When you start a band, it can be so easy. Your friends all come to your shows. You have a built-in crowd. But that glamour wears off. Quickly.
When it does, it’s easy to get frustrated. We’ve all had those shows when you tell everyone about it — emails, texts, Facebook invites — and when no one shows, you start to wonder: have we played too much recently? Do our new songs suck? Was I a jerk at our last show?
When you put out the call, and no one shows, it’s easy to confuse who cares about your music with who cares about you. This is really important to figure out: your friends not showing up doesn’t mean they don’t care about you. You have to realize: your friends are not your fans.
We can get spoiled if we start off in a vibrant scene. Everyone is a friend in those places. Friends of friends let us think we’re doing well. Sooner or later, you’re going to get that kick in the face when your friends don’t come out. It comes with age or a change in projects or new songs. You’re going to start picking apart all that. What did I do to lose my built-in crowd?
Maybe you won’t pick it apart. I’m kinda neurotic about that stuff. However you analyze it, you can’t blame yourself for your friends’ absence. And you can’t hold it against them. I’m saying this as much for my sake as yours because I still need to be convinced: your friends are not your fans.
If you confuse the two, you’re going to sweat the wrong problems and you’re not going to work out the right solutions. Playing to friends too much makes you too comfortable. You might not learn real stage presence. You might not learn how to talk to an audience. You might get lazy with your rehearsal. You might not write new material because your friends always liked the old stuff.
You’ve got to treat every audience as a potential new audience. You’ve got to rehearse like crazy. You have to be sure you’re going to nail every performance. You have to keep growing. You have to convert people.
It’s OK not to be a people pleaser. Not everyone is Bon Fucking Jovi. But you’re still working on winning people over. Either with your music or your presence. That’s what you have to focus on: getting your ideas across in a way that convinces. Because — and this is the really important thing — you shouldn’t be trying to turn your friends into fans. There’s too much emotion there. Too many feelings to be hurt. The trick is, eventually, to turn your fans into friends.
I’m still trying to figure that one out.
Read more about the struggles of indie rock at SongCast’s blog.