If you’re reading this, you’ve probably performed live or are getting ready to do it. Now, it takes more than picking up some instruments or singing to make a lasting impact on an audience and be talked about for days. Going with one of my favorite sayings: Live music can’t be downloaded, it can only be experienced. And in order to give your fans and first time listeners an experience they won’t forget, here’s what you need to remember:
- Be Spontaneous…Not Unprepared
One thing is certain: it’s one helluva rush when your audience reacts exactly the way you want it to. It’s another thing to feed off the energy of the crowd and to use it to your advantage. Now, how do we do this? We differentiate between being spontaneous and just not preparing enough. Being spontaneous is crucial, on the other hand, it’s crucial NOT to be unprepared. For example, changing around the set list depending on the mood of the crowd is essential to a great show.
If the next song on your set list is a ballad and you stick to it instead of switching to a more fast-paced song while the crowd is feeling groovy, it’s is a mistake you don’t wanna make. On the other hand, if the crowd looks like they’re starting to get into your music, you might decide to throw in a popular cover to kick it up a notch and really draw them in. So yes, BE SPONTANEOUS! Put on a show! And the audience will feel it and feed off the spontaneous energy and impulse.
But what you can’t afford to do is be unprepared, thinking that you’ll be able to pass it off as spontaneity when playing live. It rarely works. Especially if you’re in a band and need coordination to pull it off.
Wanna be THAT spontaneous? Make new music with the crowd (which ties in with point 4)!
2. There’s a BIG difference between practicing and rehearsing.
To put it simply: Practice your music, rehearse your performance. It’s important to understand that to be prepared for a live show, you must go beyond practicing your music. Yes, without being able to play your music perfectly, you can’t really have a live show, but you need to work with the visuals or graphics you might add to your show, what you might say, how you might say it and when you say it, changing up the recorded versions of your songs to accommodate for playing to a live audience, where you might stand, how you might move (get the crowd involved, have a longer pause, account for talking between a song, etc.) and more. So…REHEARSE your performance, don’t just practice.
3. Recorded versions and live versions of a song are two very different things.
If your fans can predict exactly how you’re gonna play the rest of your song, they may as well be listening to your CD in their bedroom. The expectations are different at a club or live venue. If you play your songs exactly the way they were recorded, it’s time to think twice! In a live performance, the audience needs to FEEL the music, they need to be thrilled and surprised. Your songs need to be changed up to create a captivating live show, irrespective of the genre you play.
- Don’t assume that the audience is just there to watch you sing.
As an artist, you will enjoy playing every song. That does NOT mean that the audience will enjoying listening to every song you play. When you write a song, you enjoy playing different parts of it because the whole process of creation was extraordinary and filled with special moments for you.
But while playing live, you have to make sure that the show is filled with special moments for the audience. For example, stretch out a part of your song and get the audience involved by clapping or singing along or doing anything that might make it special for them instead of just watching you sing. If you’re lost, maybe think of getting the crowd to take selfies with you in the background (put on a show!), or give your phone/camera to someone in the crowd to film themselves, etc.
So, look into your music and you’ll know what the ‘special moment’ is in each song. Next time you’re rehearsing (not practicing) to play live, see how you can create and deliver these special moments to your audience so they walk away feeling like they’ve just experienced something magical.
- Make sure your songs look different, not just sound different.
You know your music and how each song is very different from the rest in terms of melody, vibe, lyrics, etc. However, what most artists fail to realize is that the songs LOOK the same. Why? Because most artists tend to follow a set pattern onstage, doing the same thing again and again for every song, standing in the same place, doing the same movement. That’s a mistake because it makes the show…well…boring. You need to be as original, creative and artistic with your show as you are with your music. In the words of Tom Jackson, interaction with your audience is 15% content, 30% tone or emotion, and 55% is what they SEE. So, if all your songs LOOK the same, you have a problem on your hands because to people who don’t already know who you are, all your songs will begin to SOUND the same as well.
Therefore, my dear musician friends, to truly be an exceptional musician, you have to keep one eye on your music and the other on your performance. Now go on…it’s time to give your audience an experience that can’t be downloaded.