Try Not To Cringe At These Awkward Empty Concerts Hosted By Music’s Biggest Names

Sara | August 19, 2019 8:57 am

Performing shows are a significant source of an artists revenue stream, so they have to go to venues all over the world to earn their money. Sometimes, international performances don’t go as planned for various reasons. Promotion issues, a lack of general interest, and many other things can contribute to a show being lackluster. Even the world’s most well-known musicians such as Kanye West and Lady Gaga have experienced going on stage just to see a half-empty stadium. Here are the most unexpected concert turnouts of all-time.

Lady Gaga Tells A Fib

 Dance artist Lady Gaga performs
Larry Marano/Getty Images
Larry Marano/Getty Images

Lady Gaga is a phenomenal performer. There aren’t many that can compete with her various stunts and dancing routines while on stage. Which is why she often sells out entire venues in a matter of minutes.

In 2012, that didn’t happen when she had to do a show in Peru. The “Poker Face” singer claimed she was going to perform in front of 50,000 via a tweet, but the reality was the number was way lower. The capacity of the San Marcos Stadium was 50k but only 20,000 showed up. The promoter even tried to lower prices of the tickets to get more seats filled but that plan failed.

Nelly Tries To Support Troops In Iraq

Nelly during Z100's Jingle Ball 2002
KMazur/WireImage
KMazur/WireImage

In 2015, Nelly traveled all the way to Iraq as an attempt to support the troops fighting ISIS. There’s no word on whether or not the concert was private or public, but virtually no one attended. Still, Nelly was a class act about it.

“I’m honored that this country has basically paid attention to Nelly. Everybody has been so gracious, and the hospitality has been first class. How could you not want to come back to a place where people show you so much gratitude, and they’re happy to have you,” he said.

Arcade Fire Fails To Fill Seats

Edwin Farnham 'Win' Butler III of Arcade Fire performs during a concert at Kindl Buehne Wuhlheide
Adam Berry/Redferns via Getty Images
Adam Berry/Redferns via Getty Images

2017 wasn’t a great year for Arcade Fire as far as filling venues go. They had poor attendance at quite a few of their North American shows. Many of the arenas held anywhere between 10,000-20,000 people, but not even half of all available seats would be filled.

Leading man Win Butler acknowledged the less than pleasing attendance ratings during a sold-out show in Vancouver. “We’ve played cities three times as big with half as many people, so this is really a thing of beauty for us,” he said.

Kanye Doesn’t Hit The Target

Kanye West during Kanye West Kicks Off His US Tour
Rodrigo Varela/WireImage
Rodrigo Varela/WireImage

It seems like Kanye West never leaves the limelight. It’s been that way since he released his first album, College Dropout. Whether it’s thanks to controversy or fantastic music, people will pay attention. In 2013, the kind folks in Kansas City didn’t care enough to show up.

The Sprint Center holds 19,000, but only 4,500 came to watch the self-proclaimed genius. “The meager attendance of less than 4,500 seemed inconceivably small for one of the most vital artists in popular music,” wrote reviewer Bill Brownlee.

Not Carly Rae’s Cup Of Tea

Singer Carly Rae Jepsen performs
Steve Jennings/WireImage
Steve Jennings/WireImage

In 2014, Toronto’s DAVIDsTEA held their Cup of Warmth campaign featuring Carly Rae Jepsen. It was a disaster. They promised to donate to charity for each cup of tea sold with their goal set at selling 30,000.

Sadly, they only managed 20 cups, which means around 20 people came to support and see the singer do her thing. Jepsen stayed strong and smiled through it all. She even posed with a fan and posted a picture from the event on her Instagram.

Keri Hilson Didn’t Mind

Singer Keri Hilson performs onstage-132855270
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Sometimes, performing for no one can be fun. That is if you’re receiving a fat check for the gig, of course. In 2015, Keri Hilson opened up for Lenny Kravitz in Dallas, Texas, but the stadium was almost empty. She didn’t mind thanks to all the zeros they gave her.

“I spent my day being ridiculed for getting paid $100,000 in one night, to do what I love 4 years after being publicly relevant. FML,” she wrote.

Sisqo Does Uganda

Singer/songwriter Sisqo performs
Mindy Small/FilmMagic
Mindy Small/FilmMagic

Sisqo hasn’t been very relevant since he released “Thong Song” in the early 2000s. We will admit the song gets people going when it comes on in the club every now and then, but Uganda wasn’t feeling it in 2013.

He took the stage at an outdoor venue, and reports say there were less than 400 total people. Fewer than 40 were in VIP, and the rest sat in the cheap seats. They blamed it on inexperienced promoters.

“Unavoidable Production Delays,” They Said…

Katy Perry performs
Neil Lupin/Getty Images
Neil Lupin/Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine a pop star as monumental as Katy Perry would have a hard time getting fans to purchase tickets. In 2017, her Witness tour had to be postponed due to “unavoidable production delays,” which really means, “no one bought her tickets.”

The shows continued but the album the tour was for received poor reviews which decreased fan’s excitement levels. Perry gave a lengthy statement on her Instagram about the fiasco saying she hopes to provide “an experience I am proud to share with you.” Too bad, not many came to witness it.

Mase Remained Strong

Rapper Mase appears
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

In 2014, hip-hop artists Fat Joe, Foxy Brown, and Mase were going to perform at London’s 02 venue which holds around 2,350 people. Before the show, things went wrong when Foxy Brown canceled, and Fat Joe couldn’t enter the country.

Being the “Bad Boy” that he is, Mase decided the show would go on without them. He ended up performing in front of roughly 150 fans. Foxy Brown tweeted out a picture of the empty arena saying he personally kicked her out of the show.

Sorry, Rih Rih

Rihanna performs onstage
John Shearer/Getty Images for MTV.com
John Shearer/Getty Images for MTV.com

As we’ve said, even the most successful artists get placed in awkward situations, and in 2016, it happened to Rihanna. The “Umbrella” singer had a show at the 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium, but it was half empty after being advertised as sold out.

The issue turned out to be scalpers, who purchased tickets as soon as they went on sale. “Mumford & Sons also experienced the same problem. So there’s nothing worse for the band playing a ‘sold-out’ show than looking out at empty seats because touts bought the tickets and tried to sell them on secondary sites,” Adam Tudhope said.

No Suprise For Brandy

Brandy performs onstage during the Circle of Sisters' R&B Live
Manny Carabel/Getty Images
Manny Carabel/Getty Images

Imagine being set to give a surprise performance for a 90,000 capacity venue in another country only to have the fans become impatient. In 2013, Brandy was going to be a surprise guest in South Africa as part of an all-day festival.

The concertgoers learned there would be an unannounced performer, but they didn’t stick around to find out who it was. By the time she got on stage, there were only 40 people left standing. Even the news crew packed up and called it a night before the big reveal.

Even The Orchestra Got The Cold Shoulder

Seats are ready to be filled
Amy T. Zielinski/Redferns
Amy T. Zielinski/Redferns

The London Philharmonic Orchestra is exceptionally well-known around the world. In 2016 they were doing an ongoing concert series at the Gasteig concert hall in Munich, Germany, which brought performers to the venue.

It’s a 2,300 seat venue and by the time the show started, only 150 people had stuck around. The orchestra, in part, had Oktoberfest to blame, which was going on at the same time. The orchestra’s conductor was so baffled that he thought he walked through the wrong doors.

Fountains Of Wayne Had A Hard Time At Georgetown University

performing
Theo Wargo/WireImage
Theo Wargo/WireImage

The men of Fountains Of Wayne were the headlining act for a Georgetown University concert in 2006. Promoted by the student-run Georgetown Programming Board, they expected to sell up to 1,600 tickets come showtime. The venue wasn’t too large, so that was a fair estimate.

When the day came, they only sold 370, less than a quarter of the total amount. To add insult to injury, frontman Chris Collingwood needed a bucket brought on stage because he was a tad bit drunk.

Madonna Couldn’t Stir Brazil

Madonna performs
Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images
Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images

Madonna released her chart-topping album MDNA in 2011 that was followed by a massive tour. The world-renowned artist usually doesn’t have a hard time filling venues, but the people of Brazil weren’t trying to hear her this time around.

Time 4 Fun Entretenimento SA promotions found it very hard to gather attention for the pop star. They ended up having to go to extra lengths to sell some tickets. North American shows sold out in minutes, but in Brazil Time 4 Fun had to offer two-for-one deals a week away from showtime. They even let Madonna’s fans pay in installments.

50 Cent Gets Petty With Ja Rule

50 cent buys ja rule tickets to make it empty
Mat Hayward/Getty Images
Mat Hayward/Getty Images

Rappers 50 Cent and Ja Rule have had an ongoing feud since 2001. Towards the tail end of 2018, Ja Rule had a concert coming up, and 50 Cent took matters into his own hands.

“I just bought 200 seats in the front so they can be empty. LOL,” 50 Cent captioned an Instagram post. That’s taking petty to a new level, and sure enough, Ja Rule performed to a very quiet front row.

Ashanti Probably Felt Embarrassed

Ashanti performs onstage
Paras Griffin/WireImage
Paras Griffin/WireImage

In 2015, the former R&B sensation, Ashanti, had a show on the 4th of July. Unexpectedly, she took to Instagram and told her fans her concert got canceled because the police deemed it unsafe. Survey says that was a lie.

Ashanti wrote, “I was dressed, on the way and ready to turn up with you.” That’s when the promoter chimed in and declared that to be false. “We are open the promoter felt it was light and he canceled her.”

Festival Express Couldn’t Get Going

Photo of Grateful Dead
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Some festivals aren’t meant to be as sensational as the rest. Do you remember the Fyre Festival? Well, between June and July 1970 was the Festival Express; a Woodstock on wheels. It featured The Grateful Dead, The Band, Janis Joplin, and Delaney & Bonnie as they traveled across Canada going from concert to concert.

Sadly, most of the stops were not what they expected. The Montreal show got canceled, 2,500 protested the Toronto show thanks to a shady promoter, and they were unable to land a venue in Vancouver. Plagued from the start, this wasn’t a tour filled with positive memories.

Nine… Only Nine

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tommyleesparta/Instagram
tommyleesparta/Instagram

On March 24, 2013, Jamaican DJ Tommy Lee Sparta brought his gothic dancehall style to Pointe-à-Pierre, Trinidad. The DJ was the headlining act for that night at a venue on the island, but not even hundreds showed up.

Okay, maybe a dozen? Nope, only nine people came to support Tommy Lee Sparta. Due to the shockingly low number, promoters had to cancel the show at two in the morning. Those nine folks ended up getting a refund.

Lil Wayne Prefers Large Crowds

lil wayne on stage at concert-1161078442
Manny Carabel/Getty Images
Manny Carabel/Getty Images

Lil Wayne seemingly never falls off. That’s a true testament to his influence because he’s been around since he was 14. Decades later, he still sells out venues and makes it look easy. In 2019, Blink-182 asked him to go on tour with the band and he happily agreed.

Little did the New Orleans native know, he’d be doing some very small shows. This was very offsetting for the emcee. “I just want the people to know, if you’re wondering, please forgive me, but I am so-not used to performing to a crowd… and there’s not too many… that’s not my swag,” he explains. “I’m not sure how long I’m gonna be able to do this tour.”

They Love Him In Person, Not On Screen?

Justin Bieber perform
Patrick R. Murphy/Getty Images
Patrick R. Murphy/Getty Images

Consider this more a bonus. While Justin Bieber’s tours are always a raging success, the same can’t be said for his Believe documentary that supported the album. The pop sensation released it on Christmas day in theaters, and that might’ve been his mistake.

That day already has a ton of other movies coming out so perhaps it could have got lost in the mix. The film bombed at the box office, only grossing $3 million in the first few days.