We here at indiehitmaker.com are all about helping artists speed up their careers by showing them how to get the most out of their live shows and #makeitcount. Although playing live does fulfill a personal need for those of us who are live performing artists, the number one goal of a show is to further your career by acquiring fans or cash if not both every time you take the stage.
Face it, this is the music business, and you are in the business of affecting people with your art to a point that they want to make a financial investment in you whether it's a concert ticket, record or shirt. And telling them from the stage if they like what they hear they can get it at the back of the room for just $10 is not going to close the deal. So, how do you get fans to join your mailing list, people to buy your merch and venues to ask you back without the hard sell or giving that shameless plug?
Connect with your audience. Not just talk to them, but truly create an emotional connection with them through everything you do onstage at the right time in your set. This is what we call The Live Music Method, created by my mentor and world renown live music producer Tom Jackson. By understanding and loving your audience you can create such a connection with them that they will be clamoring to your merch stand and purchasing as much as they can by the end of your show. But in order to elicit this type of response, you must look at your show from the audience perspective.
This is no easy feat, and there is certainly more than one blog post's worth of info to explain here. In fact, it is a course of over 20 lessons that takes months to master, but if you consider how long most artists need to become "seasoned" - applying these methods to your live show will speed up career in most cases by years. And we all know time is the kiss of death for many artists - surviving the timeline kills many talented acts before they see the light of day. So here's the secret to avoiding that pitfall.
First, understand why people come to a live show. If you said it was to hear your music, you're unfortunately wrong. They can do that at home or in their car, usually for free. People come to live shows for the same reason you go to a movie or a fine dining restaurant. They want to be captured and engaged, experience moments and have their lives changed. You know the feeling when you went to a three hour movie and at the end you said "it's over already?" - that's being captured and engaged.
So how do you capture and engage an audience, especially a crowd of people that do not know you? You have to create the right moments at the time in your set that will grab their attention and keep them emotionally connected to what you are doing onstage up until you leave them wanting more - which usually culminates in an encore or standing O. Get people to this level of a visceral experience and you could probably sell them a bridge let alone a cd or shirt and have them enthusiastically join the mailing list without even having to ask. Venues will have no choice but to hire you back and pay you more from customer demand alone.
Now that you know why people come to a live show, how do you capture and engage them? Second step is to put yourself in their shoes. To do that you have to forget being a musician. Most likely 97% of your audience is not one. Nor do they have any clue how music is made. You could say they are musically ignorant. But, here's the kicker, they are experts in human behavior. Most likely, unless you have sold a million records you are dating your audience, and more times than not it's the first date. Many artists look to recreate what Bruce, Bono and Madonna do onstage but these artists are married to their audiences. They could take the stage and tell a story about their goldfish and the crowd would eat it up, you and I on the other hand would clear the room. Which is why when you are dating your audience you have to communicate with them very much like the first time you meet a person or talk to someone of the opposite sex in a bar.
You create a dialogue that allows the two of you to get to know each other, this is called the artist-audience relationship. It doesn't take long, usually seconds or minutes (less than a length of a radio song) for the audience to decide if they like you. And you need to know where you stand with the audience so you can lead them in a way that by the end of the night you have won them over. So blowing them away with an insane guitar solo or crazy antics is not the right way to start a show, which is why you need an intro moment. After that, the set leads into a various amount of ways for the audience to keep getting to know you and for you to keep assuring them that you are worthy of their time and attention. You'll accomplish this by delivering the right moment at the right time.
At this point it is important to understand another critical component to your show. Avoiding Chinese water torture. Your music doesn't sound the same so it better not look the same. Your audiences attention is mostly wrapped up in what they see, about 55% of their focus at a live show. If they see the same thing over and over again, they start to hear the same thing and the engagement is lost. Which is why as the show progresses the moments need to change as well. At one point it will be a great musical moment. At another time you will surprise them with something unexpected, then a fun moment at the right time gets them involved where there after you expose to a new moment where they are open to learning something deeper about you as a person.
This is the art of live music production and what we do best as producers and performance coaches. We help you sort this all out, find the right order for your set, teach you the fundamentals of how to use the stage and work the audience, pull the moments out of your songs and rearrange them so they fulfill the audiences expectations and ultimately exceed them. By taking them on a journey, leading them the way a great movie tells a story and give them different moments across the evening similar to a dining experience at a 5 star restaurant you will not only capture and engage your audience, you will have affected them in such a deep and personal way that they will want to purchase something so they can relive that moment over and over again. That's how you sell more merch, make more fans and get more gigs every time you take the stage. Here's to your success on the road, #makeitcount.
To learn more, or get started on producing your live set, email bram@indiehitmaker, tweet @bram_rocks or call 877.99GOIHM (877.994.6446) for questions or to book your live music production sessions. Learn how to make your U.S. live show sales count and chart on Billboard by visitingwww.indiehitmaker.com. Get one month free when you register for IndieHitmaker monthly live venue reporting services. Click toSign Up for the Newsletter Now and receive your immediate discount code for a limited time only.
Bram Bessoff is partner and co-founder of Indiehitmaker.com, a service mark of PolyPlat Records. He started his career as drummer for long-time touring & indie success band Soup. Now off the road, he speaks at conferences nationwide and helps many artists get the most out of their live show and #makeitcount by reporting their live show sales to Soundscan, with the best charting on Billboard usually from live show sales alone. Bram is a full proponent of the Tom Jackson’s Live Music Method and is currently a Certified Live Music Method Teacher and Performance Coach. He helps artists connect more with their audiences increasing fans and merch sales through the live performance. Bram is currently in training with Tom Jackson Productions working toward eventual status as a fully credited Live Music Producer.