About a year ago I went to a show by a talented new Americana band. There were maybe fifteen or twenty people in the theater, not really much of a crowd. Normally a small turnout should be just a routine thing that a band should handle, but this was a night where the band was recording a live album. I won’t name the band because I don’t want to blow the cover for anyone who listens to the live album.
The show was great. The band played tight and rowdy, and the music was so sweet. When the band did put out the live album, I was eager and curious. Eager to hear that great music again, and curious to see how the tiny audience sounded during the applause and cheers.
The music on the live album is rocking, capturing the great sounds I had enjoyed in person. Apparently the entire show made it on the album since there wasn’t a flub the whole night. As for the audience sound, a little engineering helped put in some artificial audience applause to make things sound a little more substantial at the end of each track. The album sounds great.
I admire musicians who don’t short-change a small audience and who play the same show whether it’s for ten, a hundred, or a thousand. Of course career and business matters are going to work out OK sometimes, and sometimes not. This band took care of the music and the audience, even though their plans to record the show might not have worked out.
This reminds me of U2’s great album “Under A Blood Red Sky” from the early 1980s. It’s one of the best live rock albums ever, but the actual concert was a mess with a huge rain storm and less than half the audience that was expected. It’s another example of how to play live: Take care of the music and the audience you have, and the other business stuff will usually work out OK.