(Originally posted at www.matthewebel.com)
If there’s one thing I learned from my former years playing in houses of worship, it’s that the Sunday morning experience is designed for maximum effectiveness. Granted, some churches are more finely tuned than others, but the principles of your average worship service should apply to every single concert you play.
- Start with an engaged crowd. Even if it’s just the first row or two, a well-timed “Hallelujah!” now and again will get the cold crowd to warm up a little.
- Appeal to all five senses. Studies have shown that we remember events better if all of our senses are engaged. The Church, in its various forms throughout the millennia, has evolved to adopt this level of impact.
- Sight: Robes, banners, crosses, flowers, statues, you name it. Stained-glass windows and flying buttresses were designed specifically to catch your eye.
- Sound: Obviously, a church service involves talking and music. If your shows don’t have either, you’re reading the wrong article.
- Touch: At some point in most services there’s a moment to shake the hands of people around you. Perhaps there’s a laying on of hands while a blessing is read. In a world where we’re naturally suspicious of everyone else, a gentle touch from someone with a good message can leave a lasting impression.
- Smell: Roman Catholics nailed this one by swinging balls of incense. Mine would hang evergreen boughs in the sanctuary during Christmastime. Maybe your church bakes fresh bread for communion. Maybe it’s just the smell of coffee before and after the service… One way or another, your nose is being spoken to.
- Taste: In my religion, this one dates back to the guy that started it. The tradition of a little wine and bread was coupled with a very specific statement: “Do this for the remembrance of me.” Not bad advice.
- Audience Participation! This one deserves its own exclamation point. The reformation introduced many concepts into the Christian church, one of which was the involvement of laypeople in the worship service. People are more likely to pay attention if they’re a part of the experience.
- Speak their language. Again, another gift from the Reformation. If the people speak German, why are the services in Latin? Sure, you can prepare your talking points before a show, but pay attention to your audience and converse with them on a level that they will understand.
- Give them a mission. If you’ve reached someone, they won’t want the experience to end. Give them something they can do after the concert is over- even if it’s as simple as “give this download card to a friend who’s never heard of us”.
I’m not suggesting for one second that you train your fans to worship you… but you can certainly harness the power of thousands of years of effective organization to spread the word about your band.