This is the second installment of a series devoted to helping artists understand what impacts an audience and what makes them a loyal fan for life. In part one we covered the aspect of being authentic, and not relying on gimmicks, perfectionism, or trend-chasing to persuade your audience to respond to you. Authenticity is the life-blood of any artist hoping to have a successful career. (Read Part 1 Here)
Today we are going to cover another extremely important aspect of having a successful interaction with your audience at every show. This one may seem common sense but I have witnessed awkward show after awkward show from amateur artists who have not grasped the following concept.
I hope that it goes without saying that as a musical artist you are devoting consistent time to practicing your craft. What I am talking about in this article goes much farther and deeper than just your personal practice time. That is a given and is the bare minimum you should be doing as an artist.
The type of preparation I am talking about is preparing for the performance....strategizing what happens from the time you walk out on stage to the moment you leave the venue. That time belongs to you and its your responsibility to make the most of it. A lot of beginning artists offer up a lot of excuses when their gig didn't go as well as they had hoped. When it's all said and done you and only you can be held accountable for your success or failure to engage an audience and gain new fans.
There are quite a few aspects to this topic that I could write a whole book on but I want to make this blog easy to digest. I am going to list a few key areas in which you can gauge yourself on your preparedness...Here goes...
1. "SET" YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
As much as I love playing a gig, there is always a bit of anxiety when I have to create my set. So many questions come to mind that can cause me to doubt if its going to be a solid show. Do I have enough uptempo songs? Have I overplayed a song? Are my cover songs relevant? Perhaps these questions come to mind for you as well. They are legitimate thoughts that don't have to be a negative though. They keep you honest about your planned performance.
A set is more than just a list of songs that you can play. It is more than just randomly picking songs to perform from your repertoire. A great set is created with the audience in mind. It takes them on a journey that lets them experience your songs in an order that feels natural and satisfying. A general rule would be to start strong with some uptempos, tell a story or two, move into some deeper themes/slower tempos, sprinkle in some cover songs and jokes, then bring your audience up and out with an anthem or two. Also take some time to find some key moments in a song or two to really put on a show. Whether thats some planned choreography with the band or an acapella section, having some stand out moments makes an audience remember the show.
There is no better way to confuse or bore an audience than by not preparing your set beforehand. Even worse is when the lead singer stops between each song to confer with his band on which song to play next. Show your fans that you care about them and the time they have given you.
2. MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL
Simply put, what you think you look like and what you actually look like while performing are two totally different things...unless you bothered to perform in front of a mirror. Some of you may have laughed at that visual, picturing yourself belting into a hairbrush in your bathroom. All joking aside, it's one of the smartest things you can do for your career as a performer. It's a solid, self-check that the faces and moves you are making actually look cool and make sense to the song. Even after years of performing I learned the hard way from concert footage that some of my body language and facial expressions were a little peculiar.
Above just your body language, taking some pride in your general appearance goes a long way. Cargo shorts and a Batman T-shirt may be your outfit of choice on a daily basis but it is not fit for the stage. You don't have to go blow your paycheck on designer jeans but you can put a little effort into crafting an appearance that stands out from the crowd and gives you and edge. A side note to this is that it also applies to the rest of your band. I see it a lot where the frontman is decked out in his best rockstar outfit and the bandmates didn't even change from their work clothes. If you are a band then its a group effort and everyone needs to invest in looking the part.
3. FINISH WELL
When the last note is played and you've left it all out on the stage, you are still not done. If you have done your job well, then you should have a lot of people interested in learning more about you. Don't leave them hanging or guessing. Prepare a very short outro that includes thanking everyone, telling them who you are, and telling them where to find you.
Where they should find you after every show, no matter how big or small, is at a table with your CD's, merchandise, and a mailing list sign up. Take some time before the show to make this area look presentable and be sure to have someone manning it during your performance. Don't give your audience any excuse to leave without getting to speak with you personally and purchase your goods.
There is so much more to be said in each of these topics but just being prepared in these simple ways shows your audience that you really care about the quality of performance you are giving them. Invest your efforts here and they will invest in you. It is my hope that you gain more and more loyal fans at each show.
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