March, 2013 Issue

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Aritst To Artist


Guest Columnist:
Auburn Moon Agency, 800-566-6653

We've all had it happen. You're about to go on, you look out at the audience, and it's empty. Poor advertising, remote venue, other events going on at the same time, or any combination of factors can be the reason. No matter what, you're under contract and have to perform. Why not make the best of it. Here are a few tips on how to make the event successful for the school and yourself.

Have FUN!
Try things you might not usually attempt because....who cares! There's only a few people at the show. You have been granted a license to have fun. Try to pick up the vibe of the show and be sincere. Off the cuff comments and honesty always help connect with a smaller group. It's closer to a conversation than a full audience, so make sure you're in the here and now. Use your go-to material, but don't just spit verbatim. Make eye contact and connect.

Address It.
Don't pretend it's a packed house. Just reassure the audience that they're going to get a great show despite the numbers. You can tell them outright, or better yet, address it in a fun way. I tell quiet audiences that they're out of control and need to calm it down. An obvious bit of sarcasm, but it brings to light what everyone is experiencing and now they can laugh about it instead of feeling awkward. Once people accept the reality of the situation and know you're not going to be a diva, they'll feel comfortable with the small turnout.

Do Mental Math.
If you're starting to feel like it's going to be a long day (in a bad way), do some quick mental math to keep you from giving up. If need be, remember how much your check will be for this show and divide that amount by the number of people in the audience.... that's the price per ticket.

$1,300 check / 20 person audience = $65 per person
$1,500 check / 10 person audience = $150 per person

If your show costs that school $150 per person, then give them a show worth $150 a ticket! It may seem cheesy, but in the end, you'll end up smiling about it.

You don't want to lose 30% of the audience in one comment. It's good to take some chances with this group, but you don't have the normal social pressure of a full audience to keep everyone in their seats. People have no problem leaving a show that looks like a flop. College students are young and probably haven't been to much live entertainment other than concerts, so they might not know how to act or feel. Make them feel safe. Only make fun of those you know can take it. If a comedian ripped on me when I was 18 years-old, it would have been the end of the world.

Encourage Helpful Social Media
It's okay to ask the audience to come closer to the stage. Tell the people walking by oh-so-slowly to join in on the fun. Tell them to text their friends and tweet about you. Don't be offended by people on their phones.

Hold Them Accountable.
Make sure they react! You know what parts of your act get the crowd going. Make sure they react accordingly. Often in small crowds, students are afraid to laugh out loud because "that's awkward" ....I know I was self-conscious of everything as a freshman. Point out that nobody cares if you laugh out loud.

Don't Pout, Help Out
If you can help with a teaser or an announcement, do it. Don't hide away in the green room. You're going to have to do the show, so help out. You have to be an adaptive and creative person to work in this market, so use your noggin. If it gets people into seats, it's worth it.

You put on shows for a living, the students don't. Don't be afraid to objectively point out what the students can do to make the show a success. A solution for a small crowd can be as simple as changing the venue. If the venue is too large, suggest moving to a smaller room. If the venue is too remote, maybe you can perform in the student union or wherever they serve late night food. Foot traffic is extremely helpful for getting people to attend a show last minute.

Make a point to hang out and joke around with the student activities board after the show. Don't be mad at them for not getting you a crowd. That's over now. Give them helpful tips for the future, but mostly make them feel better about the whole experience. Trust me, you'll end up feeling better yourself.

In the end, you want them to like you. Leave them telling their friends, "You totally missed out on the show tonight!" This will keep your reputation in tact and will help future artists that play that school. Get them to feel the same way you do: You're great at what you do and people missed out by not being there!