You could be the greatest songwriters and musicians in the world, but with a boring live show no-one will stick around to notice!   Here are some tried and tested ways to get your audience talking about your performance instead of over it whilst playing some of the smaller venues!

  1. Plan your performance – A short brainstorming session with the band before you go on stage recapping what you’re going to play and what you’re going to say can save embarassment on stage when people are asking what song is next!
  2. Banter is Good – Audience interaction makes shows unique.   In the past I’ve even encouraged hecklers to get people involved.   Try not to go overboard (Unless you are a stand up comic/electrometalcore band) since people do like to hear some music between the outbursts, but being friendly and not taking yourself too seriously is a great way to earn respect from new potential fans!
  3. Lights… – Getting some interesting lighting is a sure fire way to turn some heads – most people don’t expect epic lasers from a local live music venue.   Fog machines are cheap and there must be a mate you know somewhere who you can rope in to man the makeshift lighting rig!   Strobes can be great too, but remember – for lasers and strobes you need to warn the management and put up warning posters at the entrance to the venue!
  4. Camera… – Recording a show and putting it on youtube (Or putting a short compilation up) is a great way to get new subscribers and views after the show is over.   Make sure to tell people when and where it will be uploaded during the show and people will watch it to see themselves and remember parts of the set they particularly enjoyed!
  5. Action! – Make it a show; It’s not all about the music, no matter how many doped up TV hippies tell you otherwise – Prance around, steal someone’s drink and entertain people as you run away from them whilst still performing the song (Scary, but I’ve proven it gets people interested)… hell so long as you do something that attracts attention go for it! (If you think the venue will allow it!).   One specific rule of thumb I go by; If there’s a balcony in a venue it’s just ASKING to be jumped off.
  6. Break it up! – Instead of simply running through your songs and leaving, try interspersing some other things – electronica based bands can throw down some raves, hip hop bands can spit some freestyle lyrics, rock and metal bands can play some instrumental riffs… Solos can be fun if they’re short – people like to see talented musicians, but generally they don’t like to see their egos running away with them!
  7. Get them involved – Finally we come to the most important part of a live show – if you aren’t involving the crowd, they may as well listen to a CD or watch you on the internet.   Whether they’re dancing, raving, clapping, moshing, headbanging, boogieing, skanking, hip hop bouncing, swaying, screaming, cheering, booing, jumping, joining you on stage or attempting to break the world record for conga line length, if they’re actively involved in a show they will find it infinitely more memorable.   If no-one is moving, MAKE THEM.   Grab them physically and drag them to the dancefloor, or pick the biggest guy there and start a pit.   If you aren’t afraid, that is.

These are all things that have helped turn my band’s live shows into a spectacle instead of just another gig.   If you’re worried about people not liking your band for being too in-your-face then you’re going to have to be really lucky to get any sort of recognition from playing your songs at people in bar after bar after bar.

Another useful tactic; think about which shows you remember and why.   It’s not ripping the other bands off – it’s called taking influence!

I hope there is something you can take away from this list and try at your next show!

Any methods you’ve learned that make a show wedge in someone’s mind?   Something you’ve seen at a show that you’ll never forget?   Share them with us using the comment box below!


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