[Expert Musician Advice] 12 Easy Ways to Make the Audience Love You
by Jessica Brandon
1) Know Your Audience
If you are performing in front of an older, “folky” audience, make sure you are friendly and approachable in a way that is a great way to relate, and yet in total command of the show.
In other words, be the master entertainer, and THEY were clearly the audience, but at the same time, you are one of them.
There’s no way around it – you have to engage your fans as much as possible if you want to maintain and grow your band’s following. It’ll require consistent effort on your part to keep them aware of you, deepen the relationships, and ultimately create superfans who will help promote you and support your career in the long run.
TAKEAWAY: Know who you’re performing for – ask ahead of time about the expected makeup of the audience, and confirm that information with your own two eyes before you start your set. Go into each performance knowing exactly what you’re going to do so you can focus on the audience and their needs. (And have a few plan B’s in case things aren’t going as you’d hoped.)
- Scan The Audience Throughout
Look at your audience members, walked back and forth across the front of the stage, and generally checked in throughout his set.
Have the house lights at least partially up each time you perform so you can see faces and gauge reactions.
Do they look engaged? Bored? Too serious? Time for a fast song?
TAKEAWAY: Monitor the audience throughout your show and respond accordingly.
3) Have a Backup Plan
You never truly know how an audience will react to your performance until you’re live on stage. It’s important to check in with the crowd throughout your set and respond accordingly. If they look bored after a series of slower songs, jump into a fast-paced performance with lots of movement. If they aren’t fully engaged, take some time to banter with a few members of the audience as you prepare for the next song. Do what works for you and your band, and keep track of the techniques you enjoy using to interact with the crowd. You can even use past concert videos to study how you looked on stage and what seemed to inspire the best reactions from the crowd.
4) Get Them Involved
Again, this was a folk music audience, so they jumped right in at the chance to sing along. But the performer also had a question or two for the audience, and a call and response piece.
In my own experience, I haven’t met an audience yet – younger or older, nightclub or library – that doesn’t like to participate in some way in the show.
TAKEAWAY: Find ways to encourage participation in what you’re doing, whether that’s during some of your pieces, or in between, or both.
Just before playing something really special and technically demanding, the performer made fun of his own lack of smarts in the song introduction. It lightened the mood and made him that much more relatable.
Then, he killed the audience with a serious piece of music that was extremely well played.
TAKEAWAY: This is certainly not for everyone, but consider how you might take yourself a bit less seriously on stage.
6) Rivet Them With Something Exceptional
See the point above.
TAKEAWAY: If you have something technically brilliant that you can pull off – something that most of your audience would not be able to do – it’s one of your aces in the hole and should be placed strategically in your set.
7) Make Them Laugh
There was plenty of that, with a song about “Alternative Facts” and some humorous stories between songs.
TAKEAWAY: Humor is perhaps the greatest ice breaker, and everyone likes to laugh. Find some ways to add humor to your show. Your audience will love it, and it makes them that much more receptive to everything else you do.
8) Speak To (and Expand on) Their Interests
I remembered seeing a performer who spoke of pioneering folk music figure Woody Guthrie – a musician of interest to lots of people in the room – but took it beyond the garden variety stories to relate Woody’s work to the entire ethos of folk music and the human condition.
It was powerful.
TAKEAWAY: Develop some great, authentic stories around something of interest to your audience – something to take them to the next place in their appreciation of that topic.
9) Change Up The Mood
There was humor, there was serious music, there was singing along, there was activism and community empowerment, there was affirmation, there were slow songs and fast songs played on a variety of instruments.
Think about it – have you ever been wowed by the abilities of a virtuoso musician, only to become completely bored 15 minutes into the concert (and then feel guilty about it)?
Too much of any one thing – however good – is just TOO much.
TAKEAWAY: Variety is the spice of life. Look for ways to mix things up in your set.
10) Have Fun!
It’s easy to feel like you’re focusing too much on the crowd and not enough on your performance. Joy is infectious, and if you’re having a good time, that emotion will transfer to your audience. Try to find ways to express your enthusiasm, whether it involves moving around the stage or chatting with the crowd.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned performer recording a concert video or just breaking out onto the rock concert scene—interacting with your audience will make a substantial difference in your overall performance. You’ll find new fans, improve your stage presence, and create lasting memories—and those benefits are priceless.
If you were smiling, laughing, and generally enjoying yourself on stage, this will make a difference that makes for the audience.
TAKEAWAY: Learn how to portray a sense of fun, even when you’re struggling to find it yourself. Audiences feed off of it, and they can’t help but enjoy themselves when the performer is having such a good time.
11) Storytelling Skills
Everyone loves a good story – so use a narrative format to weave your concert pieces together. Is there a theme of sorts that guided your program? Use story-like introductions and factual information to ensure the audience understands it.
Try slight pauses, changing dynamics to the voice, try whispered sections. A feeling that the performer was in total command of his narratives.
TAKEAWAY: What you’re really doing on stage is communicating, so study the discipline of storytelling. Listen to great storytellers and how they pace their narratives. It will pay off in spades.
There was lots of subtle performance craft going on – the kinds of things you probably wouldn’t even notice unless you were looking for them.
A raised picking hand at the end of a song. Hand gestures to encourage singing. A turn of the body to signify a shift in mood.
A well orchestrated bow, with guitar outstretched, at the end of the set.
TAKEAWAY: Watch some master performers and even stage actors and look closely for these kinds of techniques. Find the ones that could fit your style and start messing around with them. Physical cues and stagecraft are understated but important aspects of putting on a dynamic performance.
For more information on the 15th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), please go to: http://www.inacoustic.com