Tonight when we record the radio show we are going to be talking all about live performances, and I wanted to add to the conversation with my blog. Performing live is no small feat, so before you go up on stage this entry might help you to get your shit together and help you to deliver the best performance you can.
So why do we perform live anyways? Two reasons. The objective is to draw out as many die-hard fans as you can, and the idea is that when the crowd watches you do your thing they will be enticed into buying your CD, bringing you new fans. It’s easier said than done, really, but it is possible.
In our area, you can either approach or be approached by a promoter. Our local promoter is Midwest Mayhem Promotions and Booking. Lance, the owner, will assign you a date and a time slot. It’s that simple. Until your show date, your job is to prepare yourself and promote to as many local people as you can. The more people you expose yourself to, the better.
For me, I’ve found that telling my friends to tell their friends about an upcoming performance has worked a lot better than promoting to random people, but I’m socially awkward. I come off as some kind of weirdo when I approach people at the mall. Whatever works for you, use it. Pass out flyers and try to get a buzz going. At the same time, you should book some rehearsal time on a practice stage. Performing live couldn’t be more different from the recording studio. If I haven’t performed in a while, I like to book at least two rehearsal sessions prior to a performance (rehearsal time is pretty cheap compared to studio time). Use the rehearsal time to figure out your set list so you don’t look like an idiot on stage trying to remember what song is next.
You can set up your performance mixes however you like, depending on whether or not you will have a hype man. I usually don’t, so I mute the main verse tracks and turn down the chorus a little, but leave the ad libs in place. I also shorten the fade outs of songs just to keep things moving.
I know I sound like a broken record, but this is a job. On the night of the show, you work for the venue owner and the promoter, so show up on time and sober. I shouldn’t have to say that, but I have seen it a lot over the years. If you act like a diva before or after you perform, I can promise you that the venue and promoter will not want to book you again, not to mention everyone in the venue will be able to see you acting like an asshole. Other artists will be hesitant to work with you just because we don’t have time to babysit. Show up well before you time slot and schmooze with potential fans and meet with the other artists.
When you take the stage, all of your preparation (or lack thereof) will be apparent to everyone in the room. Do your best to engage the crowd without being corny; you can make eye contact, point, talk to the crowd, etc. I also recommend taking short breaks between songs to let fans know where they can pick up your material. It also gives you a minute to catch your breath if you’re performing intensely.
After you finish your set, hopefully everyone is cheering and screaming and yelling. Walk through the venue to thank the owner, promoter, and all the new fans you just made! Finally, don’t just leave after your set is done. You should stay and watch all the artists who just watched you and continue to schmooze with fans. So long as you act like a grown up the promoter and venue will ask you to perform again in the future, giving you more chances to make new fans.