There’s nothing worse than a band that sounds great on record but sounds like garbage live. No performance is 100% perfect, but from my experience, there are things I’ve learned to overcome those mistakes and bumps in the road and still leave showgoers with the feeling that my band is halfway decent and knows what we’re doing. Here are a few of my suggestions.
Entries in Live Shows (20)
You know the adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket“. Musicians just can’t afford to do that anymore. There are just so many baskets and each one has its benefits. Some baskets will be more important to you, and some will be more important during specific times in your career.
Think of the below list as a bunch of baskets related to making money from your live performance, and determine which ones you want to use. Some of these will be no-brainers, but they’re still on the list as a reminder.
Musicians are a scattered bunch. I know you agree with me. Don’t lie.
I think some of them just glide through life with this “things are bound to happen!” mentality. I mean, optimism is great and all but you know what’s better?
Actually being in control of what’s going to happen.
Do you know how you can get more control over your music career?
As a professional musician, it goes without saying that you want each performance to go as smoothly as possible. Whether you have been earning a living as a musician for some time or are relatively new to the paying gig scene, it probably didn’t take you long to realize that a seamless performance goes beyond your own vocal chords — you need your entire roadie crew to be on top of their game as well. To make sure you are getting the most from your team, check out the following tips:
Depending on the size of your venue and the rowdiness of your audience, you might need to hire some security guards. Before your show starts, listen to their recommendations and communicate your own concerns and needs about the venue’s security.
For instance, if you tend to get a rowdy group up front, ask at least one security guard to be near the stage to make sure your band members stay safe and to discourage the audience from making bad decisions. If you want the security guards to keep a low profile, request that they stay near the back of the venue. Security also can check people at the door, making sure they are not bringing in glass bottles or any weapons.
To be a successful musician you must treat your entire support staff with respect. If you have a great team of instrument technicians, realize they are in high demand in the music industry, and don’t expect them to read your mind in terms of what you need or want.
Present them with a song list well ahead of time, and ask for their help in making sure each of your instruments is ready to go, whether you need your piano tuned or your guitar strings changed, before your gig starts.
When it comes to working with your sound crew, STD has rather blunt and useful advice: “Don’t piss off the sound man.” Keep in mind that these people show up early, head home late and have to deal with a huge amount of equipment. The sound crew also listens to your songs more carefully than your most devoted fans.
Go over your set with your sound crew, and come up with an efficient way to communicate before, during and after the show that doesn’t involve shouting over the audience. Make sure everyone has portable, durable and robust smartphones like the iPhone 6s that help coordinate your sound needs before the performance and allow you to communicate quickly.
If you’ve ever been to a show where the singer looks great half the time and is standing in the dark the other half of the show, chances are good the communication is lacking between the performer and lighting technician. Like the sound crew, the lighting technicians come in early to get everything set up so you look as good as you sound.
Go over the set with them and clearly communicate if you want to have fancy lighting effects like strobes, lasers or multi-colored lights. Also be sure to see what they suggest for the size of the venue.
Do you sometimes feel that your band’s draw is languishing? Are you tired of seeing the same people at your shows and want to play to a new crowd, even in your hometown?
If you’re like most musicians, you know that you absolutely can do better, that you have more fans out there than who actually show up at at the venue, and despite always receiving positive feedback, you don’t know why more people aren’t showing up. Here are some tips on building some momentum back into your tour dates so you can increase your band’s draw:
1. Find a Different Angle for The Show: It’s easier to get more people to show up if it’s your band’s first show, when you’re releasing a new album, it’s a tour kick off, or when it’s your final gig. Obviously, it’s because your fans realize those as special occasions and want to be there.
That’s right, on average, 75% or more of your fan base won’t make it out to a show on your next tour. Proximity. Sold out. Cost. All factors which can keep your most loyal fans from attending your next killer show. Learn some creative ways to engage your non-attending fans.
If you treat someone’s home (or your own) like a public venue, you are inviting several types of liability with potentially serious consequences. House concerts should be private events, and this article describes ways to safely build an audience, and the problems that can arise if you go “public.”
When it comes to touring, I find more musicians focused with the “How,” “When,” and “Where” aspects but not enough of the “Why.” Of course, touring can be an incredibly important step in most artists’ careers but you should definitely take some time out to create solid goals and a definitive strategy before you decide when/where you want to hit the road. Why do we pick the target areas for touring that we do? Is it because we want to travel there? Because they are big cities? Because that’s what everyone else is doing?
I’ve written many things about booking, such as a step-by-step guide on booking a tour and a few things on getting into SXSW, but what happens if you don’t have a massive history of touring the country? What if this is a new band and this is your first gig? How do you get started?
Here are some tips on booking your band’s first show:
The “Four P’s” is a term used to describe the traditional Marketing Mix: Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion. I’m borrowing from that expression to talk about the Four P’s of Playing Live Shows: Preparation, Promotion, Performance, and Post-Show. This series of blog posts will cover the things that you can be doing as a live performer to maximize each show. In the final part of this series, we’ll go over what to do after your show is finished:
The “Four P’s” is a term used to describe the traditional Marketing Mix: Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion. I’m borrowing from that expression to talk about the Four P’s of Playing Live Shows: Preparation, Promotion, Performance, and Post-Show. This series of blog posts will cover the things that you can be doing as a live performer to maximize each show. In Part 3, it’s all about your performance:
Live shows are what a lot of our careers center around. Whether we’re in a band, manage a band, or run sound for a band, one thing is for sure, the better the band sounds, the better the show. After reading this post you’ll be able to implement some changes that will help you gain more fans, sell more merch, and have people leave with happier ears.
For the Band
“What could we do better?” is the number one question I am asked by bands after a show. Without fail, this is the answer I give them:
“Improve your tones”
Here’s what I mean: Say you are a singer songwriter. You play by yourself, your vocals and your guitar is 100% of your sound. First of all, record yourself playing, and listen back to that recording. What is the tone of your voice? Deep? Boomy? Nasally? Harsh? Thin? Full? Listen with an open mind, and see if there are things you can improve on. Next your guitar. How does the pickup sound in comparison to how the guitar sounds when you play it unplugged? Does the pickup add low end or sound too harsh in the highs? Spend some time listening to how your instruments sound, and make them sound as best as they can.
I met up with a group of music industry professionals this afternoon, and as we were chatting, we got on the topic of the problems that exist in the area of live shows. I’m not talking about soft-seater or stadium shows, I’m talking about gigs in small, local venues.
It’s clear that there are lots of different opinions on what works and what doesn’t, but right as we were wrapping up, I made a comment that I think warrants publishing, and it’s this:
There’s nothing that bothers me more than shows that cost $5 to get into.
Five bucks, in my mind, is WAY too low. When I played in bands in my early twenties (about 10 years ago), shows cost five bucks THEN. You know what else cost five bucks? A pack of cigarettes. Try finding a store that sells you smokes for under $10 now. (Note: I’m in Toronto, Canada, so your prices may vary depending on where you live).
The Music Industry
Thinks Out Loud
- Bas Grasmayer: The Next Music Format Case-Study: Twisted Music
- Dave Cool: The Four P’s of Playing Live Shows: Promotion
- Brian Thompson: The Twitter Trolls: How to Deal with Criticism Online
- Ariel Hyatt: Musician’s Arsenal: Killer Apps, Tools & Sites - Facebook’s Timeline
- Jamie Leger: What Can We Learn From Indie Band Pomplamoose?
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(Updated January 13, 2016)