Playing in bars have been a real learning curve for me. Something about that environment when people are just little bit (or sometimes more) intoxicated. Even though they might come in to enjoy music, it rarely is the sole purpose of coming out. There is drink to be had, chicken wings to be enjoyed and catching up with the friends. There are times when you, as a musician are just “noise” in the background.
This at times can be hard to accept. Especially when I was younger it filled me with resentment. I used to get annoyed if people weren’t listening. There was me, poor J.P. pouring my heart and soul into the music, looking to be validated, hoping to be raised on a pedestal where people could “discover” my greatness. I didn’t understand that even though I was looking at hundreds of people pass through the bar every day, and I thought I was playing to them, it was all about me…
If people would not listen, I would get resentful. My head would fill with every excuse how they did not understand music and how it was all their fault, not mine… The truth is, they were on a night out with friends in a bar. No one charged them for a ticket, allocated a seat, dimmed the lights and put the spotlight on me. Well… sometimes they did dim the lights and put the spotlight on me, and that did help… But you get the point, I was playing in a bar, not performing in a concert.
That resentment can rot you to the core real fast. Think about it for a second, you resent the very people that enables you to play music. If they don’t buy drink, then the bar cannot pay you. This is a fact and every musician playing in a bar need to accept this. If you don’t like it, maybe you should not play in a bar in the first place.
But with time, the anger and resentment started to subside. I started to focus more on the people who were actually listening and enjoying the music. I started to be grateful for every person who came in, sat down with their drink and listened me sing. In fact I realised how great it was that they chose to take the time off from their busy schedule and instead of getting wasted, they would listen.
You see it is the age-old truth, you can never please everybody. But if you concentrate on the ones who do appreciate your music, then you are on a path to something great. Taste is subjective thing, and you need to accept that not every one is going to like what you do. Or they might not even be into music in the first place. I’ll give you an example. I don’t like soccer… I have nothing against it, but it is just not for me. There are people who don’t understand that I don’t like it. “Surely you at least watch the international games?” No! Not for me. I’m the one guy in the bar with his back against the TV 😀
Just like my dislike of soccer, I see from time to time people turn their back against the band, they just simply don’t care if the music is live or from a jukebox. Me resenting them is not going to change anything, except make me more angry. So I have learned to be grateful for every person who does listen. In fact I do my best to make them feel like they are in a concert, even if it’s just me singing a song at the corner of a pub. I what them to feel special, I want them to feel my gratitude.
Nothing annoys me more than seeing musicians paying in a bar and because they are fed up with half of the audience not listening, they don’t bother to give the other half, who very much enjoy the music a proper show. Don’t let your resentment overshadow your gratitude for the people who listen to you, who are willing to check you out online afterwards and purchase an album. They are the true patrons of your music, and they deserve your gratitude. They deserve you to acknowledge that they are there and that you appreciate them being there. The best way to do this is to make an eye contact and play the best damn show you can for them. And do this every time you play.
The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE