6 Reasons Why Nobody’s Attending Your Shows

Over the course of almost three decades, I have seen the telltale reasons that shows have really great or really poor turnout and attendance.

These reasons have become textbook at this point and as business models in this industry favor artists less and less, more and more inexperienced people are entering this industry and the artists of today have serious misconceptions about how everything works.

Keep in mind while reading these 6 reasons that your reputation precedes you and that the worst enemy you have in this industry is the asshole that stares back at you from the mirror.


1. You don’t promote.

The show is booked, so now I’m gonna tell a few people and word will get around and it’s going to be an awesome night!

No asshole, this isn’t how it works. Waiting for someone else to your job will get it done as quick as if you were waiting for someone else to do your job. You are the number one marketing driver for your live event. If you aren’t actively doing this, or have a professional hired hand to do this for you, you will have an audience that consists of the bartender, the security guard and the sound guy.

I come from an era where hand drawn flyers were run off of ditto machines and phones were tethered to the wall with a cord. This was prior to cell phones, prior to beepers, and long before the internet; yet, show attendance was always seemed to meet or exceed expectations.

The internet should be making your promotions easier, but it may actually be leading to a new kind of laziness where people are so detached from human engagement that they will live vicariously through their friends’ Facebook timelines instead of going out and actually being around other people. If this is the case, then you had better damn well be doing something interesting enough to convince myself and others to spend my Friday night with you.

With all of the tools, platforms and apps available to you online, along with all the live events that you should be attending in the summer months, there is really no reason that you shouldn’t be able to create awareness for your event.

Get off your ass dude, and take your career into your own hands before you wake up on your 50th birthday and wonder why you are still living in your mom’s basement.


2. You have a history of backing out of shows.

You have been booked on several gigs that had printed advertising in local publications and could have gotten your band some decent press, but before the night of the show something always seems to come up that prevents you from playing. Whichever one of your many bullshit excuses that you use for backing out is irrelevant because oftentimes you don’t even have the courtesy of letting the promoter know that you are canceling. Your local promoters and what’s left of your fanbase has realized that your time has come and passed and that it’s easier and more rewarding to get emotionally involved with a re-run of Steel Magnolias and some bon-bon’s than it is to remain an emotionally involved fan of your bands dead end career.

Your habit of backing out of shows has become just about as commonplace as the news of all the other bands in your network getting better gigs than you.


3. You have no fucking fans, dude.

You’re so big-headed and convinced that you are destined to become famous that your personal feeling of self-worth has made you unapproachable to the point that even Bambi couldn’t walk up to you and get an autograph.

You have convinced yourself that because you paid for 20,000 YouTube views, Twitter followers and Facebook Likes that people will see that other people are paying attention to you and therefore must become one of your minions.

You have committed a large amount of money towards your image and your deceptive digital metrics and feel that since you have been “investing” into your career that the music industry owes you something. Yet you have not made a genuine attempt to make friends or bond with anyone that you meet at live music events including the other bands or die hard members of the scene. You can’t grasp the concept of networking and remain against the wall of a club as if you are from the outside looking in.

You have an air of arrogance about you that turns people off and your screen name should be “douchebag.”

Until you can acquire some people skills nobody is going to give a fuck when you are performing.

Keep this in mind because if you don’t have a following, no amount of large scale planning can help you pack a venue.


4. You sound absolutely horrible live.

That reverb on your guitar sounds great in that tight room with 8 foot ceilings and carpets hanging on the walls in your Mom’s basement; but when you are playing in a wide open space the over saturation of this effect is really, really making my ears ring like I have tinnitus. You need to adjust your effects parameters to be appropriate for the room you are in otherwise you will sound like shit.

As a band you also need to get in the practice of creating your own live mix. Now this has nothing to do with a soundboard. What I am talking about is the ability and the skill for you to adjust all of your volumes appropriately so you can hear every instrument clearly. If you can step onto a stage like this and sound good, you will be giving the sound guy a much easier job and he will make you sound better. Sound like shit and it doesn’t matter, because you will alienate people.

If you are rapping and are spitting over your pre-recorded CD complete with vocals, chances are that you are clipping the signal with your vocals or just performing karaoke.

If the CD that you are using is a finished product then the vocals are already at an optimum level and if you are singing over it  there is no headroom left for your live vocals. This  means that your microphone will need to be turned way down or it will clip and/or overpower the mix and that sounds like shit. Keep this in mind because no sound guy is going to push the meters into the red and risk damaging the house equipment.


5. You don’t allow yourself adequate time for preparation and planning. (ie, no lead time)

Your last minute, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants planning has allowed zero time to get the word out about this event. You have convinced yourself that paying out the big dollars for radio advertising will make this event go over big in the 11th hour.

Your complete lack of understanding on advertising conversion rates means that the few thousand dollars that you have spent on big media advertising will dry up before you are able to make a memorable impact through repetition on this platform.

Had you allocated this capital into more organic and direct forms of targeted advertising and marketing, you would have stretched your budget further and reached your target consumer more easily and much more effectively.

Due to last minute planning (or complete lack thereof) you have missed all of the print deadlines for advertising in local zines which is usually 2 or 3 weeks prior to the date of publication. It takes time to arrange the layout for these magazines and newspapers along with the actual printing itself. After being manufactured, they still need to be distributed ahead of time so they can get to their destinations by the publication date.

You have completely failed to realize that each weekend prior to your event is a marketing opportunity. You are out, your friends are out, and every social gathering that you attend from barbeques to live music events are all opportunities to create awareness for your event.

Perhaps one day you may realize why people have been telling you all of your life to plan in advance if you want to be successful.


6. You are in this strictly for financial gain and it shows in your event organizing.

You have devised the framework for a huge event and have covered every possible way to create revenue from it. You have created multi-tier passes that range in price for your audience with different perks at each pricing point and are charging the artists to perform or requiring them to sell tickets in advance. You have gone as far as to charge artists an additional stipend for radio mentions and are allowing them to purchase better time slots on the show bill. You have even imposed and extra charge on the artists for name and logo placement on the event flyer.

You have successfully stretched every dollar until ol’ George’s wooden dentures have fallen out of his mouth, squeezed every quarter until the eagle screams and pinched every nickel until the buffalo shits in your eye, yet due to your lack of ties to the local music community you have completely failed to address to core things that will make this event run successfully. Local supporting promoters and talent can clearly identify that your entire event strategy is rushed, haphazard, and that it serves no other purpose than your personal financial gain; and won’t touch it with a ten foot pole because it does nothing for the music community as a whole other to drain its lifeblood into another corporate business model.

Image by ‘penguino k,’ licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

41 Responses

    • Mike Repel

      I have been in bands, and I have been working with artists and even some businesses for quite some time by this stage in my life. I see less than 5% percent of people succeed (I mean really excel) at what they do.

      Either they don’t have it in themselves.
      Or they are restricted by the people they surround themselves with,
      or any other variable that they let slip out of their own control.

      I am tired of seeing people fail.

      At some point someone had to step in and stop pampering society as a whole and approach this with an R.Lee. Ermey Drill Sergeant approach.

      This information, along with the information that I placed in my book provides information that comes with a hard dose of reality. I don’t beat around the bush, and I-do-not-sugar-coat-shit.

      This industry breeds disillusioned artists and that is an undeniable fact.
      No one wants to do the work.
      No one wants to be told to do work.
      People pick up a guitar or a microphone and think (or are convinced) that it will pull them into some Grammy-winning, platinum-record-selling vortex and that just doesn’t happen and the stats prove it.

      The fact of the matter is that these 6 items listed above will damage an artist a whole lot more than my tone will, and someone had to take the initiative to tell even the most stubborn of rock star mentality artists that they are undermining their own career by their attitude and their approach.

      I don’t know how long you have been in the industry, but I have met some real tools. These people are so stubborn and convinced they have it figured out; that I needed to emerge and yank their heads out of their asses.

      My tone is set to break down the lies and the fantasies in a wholehearted effort to build you back up.

      Like me or not, what is stated above is for your benefit and everyone else’s.

      Welcome to Boot Camp.

      Thank you for reading.

      • Bruce Burbank

        ‘I don’t beat around the bush, and I-do-not-sugar-coat-shit.’

        No. Wrong. Your rude and vulgar tone is completely unwarranted and unwelcome.

        It’s the equivalent of a college instructor showing up on the first day of the new semester and calling all his students assholes because they don’t know the material yet. Would they deserve that? Of course not.

        I don’t care how long you’ve been in the industry or how many bands you’ve been in or how many stadiums you’ve headlined or how many bands you’ve taken under your wing that have become headliners themselves. The fact is, when you’re writing on this blog or any other, you’re now a writer, first and foremost. Not a musician; a writer. You may or may not have some valuable information to communicate, but when you start of by being condescending and abusive toward your audience, especially when it’s your first exposure to a new audience, you throw any credibility you might have had right out the window.

        There are ways to not beat around the bush and not sugar coat shit without being offensive.

        • Anonymous

          i agree with the many who found this rude and and insulting to any one who considers themselves a real musician. just as the interest makes it more impossible to sell music, it somethings has the same effect when promotion you shows. theres so much noise out there that people often don’t give thing a chance unless its shown;ed down their throughout by the people you can Pay have that done. Also in a city like new york when there are so many acts fighting for the attention of the masses, club owners literally robbing them of every fan that they strive to get out of their show. I don’t call that being in that for the money. I call that being taken advantage of.
          lets not forget FROMO thank the internets for that.
          i’m learned that Facebook events don’t work as well because people just ifnorethem because they are constantly bombarded every day with incites.

      • Versus

        The message can be communicated without the rude attitude and insults. Perhaps some respond to the boot camp approach, but I certainly reject it outright and seek a respectful mentor. After all, a mentor should be a person with qualities towards which one aspires.

  1. rikki

    #4 should be #1 agreed I want to hear a good sounding video of your band…….you should be recording all your stuff even practice sessions in your moms basement……

    Bands should have a very good idea of mic and amp placements before you play.. that’s why recording everything comes in very handy…when you go back and critique your performance and this can be almost eliminated with some practice…..

    • Jim F.

      No, number 1 should be number 1. Bringing them through the door is the most important step. If they spin on their heels and restart the car before it’s even cooled, keep working the list. You could be a guitar god at work but if no one knows where you are, you will be alone.

  2. analsex

    If you suck a candied walnut out of a promoters ass,does that mean you get in free?

  3. Wade Sutton


    I love the article AND I love the tone. I’ve written similar articles on stuff like this and have received hate mail from readers pissed off because I was so blunt. Always enjoy reading somebody else being so candid. Keep it up, brother.

    Wade Sutton

    • Mike Repel

      Thanks Wade,
      If they can get make it past listening to me, then they may just be able to make it past the first few steps in the music industry.


      • kufunya

        I love your Article ~ It is Real !!!!! and to the Point ~ I am a Woman within this Business and Have directed a Live & Club Event Concerts in the Areas of Media Buys, Marketing , Radio & Street Promotions, I have also Manged Bands on and off the Road and I have Experienced Joy and Painful times which I call learning/ growing and expanding Tools of Personal Transformation ~ as a indie Contractor I have worked with Major and Indie RCs and From my end it takes Focus , Time , Work and Solid Great interpersonal Relationships links for bands to get to the next Level ~ And You MUST BE GROUNDED !! and Know who you are , What you Are and where you want to Be ~ On both sides Folks must know their intentions of who what and when and even the chasing the tail of Why LOL~ My Company is Called BiG Sis Entertainment I mention because I wanted new Talent to know what it takes to Be on stage , have great music and to invest in your self with the assistance of a person you know and trust ~ Once I get a Feel then I may or may not take on the project~

  4. DC


    Keep up the good fight.

    Never sugar coat the truth.

  5. Free

    The tone and the typos in the article were both a turnoff. I don’t need someone I’ve never heard of calling me an asshole. To keep it real, the six things you mentioned don’t apply to many bands, because they do promote, they don’t cancel shows, are nice guys, and book gigs months in advance.

    People don’t support live music like they used to, especially original music. People flock to tribute bands and S.T.A.R.S. Cover bands who charge $3k a night and get to play in beach bar rooms that are already filled with people. Also, bad cover bands who under charge kill the scene for legitimate musicians who expect to be paid well, and deserve to be paid well. Bars don’t promote, either. They used to spend money to advertise in newspapers and such. I can’t tell you how many bars don’t even mention their bands on their facebook pages (which is FREE!) or even have a monthly calendar so people can see who’s playing. They leave 100% of the promotion to the bands, and then complain when their club isn’t full. Share the work!

  6. mikester

    ‘No asshole, this isn’t how it works’ ?

    ‘You have no fucking fans, dude.’?

    Ahhh, sage words of wisdom indeed. Not back into whatever hole you materialized from please.

  7. JD

    It also helps if you are well rehersed and your band plays songs that the singer and band has a whole can actually play well…not songs that are hacked up musically and out of key vocals…Nobody wants to hear that racket! P.S. If you cant play the lead either note for note or even improvise somewhat to make it fit then play songs where there is no lead or leave it out….

  8. Gus Hudson

    this was writen to promote some book to buy…nothing new here, the rules as old as any club scene..

  9. Will Moffett

    Because you suck like Gayber 1 direction Man whore Cyrus

  10. Kevin Coral

    Please stop posting these sorts of articles. Thank you.

  11. Ernst von Bier

    this article won’t leave one smarter after reading… thanks for that.

  12. Paul Ashby

    My Top 10 Lists With 6 Reasons Each Why Lists Are Decidedly More Clickbaity Than Substantive Articles

    • Versus

      It worked! I replied! I clicked! I laughed! I cried! Now where’s the list?

    • thedenmaster

      3 Things in Reality Headlines Lead to 2 Sentences of Common Sense for 1 Reader who must BUY NOW!

  13. Ian Murray

    Who the hell proofread this article?! Sheesh!

  14. Örn Leifsson

    People forgive a lot of things if the Music is Great – If it isn’t, then that’s the main reason people don’t go to your shows.

  15. Versus

    There may have been some good advice further into this article, but I couldn’t get beyond the bro-speak.

  16. Jesse

    You expect to be taken seriously with a tone like that?

    Maybe you should look up a “Top 6 Ways To Present An Argument Without Looking Like A Complete Prick” list and then try your hand at writing an article like this.

    #1 with a bullet is don’t berate your intended audience. Guess nobody clued you in.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      If you want to be coddled, there’s always Billboard.

  17. GGG

    Regardless of what I think of this article, if you seriously get offended by some curse words you should probably leave the music industry now. Or grow some thicker skin ASAP.

    Also, being nice to delusional and/naive people usually doesn’t get the message across.

  18. Mike Repel

    If the shoe fits…then strut up and down the catwalk in that bad motherfucker.

  19. Timothy Preciado

    Does this article hit home with some of you? Don’t be offended, because everyone has their opinion and perception of the music industry. If you are reading any piece of material whether it be fiction or non; at the end it’s up to you too interpret the meaning. Keep reading. Keep playing. Keep learning. There is information to be taken from everything.

  20. CrowfeatheR

    Ok kids, back in the way back machine before the internet and such even the lamest piece of crud band could near sell out a club, mostly because that is what people did for entertainment, they went out to the club, got drunk, got in a fight, drove home, crashed in a ditch and woke up with the car running wondering what happened the night before. That ended in the 90’s. Now days peoples ideas of enterainment are liking the new picture of grumpy cat and kim kardsians latest tweets, they are plugged into the matrix, detached from each other and reality. That being your reality, is that, no one is coming to your show who isn’t a close personal friend or is on vacation and is using the restroom in the bar because they are lost. People do not have fans much any longer, they have a few friends. You tell me how many people in your band, I can tell you your average draw. For example, for each member I allot 3 attendees. The formula is your drinking buddy, your girlfriend and a relative, however the keyboardist is only alloted 2 because we all know he doesn’t have a girlfriend. So your average 5 piece band should draw an average of 14 people, unless the keyboardist hired an escort for a gfe, then its 15. The article above being sound advice isn’t really reality. For most of you, your promotions will fall on deaf ears and it doesn’t matter if you suck or if you sound incredible, your friends are there as friends not as fans. This being reality makes it very obvious the pay to play venues are totally upside down in their business model. A venue can “draw” if it has a stellar reputation as the place to be, the rare bird who actually goes to clubs will pick their joint knowing it provides quality. These pay to play venues are trying to make it 15 customers at a time. Stupid.

  21. rick l

    As a photographer I’m a self employed marketer. I shoot bands and even though the tone of the article was harsh, most of what he said is correct. I see so many bands/musicians spend key time developing their relationships with other musicians rather than with their fans. All their FB post and tweets are about who they’re hanging out with, instead of talking about the venue and reasons to come to the show.
    It’s great to be a fantastic musician, but if you’re a fantastic musician you are probably not a fantastic marketer. There is nothing wrong with getting some advice from someone who can help and yeah you’ll probably have to pay for it.

  22. wallow-T

    Why the audience is staying home – it may not just be you, the musician. The audience has a lot of competition for the time which used to go to live music.

    The workweek has gone way beyond 40 hours for those fortunate enough to have jobs. Many are working two jobs.

    Facebook and the rest of the internet: my girlfriend can blow three hours on Facebook, *poof*.

    Hundreds of cable TV channels. Hey, there’s a “Big Bang Theory” marathon on tonight! And, EVERY major league sports game is now on TV, and all of the major college games too.

    Us baby boomers have gotten too old to go to shows that don’t end by 11 pm — heck, often haven’t gotten warmed up by 11 pm. Similarly, many of the younger audience don’t drive, and public transit service is poor after 8 pm and nonexistent after 11 pm, in most places.

  23. Rokaround

    The article is mainly correct unfortunately Most bands now are in it for the money and the audience can tell now~~~~~Many do songs and say that is good enough for the bars !! WTF? That is My main Pet peve if you say that In My band I am kicking your ass out the door~~~~~~If you cant sing you should not hold a Microphone period~~~ Sorry but 85% of the singers i see cannot F6544^&^%ing Sing for shit ~~~~ Most bands stand where they are like Statues at a Museum of Natural Art~~~~ Stuffed mummies with an Instrument~~~ Perform will you?~~~Most Players do not even practice anymore and i can tell~~~~~ So can the audience Morons!~~~~~~and You need to Mingle that is for sure !~!! I have My Fans and new fans telling me this all the time~~~ come and talk to us!!!~~~~ they want to know they are appreciated~~~~~I dont blame them~~~~ I practice and Play to make peoplke Smile I work very hard at it ~~~~ It is just starting to pay off somewhat after playing with My new band on the circuit for 7months~~~ but we are getting known~~~ for all of the above reasons~~ Mostly we can Play all types of music ~~ this has helped ~~~ I am very critical of Our sound~~ work hard and you may get somewhere do not and you are self centered and it will show ~~~ Peace to all

    • Mike Repel

      Your results are inspiring. Let nothing stop you and let know one tell you what you can or cannot do.
      The biggest problem I see with the information that I present is that those who have road experience know that its not a cakewalk. These are the people that agree with my point of view.

      For everyone else;

      Tough industry
      Tough economy
      Tough competition
      So if you don’t like the tough talk, TOUGH SHIT.

      And for the guy who said that a mentor should be someone you can respect and has qualities that one should aspire to, I say this…

      I should hope that you become someone who can cut to the chase and call someone on their bullshit when you see it.

      This is an aggressive game and I hope you can walk a sure-footed path in any haphazard scenario that you are thrown into, because you will either experience them once or twice in your career, or if you are in a genre such as rap, you may need to navigate shit like this everyday.

      I hope that if and when you do get into a conflict with some industry scumbag that you are able to let your nuts hang as low as your current opinion of me does.

      For the reader that said there are a lot of good working bands out there who plan in advance, you are right.

      This was only written to amuse them because they have seen it before.

      The core of this list is for the artists who need to hear it, because they won’t listen to their peers and their mentors and think they can skate by and get famous by not doing shit. These artists are the ones that want it so bad that every fiber of their soul cries out for it, and they need to hear this before they get derailed from their dream, taken advantage of and quit.

      No great man ever accomplished what he set out to do by being a pussy.

      • Matt Kush

        Great Article! Please stop complaining about the tone you cry babies! “This industry breeds disillusioned artists and that is an undeniable fact”.

        disillusioned artists = Target audience

        If this mans tone offends you – stick to your day job!

  24. Darren Melnick

    If this guy is such a successful insider, what famous bands has he been in? I have a hard time reading how to achieve success from someone who is a failure.

  25. Deuce

    The tone doesn’t bother me but I can tell you that the “fans” ain’t what they used to be. Sure you can get a few to tag along but people aren’t as interested in the music like they used to be. I don’t know why but I think it’s just a side effect of too much exposure to so much music for free, anytime and anyplace. I’ve been gigging for 40 years and I see it firsthand. I used to advertise in newspapers and get lots of people to show up. Now I advertise via social media and get a fraction of the people I did back then. People have so many choices now until they don’t know what they want.