This is the flip side of #8, which is about the importance of the audience and taking advantage of the support it gives. But what happens if, for whatever reason, the audience gives you nothing?
What if you do everything you can to put on a show, and instead of cheers and fists in the air, you get a sea of blank faces staring back at you? And you know you haven’t done anything remotely horrible?
Anyone who’s performed for a while has experienced this. Sometimes you don’t get the response you expected. Here you are, pouring your heart out, expecting (or hoping) the audience to respond in kind… and nothing. What then?
Fuck the audience.
I don’t mean this in a hostile way, like you should get angry about it: “Fuck you people! You’ve ruined my night!”
What I mean is: don’t let the audience response determine how your performance goes. Try not to depend on the audience to make you happy, make you sing better, or motivate you. You must be able to do that yourself.
Your relationship with the audience is like any other relationship: you want to maintain your own independence for the health of the union. You don’t want to be weak and needy, your performance completely at the mercy of the audience response.
It’s not very fun for the audience, either, to watch an emotionally needy performer. “Come on, everybody, LOVE me! Make more noise for me! Pleeeease???”
There are many reasons why an audience may not respond the way we’d like them to. It’s one of the great mysteries of performing. Here are some possible answers:
Maybe it’s too early in the night and they’re not warmed up/drunk enough. Maybe they’re too hot. Maybe they’re too cold. Maybe your choice of song doesn’t do it for them. Maybe a lot of them are here for the first time and aren’t really sure what’s going on. Maybe they enjoy you immensely, but they’re really shy.
Maybe they’re out of work and worrying about money. Maybe they just had a fight with their husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/mother-in-law. Maybe they got bad drugs. Maybe they have diarrhea. Maybe they’re so in love with you that they’re incapable of expressing emotion.
Who knows? The truth is, it’s not your concern because it has nothing to do with you. So forget about it.
If the audience isn’t giving you what you want, create a substitute.
Be your own audience. Sing to yourself, and be your own number one fan as you’re performing. Joke silently about the situation with yourself. “Look, here I am onstage singing for 300 dead people who won’t lie down. Ha ha ha.”
Sing to your mom. Or sing to an imaginary, more ideal audience that you project over the heads of the real audience.
It’s wonderful to be able to count on the audience for support. But it’s no good to be totally dependent on it.