by MATT BACON >
There’s a lot that goes into making your band a good live act.
It’s one of the hardest things that a band can do but also the thing that is going to make people actually care about your band. Just look at a band like KISS. Did they really deliver musically? Not really. But did they have a helluva live show that people still make a huge effort to go see to this day? Yes they did. This is a rule that defines the music industry to this day. Look at all the big pop artists out there, people don’t really care about what they do musically, they care about the spectacle, the presentation and all that is included within that. In a world where the physical product doesn’t matter and the live experience is just about the only tangible thing people can get out of this it makes a lot of sense to me that independent bands should be spending even more time on their live show. Yet so few do! They seem to think it will come naturally, not thinking about the importance of choreography.
The key thing that not a lot of people understand about this whole thing is that you don’t need to be a good musician to be a good performer, you need to be ready to perform. It’s one of those big secrets that no one seems to want to admit, because there is something extremely exclusionary about that. People seem to think that you can’t be taught how to be a good performer and this is patently untrue, in fact there are a few keys to being a good performer and I think that anyone who looks is going to know what defines those things. Obviously these things can vary from band to band, but I think that when you pick apart some of your favorite performers and what they do then you are going to pretty rapidly find a few defining traits that I think can be used in order to help grow your live show and turn into something special rather than just thinking that the show will magically come together somehow in a weird, magical and powerful way.
A lot of people on stage seem to refuse to acknowledge their audience.
This is a multi level thing that people ignore. First and foremost is the fact that a lot of bands don’t even try to put on a show. They don’t try to pull moves on stage they don’t banter with the audience, they just kind of play, and most of the time that doesn’t work. Even the bands that choose not to talk to the audience try and have some semblance of a stage show. It might be understated, but even if they move across the stage with confidence and a bold appreciation for what they do then they find quite a bit more success. This is part of the whole inherent growth found in the music industry, you need to be willing to engage in shit and make sure that it grows with you rather than just doing whatever doesn’t make you too scared. I get that’s a hard thing to do, but it’s also what you need to do if you want folks to be excited about what your band has to say.
The other key thing to be aware of is that you need to know your audience.
Be aware of what they are probably into and what they are probably not into, figure out which of your own interests are going to appeal to them and don’t ramble about stuff that doesn’t matter. That is to say, it doesn’t matter what your opinion of late 19th century anarchist politics is when you’re playing to a honky tonk bar, and similarly, if you’re performing to a group of twenty somethings it’s probably not wise to talk about your love for Donald Trump. There’s always going to be a few layers to any live show and multiple demographics represented in any audience, but you need to be able to identify what some of the core interests are and build upon that. This should be a part of your marketing plan, figuring out what your typical audience is going to want to hear and then coming up with some lines that make sense for them to connect with.
Finally, it’s important to be aware of the other acts on the bill and in your scene.
It’s important to realize what other bands in the scene are doing, look at what they do that connects with other people and similarly try to see which bands people are just sitting through and figure out exactly why they are just sitting through them. It’s usually pretty easy to see why a band isn’t connecting with an audience. Usually it’s because they don’t have that charisma. They try to hard and fall over their own feet. It’s embarrassing to watch local bands a lot of the time simply because they don’t understand where they are in life and they try too hard to be rock stars. They should be selling a different type of fantasy, one of “You can do this too!” but instead they emulate the wrong people and alienate potential fans. It’s a very real struggle and finding the balance in terms of how you want to sell your band is never going to be an obvious thing.
At the end of the day – try and ask your friends for critiques of your live show, play with a little more energy and you should start to get somewhere reasonable. You need to be cognizant of where you are in life and then sit down and reevaluate your position so that you can continue to grow your brand on the stage, the place where it really matters. The stage is the single biggest struggle for bands trying to make it, and most of them will never get past a very basic level because they never learn how to create a performance that people really care about. I know it might feel hokey and silly, but if you’re a truly great performer or at least put the work in then you are going to find a way to make it work.