As a talent manager for the past 15 years, as well as an A&R scout and music publicist, I’ve been to hundreds and hundreds of live concerts during my life. In time, I’ve noticed some key things that the best, most successful artists—performers who have built a career instead of just a short period of acclaim—do in their live performances. Live gigs have never been more important to an artist or band’s career, so take heed of the following advice…
ENTERTAIN YOUR CROWD
As a performing artist, that’s pretty much your only job and reason for being on stage. Your fans may love you on YouTube or on CD/MP3 but when they come to see you perform, they want a show. Entertain them!
I know, you’re an artist, obsessed with chord changes and making sure you don’t hit a wrong note or go out of key or, God forbid, break a string on stage. And you think your fans care about your songs as much as you do. They don’t. Not unless you’re as successful as Coldplay. So focus on the crowd and don’t get in your head too much about the sound and technical details. Your audience will hardly notice any issues unless there is major feedback.
LOOK INTO THEIR FACES
That’s right. Nothing is going to keep people’s eyes on you more than a lead singer (and band members) who are looking at them. Of course, don’t stare or be creepy. One tip is to look at the tops of people’s heads. It will seem like you are looking at them, but will be far less distracting to you.
We’ve all been to a show where the lead singer did not look at the crowd. That gets boring pretty quickly. Besides, that whole shoegazing thing is out…and I’ve yet to see a hugely successful band perform that wasn’t looking directly into their audience’s faces.
I can’t tell you how many artists I’ve seen whose idea of performing is merely standing there with their guitar (or sitting behind their keyboard) and just singing their songs without any real energy.
If we get off the couch to come see you perform tonight, you’d better bring it on stage.
That does not mean you must run around the stage; exuding energy can take many forms. But do move around. Dance, even. I can’t tell you how boring it is to see an unknown act perform at a club and just have every single band member simply standing behind his instrument. And don’t get me started on band members who stare at the floor (or at their instrument).
After all, you wouldn’t go to a spinning class or dance class if the instructor simply stood there, talking with no energy. You want someone in front of a group of people to lead and be inspiring. So do the same for your fans. You are the instructor and the artist and they will dance if you dance. They will move if you move. Watch the crowd the next time you’re up on stage. Their energy will match yours. You want a better crowd? Put on an amazing live show full of energy and excitement and see what happens. Watch YouTube videos of Mick Jagger in concert if you need inspiration. There’s a reason why the Rolling Stones have been one of the biggest live bands for decades. Appreciate why a performer like P!nk can transfix both a small venue and an arena.
WEAR INTERESTING STAGE CLOTHES
Don’t let the band wear “whatever” to the show. I’ve had lead singers instruct the other players to wear all black or white. Do something to send a message that you are a unit.
“But,” you’ll say, “my favorite band just wears a t-shirt and jeans on stage.” Sure, many do. But keep in mind, those performers are already hugely successful bands with years of hit songs under their belt.
Understand your genre and come up with attire that not only complements, but enhances it.