Keep Your Audience Listening: How To Add Interest to Your Live Show

By NationWide Source
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Last week I told you about a show I went to. I liked the artist’s music, but found it difficult to focus on his performance. I went home and began to ask myself why I wasn’t engaged with this artist’s show.

I realized one of the main reasons I was having trouble paying attention was because his whole show looked exactly the same.

Most live shows have three key elements. The music, the script— the order you play the music in, and what you say between the music— and the visuals.

People come to see a show, not hear it.

Let me clarify: If your music is bad, it doesn’t matter how great your visuals are. Well rehearsed, well written music is absolutely essential. But your audience isn’t paying to hear an exact copy of your album. They bought a ticket because they want an experience. And the visual aspect of your show is crucial in keeping people engaged with what’s happening onstage, and giving a night they’ll remember.

The Essentials: Onstage Movement

Having a road map of changing visuals for each of your songs is a great idea. When you have a general idea of what everyone is doing for each song, you can make sure that you have lots of visual interest and diversity in your show. This will help keep your audience focused on you throughout your entire show.

During your rehearsals, try setting your self up as close as possible to how you will be set up for a gig. Then run through your set exactly like you would at a show. Play your music in the right order, and run through your transition exactly how you would if you were playing in front of an audience. As you’re rehearsing, find places you can add something visual to. Here are three starting points:

  • Try to figure out where you can interact with other members of your band. If you’re the singer, turn around and jam with your drummer. Or if your guitarist should walk over to the bassist. If your guitarist has a solo, or is being featured for a section, have the lead singer look at him, or even walk over to him. This action helps the audience know where to look, and signals them that something new and exciting is happening.
  • Visually highlight dynamic changes. Are you going from an upbeat and exciting part of your set to a quieter, more intimate section? Bring out a stool, have your drummer take a break, and show your audience visually that you’re about to take them to someplace completely new.
  • Make eye contact. In any kind of ensemble, a little eye contact goes a long way. When your band is a tight knit unit, and looks like one, the audience can feel that camaraderie, and you can invite them to participate in it. When they feel connected to— like they are a part of something— that’s when you’ve gained a fan.

Riding Solo

Now, not all of these suggestions are going to work for everyone. What if you play by yourself, or with one other person?

If you are in a smaller ensemble, and chained to an instrument and your mic stand, don’t despair! There are things that you can do to add visual interest to your show.

The first thing to do is look at your facial expressions. You might want to try rehearsing into a mirror, or a webcam. If you make the same face the whole time, work on matching your facial expressions to your lyrics. Maybe all you need to do is practice smiling. Looking like you’re enjoying yourself onstage goes a long way in getting the audience to enjoy your performance.

If you play an instrument, learn to move with that instrument. Bend over your guitar a little. Nod your head in time with your keys.Engage with it! After all, it’s part of  your band too.

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