What to Do After You Play a Bad Gig
What Should You Do When a Show Flops?
So, the gig was abysmal—welcome to the club. You would be hard-pressed to find a musician who hasn't had a disappointing show. No matter the reason for the less-than-stellar occasion, you can bounce back from it. If you are committed to music for the long haul, buckle up for many ups and downs. It's not the downs that matter; it's how you learn from them and deal with them. Sob, drink, throw things, eat ice cream, watch trashy TV if you must, and then put the disappointment aside so you can get on to the real task at hand: Doing what you can to have a better show next time.
Identify the Problem
Determine why the show was a drag; it may have been bad sound, you may have played looser than you had hoped, the turnout may have been less than expected, people may have wandered out or talked through the set, or it may be a combination of factors. If there is one glaring issue, identifying this should be easy. If several different things came together to create a perfect storm, jot them down and prioritize them according to the impact they had on your night.
Think Problem Solving
Not that you know the problem, it's time to find the solution. For instance, consider the following:
- Bad Sound: If there was a disconnect with the sound person, ask them if they understood what you wanted, or if there is something you can do to be a little more precise. If you need new equipment, start saving your pennies.
- Loose Playing: If this was the case, you need to do a lot of practicing and invest more time into preparing for shows. If you're not confident you can pull off a song, save it until the next show when you're a bit more comfortable with it, and solicit some opinions from your most honest friends before you take the stage.
- Bad Turnout: If the turnout was bad, evaluate the effectiveness of your promotions. If the promotion ball was dropped anywhere along the way, take this as a cue to get a little more organized and proactive next time. If you jumped to a bigger venue that you weren't ready for, take a step back and put a bit more time into building the fan foundation that will let you return to this venue in glory in the future.
Whatever the problem with your gig, ask yourself what you could do differently next time to avoid it.
This isn't always appropriate, but when you've had a so-so show, some outside opinions can help you understand the issues. Quiz your friends who were in the audience about the sound, song choice, and crowed vibes. If you can, talk to the promoter and venue as well and see what they thought about the show. This kind of feedback can sometimes sting initially, but it is gold. When you have a good night on stage, the promoter and venue also have a good night, so you're all on the same team. They may also have a little more experience than you, so soak up any knowledge you can.
Accept What You Cannot Change
Many of the things that can cause shows to flop are completely outside of your control. You had no idea that the Star Trek convention was going to be in town that weekend or that an electrical storm was going to knock out all of the traffic lights or that the paper was going to bump the preview despite their repeated reassurances that it would be there. Sometimes the acoustics in the venue are just terrible, the promoter doesn't do their job, or the stars just don't align.
It is important to learn a lesson from every bump in the road in your music career. A frustrating lesson to learn is that sometimes everyone does everything right, and it still doesn't work. If you couldn't have changed a thing about the show, then rest assured you have a good plan in place for your next gig and keep on moving.
Do Not Lash Out
Here's a what not to do freebie: Don't lash out at the people involved in the show, even if they were the cause of the whole debacle. Don't take to your website to call out the sound engineer for a poor job; don't start bad mouthing the promoter to anyone who will listen, even if they did a lousy job of promoting the show; and don't harass the record stores that didn't put up your posters or the venue manager who left your name out of their ad. These things can all be annoying, but you only have two good choices for dealing with them.
One is to privately, respectfully, and professionally let someone know you felt let down by the way they held up their end of the deal. Maybe they really did drop the ball, or maybe they will tell you about something that happened behind the scenes that you didn't know about. Either way, maintain your professionalism at all costs.
Your second option—and really the best one if you think someone didn't do their job—is to simply never work with those people again. It's as easy as that. As for their work with other people, stay out of it. "Revenge" might feel good for a short time, but in the end, it's just not worth it. Move on to better things.