Stage banter––what you say to the audience between your songs––can make or break a live performance, and it's something that's especially important for artists who are just getting started. But every performer is different; some acts are just way cool or really good at being awkward and telling jokes. While others, well..., not so much. It's not something that comes naturally to every performer, but as you’ll soon learn from the artists, experts and authors we consulted with for the following interviews, banter is something that can be learned over time if you practice enough. It’s too important an aspect of your live performance to be overlooked or ignored. Indeed, often the small moments are what audiences remember best.
ariherstand.com / aristake.com
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles-based artist who has played over 600 shows around the country. He is also the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business and the creator of the widely popular music biz blog called “Ari's Take.” He’s contributed a great article to Music Connection called “10 Things You Should Never Say Onstage.” It’s highly recommended.
Banter is Performance
You need to think about your entire performance as a whole. It’s not just about the music, it’s about every single second on stage. It starts when you’re setting up––people are watching you and forming an opinion. And they absolutely form an opinion when you talk.
It takes a little bit of experience to know when you should talk. Everyone has a different theory. You need to know the vibe of the room and what makes the most sense for that show. That usually takes some stage experience, but eventually you’ll figure it out.
Enough is Enough
Bantering for too long can kill the vibe. However, an incredible story can last forever. It all depends on what you’re saying at that particular time. If it’s more than a minute, it must be captivating.
You should record your rehearsals––including your stage banter. Then, get people you respect to give you their honest opinions, about everything, including your banter.
Reading the Room
This takes some time. Most new artists are not good at reading the room. They’re focused on playing their songs. But, it’s not just about the music, it’s about everything that happens on stage and how it relates to the audience.
It’s About Entertainment
People come to a show to be entertained. They come to have a good time, or have a significant experience. It’s not always about the music, especially if you’re a new or little-known artist. They’re looking for something more––a connection with you.
It’s Not About You
This one’s tough for most artists to accept. The audience is the primary target. Your goal is to excite, inspire and move them so that they become fans. When you’re a new artist, with unknown material, that could be a challenge. Stage banter could make up the difference. Great stage banter could make fans of them.
Banter vs Songs
I’ve done a lot of performances. And even though I think my songs are great, I’ve had fans tell me that my stories made more of an impression. One fan told me, “I don’t remember the songs you played, but I remember your stories.” And I realized that sometimes banter can attract fans better than your songs. •