On How To Build An Audience


Part of why we go to shows is to see other people listen to music. Strange, but true. The anecdotes I use in class to explain this:

Imagine you could go and see your favourite band perform and you’re the only person there. You could stand where-ever you liked, you could be the sole beneficiary of the band’s attention and there would be no line for the bar or washroom. Close your eyes and imagine it for a second. Would it actually be fun? 


Have you ever seen one of your favourite bands sound-check? I have, it’s horrible. In 2006 I watched Sleater-Kinney soundcheck and it was an experience akin to watching kitchen hands in my favourite restaurant. It was the exact same thing: people standing on-stage, playing a song I loved. But outside of the performance – away from an audience – it was mechanical, dry, weird, melancholy almost. 


Because the audience is a huge part of what makes a live show unique and that’s a huge part of what we look for at shows. We want to step outside of what we’re used to, that’s why we’re there. Without the audience, all we see are people doing their jobs – jobs that can probably be almost as boring and as annoying as our own.

Smaller, local shows are different. Ten people are an audience at a local shows. Thirty people are a crowd. Fifty people are a raging success. A hundred means something’s happening. It doesn’t take a lot of people, not in the whole scheme of things. There are probably more people on a train in your city right now.

So from day one, if you want to build and audience, go where your audience wants to be.

And you know where they want to be.

It’s where you yourself go, when you look for music and community and escape.

And if you’re not looking for those things, if you can’t answer these questions, then you’re not a live musician and you shouldn’t be performing in front of other people.

You need to be personally invested.

You need to be personally invested.

You need to be personally invested.

If you’re not, you’re just doing the most poorly paid work available.

So, in short: the first step to building an audience is being part of one.


2 thoughts on “On How To Build An Audience

  1. I have recently moved cities and have the luck of having many friends here. However, my music tastes have specified a bit of late and my friends in my home town all appreciated that scene. In my new town my friends are not as interested, though fortunately my wife seems to like most the shows I drag her along too.

    However, I had the strange experience last Saturday of knowing a gig I wanted to go to but knowing my wife couldn’t come. I asked a couple people who might have been keen… But ultimately decided to go alone.

    It was weird. I am never doing that again.

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