Gig Tales: What if nobody shows?

From Pam Donkin in California …

I had a gig at a library in San Francisco last week in Bayview District where, according to the librarian, most of the parents are not home all day and most of the kids are in programs such as Head Start. The librarian always invites the preschools within walking distance.

However, it turned out to be a testing day so none of those came. 

At five minutes after the scheduled start time, one dad and child (about 5) came in. The librarian also sat down with us, and the dad very sweetly said, “I love it when this happens, we get our own private show.” 
As I started the show singing my hello song, another dad and child (about 4) arrived and joined in. 
The librarian was fabulous, taking part in all the movements as did the parents and kids with big smiles on their faces.  We all 
had a really fun time, singing, moving, laughing, making a parade on one song (which we might not have done otherwise) and getting lots of suggestions from each child.

Afterwards, Dad #2 asked which library I would be performing at next. The librarian said she loved the songs and would use them in her story time and also sent me a wonderful note thanking me and saying she would book me again in 2013! 

I’m sending this to all who do library gigs. Don’t be discouraged if you have a small audience. It can turn out swell!

From Patricia Shih in New York …

Speaking of small audiences…

The second-smallest audience I ever had was ONE middle-school boy (he looked about that age) dropped off by his care-giver at a concert of ours in Maspeth, NY.  I wasn’t going to sing my normal show for him – it just wouldn’t have worked, and we were all embarrassed and self-conscious.  So here’s a scenario where I needed to learn to be flexible.  I dispensed with the PA and stage, came down to where he was sitting and suggested we write a song together.  Which we did.  I wished I’d brought my recorder so I could have emailed the song to him as a keepsake.

The smallest audience I ever had was NONE.  I had driven up to near Albany from Long Island (3-4 hours) to a coffeehouse.  Start time; no one showed up.  The owner told me to start playing anyway, just in case someone walked in.  So I did, to a house empty except for the owner.  No one ever did walk in.  I thought it very strange, as this was a well-known coffeehouse, presumably with a built-in regular audience.  I asked the owner how had he publicized the show.  He said, “Well, Chinese folk songs, of course!”  Hmm.  Packed up and drove 3-4 hours home.  I believe I asked for $$ for travel.  Sigh.

From Carole Stephens in Chicago …

Okay, I’ll chime in.  I’ll be honest:  I usually hate mall gigs, and don’t often take them.  But this one was tied into a 5-hour, well-funded workshop, then the mall gig, then a 3-hour workshop the next morning.

Well, setting up, people were milling around.  About 20 minutes before the concert, a few parents with children were beginning to take seats in the 40 or so chairs that they’d set up in the rotunda.  There were also mats set up in front of the stage.

By the time we started, the crowd had grown to about 150 people, which continued to grow to 200-plus.  Parents were dancing with their children, and everyone sang along.  The Victoria’s Secret sales staff peeked out to watch (yes, that was the nearest store, thank you very much for the half-naked pictures in their windows!).  We sold a bunch of CDs.  The client was thrilled and booked us for next year on the spot.

Go figure!  It was a 6-hour drive each way to Southern Illinois, but it was really fun! At a MALL GIG!

Excerpted from discussion on The Children’s Music Network’s member e-list.


  1. I had a regular booking one time in a bookstore where once every couple of weeks I supplemented their Saturday morning reading program with songs. Usually there were five to ten kids with their adult, but one morning there were only two, which worried me since I was use to a bigger group. One of the songs I played had hand-movements, and one of the kids took a shine to. She said, “Do it again,” so I did. And then again, or was it twice more? Since the other child was also happy with it, we had a good time. When I returned a couple of weeks later the do-it-again child and her dad were there too, and he told me he sang it with her for several days afterwards–so would I please not do it again. Interestingly the child didn’t ask for it, so there was no problem complying with the father’s request.

  2. In rainy Portland, Ore., the lowest (indoor) audience turnouts are the first day of rain , and, you guessed it, the first gloriously sunny days!! Everyone knows it; no need for either side to apologize.

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