One of the challenges of playing in coffeehouses or clubs is getting people’s attention. The truth is most people go out to socialize and see their friends. Music is part of the scene, but they don’t really care about the music. Cover bands generally have it easier, but people want to hear songs they are familiar with. Places like Homer’s Coffee House where people generally go to listen to original music are rare.
As musicians, our job is try to be creative enough to get people to stop talking and listen to the music. Not an easy assignment.
An easy solution, that I have sometimes been guilty of in my younger days, is just turning up the volume so that listening to the music is the only choice. This is a pretty juvenile approach, but it sometimes works. If it didn’t work we wouldn’t see so many bands doing it. A better choice is connecting with the audience and building rapport. This requires professionalism and experience, but is well worth the time and effort.
My dad told me, “If a restaurant has poor food, they give you a lot of it. If a musician can’t play very well, they play loud.” I think he may have been on to something.
The next time you feel like turning it up to 11, try a little creativity instead.