me that I was one of two people on stage who looked like we were in a band, and the others looked like roadies.



Earn while you learn
Jul 1st, 2019 05:39 AM   Edit   Profile  

You gotta "sell it"...

I have been playing with a band (named: Funky White Honkies) since '87. The band started in the early 80's.

This band is huge; 5 horns, 3 chick singers, 2 drummers, 2 percussionists, guitars, bass, keys, harmonica, etc.
We played an outdoor concert two weeks ago and hundreds of people showed up.

We are old (most of us are around 60 y/o). It's like a too-big jam session.

The frontman of the band sings and plays guitar (does a good job but not amazing) AND "sells" the band. He has such a nice way about him. Most of the the things he says to the band (calling tunes, etc.) he says right over the PA such as: "hey Louee, wanna sing a song?...wadda you wanna do?".

The audience feels like they are part of the show.

By the end of the first set the audience knows the names of everyone on stage.... The last tune of the outdoor concert (this past June 19th) the frontman invited the audience to come up on the stage and sing/dance along.
There must have been over 30 attendees crowded onto the stage, dancing, singing, and having a ball.....like a bunch of kids.

THAT'S the magic of this band...it's something special to be part of. The band has a huge following that started in the early 80's and has continued with children of the original groupies...

Us players on stage are always moving/vibing to the tunes. When musicians on stage move, the audience starts moving. Standing still (like a Lurch) while performing is a sure "buzz kill".

(This message was last edited by acplayer at 07:41 AM, Jul 1st, 2019)

Contributing Member

Vero Beach FL

Tbird Greg
Jul 1st, 2019 05:55 AM   Edit   Profile  

My band did just about everything wrong in our performance. Very little banter or talking with the audience, standing/sitting stock-still, no lighting whatsoever, band
leader in shorts and t-shirt, no band member introductions. Yeah, we showed up, that's about it. Gonna have a discussion about all of these aspects. Actually, I'm in another band with similar issues, so I'm gonna have that talk with them too, even though I'm not the bandleader in either group.

Contributing Member

Suburban MD.

You DESERVE an Ibanez Iceman!
Jul 1st, 2019 06:31 AM   Edit   Profile  

I've read it somewhere (probaby here!): "50% of the people are listening with their eyes."
It's not so much if you are playing well, but are you moving around, interacting with your bandmates, clapping during drum breaks (like the end of "Crazy Little Thing called Love"), shouting when the crowd needs to shout (Del Shannon's Runaway, everybody needs to shout "Why, why why why why!")???? Yes, it's all cliched, but it draws them in.
I've been a Springsteen fan since 1978, so I've been watching and picking up his tricks since then. As 'the bass player', I can't do them all, but I can move around and be entertaining in my own way.
Put it like this: I'd rather see a Bruce show than watch Rush play everything note-perfect and stand perfectly still in their 3 foot square 'personal spaces'. Some folks like Rush, and I get it, but a typical Friday night club crowd isn't going to appreciate "YYZ" played 100% correctly if they can instead shout "Ride, Sally, Ride!" after a few beers.

I watched a recent video of my classic metal band and the stage was good sized, but the 2nd guitarist had angled his pedalboard between me and him, so we couldn't interact. I'm making it a point to make sure that doesn't happen again.

Contributing Member

If irritation occurs

contact your physician
Jul 1st, 2019 07:56 AM   Edit   Profile  

Always dress for the stage, unless the image you want to present is 'garage band chic'. You can get away with wearing a goofy hat if you can really play.

Interaction between players onstage does create energy in the audience; if the players are obviously having fun, the audience will too.

Anytime you can customize the presentation to fit the audience, that helps immensely.

A really fun thing to do is ask the audience if there's anyone celebrating a birthday. If a hand goes up, announce that you won't embarrass them by doing Happy Birthday--but that you're dedicating the following tune to them. Ask their name...and then launch into a kickass rendition of Born to Be Wild. Be sure to stick their name in the song. For instance, if the birthday girl's name is Robin: "Yeah Robin, gonna make it happen...take the world in a love embrace..."

Juice Nichols
Contributing Member

Panama City, FL

I'm just a dude, playing a dude...
Jul 1st, 2019 08:25 AM   Edit   Profile  

Sometimes it depends on the venue. Some of the places I play (restaurants mainly), music is the main reason people come to the venue. At those places it's very easy to interact with the crowd because they're paying close attention to the music and interact freely when you engage them between songs. As stated previously, we interact with other band members over the mic so the audience can hear our banter. We constantly give each other crap between songs and the audience loves it. If someone puts a tip in the jar after a certain song, I'll thank the person for the tip and then call out the exact same song followed by another comment about possibly getting more tips the second time around. We don't play it obviously, but they seem to get a kick out of it. Another thing I like to do is take a request for a song we don't know, try to play a few bars of it and then comment, "you want it bad, you get it bad".

Some places you're nothing more than background noise. You can play the most amazing piece ever played, and when you finish hardly anyone even claps. These are the kind of gigs I absolutely hate. Why even hire music? You're nothing more than a glorified juke box anyway. These are also the kind of gigs that it is impossible to get any kind interaction with the crowd. They hardly even look at you so that makes it tough to get a dialog going between you and the crowd.

With regards to the OP. Some places just empty out at a certain hour. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the music. The crowd leaves at 7PM and that's just the way it is. I've tried to adjust gig times to counteract this and nothing changes. The gig is normally from 6-9PM. Tried starting an hour later, 7-10PM because the crowd is a little sparse the first set. The crowd still left at 9. Why? Because that's what time they clear out of this place I guess.

Contributing Member


Jul 1st, 2019 08:40 AM   Edit   Profile  

The venue has a lot to do with it, like Juice says ^. Everyone is there for a social reason; dinner out, hook up with old or new friends, a geographical drive by...but what percentage of that crowd is there for a "show"? I've played in dedicated music venues featuring loud music on a regular basis only to be waved down by the queen of the prom who decided to camp with her peeps over a pizza right in front of the mains. RUSM?

Older folks just ain't that wild. They chat, dine and dash. "Loved the band", stayed for half a set, thumbs up, etc.

My favorite venues were the "concert in the park" types. It's a more conducive audience than playing for the fried cheese-stik dinner crowd.

Contributing Member

San Clemente, CA

Happy Sunsets, tahitijack
Jul 1st, 2019 02:16 PM   Edit   Profile  

We all cover others music. Sooooo let's learn how they draw their audience in. Plenty of concerts on YT. Check out Jimmy Buffett for example. He makes a stadium full of folks feel like they are gathered in his living room. James Taylor has a comfortable easy going presence in his shows. No you can't tell a story about a hotel incident at the last show, but you can adapt the story to something relevant to your group. I always get a laugh when a group does a set up joke early in the show and returns to it again and again.



Say what one more time!
Jul 8th, 2019 12:44 PM   Edit   Profile  

I ask them questions like "how did we do on that song?" or just look at them with a smile. I actually practice smiling while playing. So many times I focus on learning the song and I don't smile then so I don't smile while performing. It does make a difference and when you have an audience it is easier to smile. Everyone that performs finds those nights where the audience is just more difficult to engage with. We've had sets where we feel like background noise but we have little dance routines and we really enjoy playing music together and it is just infectious and they eventually come around.

FDP Forum / Performer's Corner / Engaging the audience

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