live performance

by Justin

March 5, 2013

One of the most valuable things a band can offer their fans is a great live experience.  A good live show is something that can never be replaced by a YouTube video or any kind of download.

So what separates a good live performance from a bad one?  And what should you do to make sure that all of your live shows are an exciting, memorable experience for your audience?

Your live show is something that can’t be replicated.  Sure you can record it and post it to YouTube, but it just isn’t the same.  If you’re live performances don’t offer fans something more than they can get on YouTube, your doing something majorly wrong… and you should start fixing it fast!

Have no fear, I’m about to give you 5 simple tips that, when implemented properly, will ensure that you never have to worry about fan turnouts ever again.  In fact, if you take this advice to heart, you’ll be booking the largest venues you’ve ever played in no time.

The core of what you’re really trying to do here is to engage your fans.  Give them an experience they can’t get on YouTube.  To quote Ben Weinman...

“Treat Every Show As If It’s Your Last”

In case you aren’t familiar with Ben Weinman, he’s the lead guitarist and founder of The Dillinger Escape Plan.  Recently, he was interviewed by George Howard, Executive Vice President of Wolfgang’s Vault.  In the interview, Ben gives insight into his views on performing live.  I highly recommend that you watch the interview… In fact, why don’t you go ahead and do that now before we continue…

Remember, your goal when performing for a live audience is to give them an experience that they’ll remember and want to tell others about.  This isn’t nearly as difficult as it may seem.

Think about the last time you went to a concert with some friends.  What was on the forefront of your mind when you left, and likely one of the topics of conversation?

Probably the band you just saw, right?

Your audience is already primed to talk about your performance, whether you like it or not. So give them something to talk about.  That is, give them something positive to talk about.  You certainly don’t want them talking about how disappointing the show was.

In this post, I want to offer you a few things to think about that could dramatically improve your fans’ experiences at your live performances.

Here are 5 simple tips that will help you put on a killer live show:

  1. Give Them A Show – Duh.  No, I mean a real show.  Think about ways to engage your audience beyond just the music.  Sitting on a stool strumming your guitar is great in some settings (e.g. a coffee shop), and maybe it’s all your fans want… But you’re running the risk of being dangerously BORING!  If you don’t already have a super loyal following, you could really disappoint your fans by playing dull versions of the same songs they’ve heard a thousand times on your album.

    Spice things up a bit. Stimulate the senses. How are you stimulating the fans visually? Maybe you’re a band like Mars Volta or Rage Against The Machine, and you have so much energy and stage presence that the audience can’t look away. That’s a really good start, and your live shows are probably already pretty exciting. But you don’t have to smash guitars or set things on fire to captivate your audience.

    contortionist on stage

    Featured Image: Nomintuya Nergui My World Contortionist | Photo: ernestoborges /Flickr/Creative Commons License

    Here are a few ideas that won’t cause the venue’s insurance rates to go up:

    • What’s your lighting setup like? Strobe lights, lasers, etc. are very eye catching and an immediate go-to if you want to invest in bettering your live shows.
    • You can always hire some additional performers. Dancers, acrobats, contortionists, sword swallowers, scary clowns… I don’t know exactly what kind of act you are. I’m just throwing out some ideas here.
    • Set design
    • Stage props
    • Costumes

    Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot on this stuff. Having a large production budget is great, but it’s not necessary. If you’re creative, you can add a lot to the visual aspect of your performance without spending a lot of dough.

  2. Interact With Fans During The Show – Every so often, take some time between songs to interact with your fans.  Banter with them.  It’s okay to talk to some of the fans in the front row.  Bring some of the fans on stage even.

    Getting your fans involved and making them a part of the overall performance is a great way to engage your fans and give them something to talk about.

    It is worth noting that there is a wrong way to interact with fans. In addition to some of the more obvious things like jumping into the crowd and getting in a fistfight with your fans, you want to avoid anything that will kill the mood. For example, don’t go off on a 30-minute rant about something that the audience clearly doesn’t care about.

    If you’re going to interact with your fans in a way that will take up a substantial portion of the evening, be sure that it’s well thought out ahead of time and not just the result of “too many energy drinks” (or whatever).

  3. Interact With Fans After The Show – This is one of the best ways to really engage fans.  Hang out by the merch table after your set.  Sign some autographs.  Chat with some fans.  Your fans will really appreciate this, and it’s guaranteed to make the experience memorable for them.

    This is also a great way to move some merch, get fan club signups, etc. Fans that may have otherwise never stopped by the merch table are now a lot more likely to drop by, because they’re interested in meeting you. You can certainly rest assured that many of them will pick up some kind of souvenir.


    Featured Image: timmy deaux signs autographs | Photo: jordanfischer /Flickr/Creative Commons License

    Don’t forget to bring a Sharpie. Fans that drop by the merch table will likely be seeking autographs. You’ll sell a lot more items like CDs, Vinyl, magazines you’re featured in, or anything else that would look good with an autograph on it.

  4. Record Your Performance – Record audio and/or video of the performance and post it to your website.  Be sure to let your fans know that the recording will be uploaded soon, so they’ll go check on it.  Make it available for download, so they can store it on their mp3 players and share the recording with their friends.

    If you have a good sound guy, you can even distribute copies of the performance to fans before they leave. This is especially a good idea if you’re not the main act. That way you can have someone do a quick mix while the other band or bands are playing.

    Here’s a cool idea for something that you can sell at shows. >>>Wristband USB Drive

    Brand the wristband with your logo and upload the recording to it. If you don’t have time for a quick mix at the show, you can always provide a download link with each purchase so the fan can upload the recording to the thumb drive when they get home.

  5. Have Fun – Okay. Another obvious one, but it’s really important.  The audience is going to feed off of your energy and vice versa.  Performing with passion and energy is going to get the crowd going, which will get you going and continue the cycle bringing up the energy in the entire house.

Of course, none of the things mentioned above are steadfast rules.  They’re just some ideas and things to keep in mind.  At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you’re enjoying yourself and the audience is enjoying the show.

Featured Image: Oasis Concert Stage | Photo: Anirudh Koul /Flickr/Creative Commons License

Music Promotion Insiders
Music Promotion Insiders

About the author 


Currently residing in Los Angeles, CA, Justin Smith is a marketer and entrepreneur that has been helping independent artists promote their music online since 2008. He has a Bachelor of Science in Recording Industry Management from MTSU and an MBA with a concentration in Marketing from The University of Tennessee. As the founder of JamMob, he has continued to dedicate himself to helping independent artists pursue careers in the music industry.

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