What’s the biggest crowd you’ve played to? 5? 50? 500? 5000? What’s the most important crowd you’ve played to? The answer…ALL of them!
I remember the 1st time I played this little Cigar bar in Troy, Ohio I think there were maybe a total of 4 people there one of which was an employee 2 other there by coincidence. However, there was one gentleman there who had seen my posters up in the bar prior and come just to hear me play. Afterwards he commented that he was surprised and impressed as he felt I really “played” and played as if I didn’t care how many people were there. He said he expected me to just “go thru the motions”. That same guy also bought a CD, signed up on my mailing list and came back every time I played there. This type of situation has happened to me numerous times. The reason for is I treat every crowd as if I’m playing to tens of thousands. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult I’ll admit. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of visualization. I just pretend in my head I’m playing a stadium show.
Why is even a crowd of one so valuable and important? One reason…you never know just WHO is in the audience. I’ve heard countless stories of a musician landing a big break because there just happened to be someone of industry importance in the audience and yes, I’ve actually heard of a few stories of musicians blowing a chance because they played like they didn’t care and didn’t realize just WHO was in the audience.
However, a bigger reason is each member of your audience is important and should performed to as so. Whether it’s 10 or 10,000 you should always try to win over as many as possible and sometimes playing to a smaller crowd is actually easier as you often have more of their attention but often takes more personal motivation on your own part. Sure it’s great to play to a huge crowd and often that can easily add inspiration to perform better of course, but, a true “performer” can and should be able to perform well in front of any crowd regardless of the size.
Another thing to keep in mind is numbers are relative. How would you feel playing to 20 people? Obviously not a good feeling if you’re doing an arena show but for a coffee shop that could mean a packed house. Does playing in front of a thousand people sound cool? What if it were a mall and 999 of them were just walking by and not even paying attention, then you might really only be playing to 1 person that is actually listening. However, you should still play your you know what off as that’s an opportunity to win over that one.
The real goal is about connecting with your audience and as many of them as you can regardless of the size. I guarantee every performer has played to all sized crowds most of which started off small. There used to be a shampoo commercial that said something to the effect of I told 2 friends about my shampoo, and they told 2 friends, and so on and so on and so on…you get the idea. So keep this in mind next time you play to a crowd of one.