Going on stage and shining like a rockstar when you’re an emerging artist is more than a dream, it’s a realistic objective. Warming up an audience to leave an indelible memory is the culmination of what we make music for. There is something magical about standing up for our music on stage, seeing the live reactions of those for whom our work is intended. But the magic is yours to create, with your music, yes, but also with your stage presence, the way you will behave on stage.
Reciting your songs and lyrics will not be enough, you’ve got to sell it. This is nothing you don’t already know. Still, it’s easier said than done. A live show has to be prepared for—your vibe alone, as charismatic as it is, will not be enough to win over the crowd. You’re going to have to convince your audience, play with them, not at them. So, use this article as a checklist to make the best stage performance possible. It covers everything that we consider essential.
1. The tech rider
No matter how you get a gig, whether you found it or it found you, one of the questions that will come up right away in your exchanges with the venue will be that of the tech rider. No matter the size of the venue or how often they hold concerts, you should be as accurate and fast as possible.
This technical data sheet must include absolutely all your technical specifications. The number of musicians, where they are on stage (make a plan), as well as the number of microphones needed, the patch list (lists of amplified elements). Also inform them of the presence of the sound and light engineers if you have any in your entourage. If necessary, the venue team will provide you with their own.
Beyond the technical aspect of the show itself, think of all the extras, such as your needs in terms of meals and drinks. But be careful not to be a diva of course, no need to ask for special drinks imported from the Japan or green M&Ms only (and yes, there have been such requests). Mention your possible intolerances, everything the prod team needs to know to welcome you as well as possible. Also talk about your means of transport (car, train, etc.) and how you need to be accommodated.
2. Communication around the concert
Playing in front of an empty room happens to everyone, but it’s never pleasant. Play the communication game. To do this, synchronize with the concert organizer on the subject. They will ask you to provide your press kit with good quality photos, a bio, links to your music, and everything else! This allows you to have control over what is said about you, so you remain in control of your music promotion.
Then, relay the visuals that will be sent to you, and talk about your show online. During the day, take videos as much as you can, film backstage, setup, and meeting with your audience after the concert. You might decide not to use them, but just in case, these can make very good materials to tease the next concert or even why not, integrate them into a music video that to boost your music promotion.
Afterwards, talk about the show on your networks, post photos and videos taken during the event, and take the opportunity to thank the people involved in the project, as well as those who came to see you. A successful concert will make you more visible, so do not neglect this aspect.
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3. A good stage performance needs a well-thought-out setlist
Before a live performance, you will obviously have to think about the flow of the concert. We were talking about the information to provide to the venue where you’re performing. Well, also consider providing them with your set list. This is important especially in the event that the venue’s sound and light engineers are running your show, so they can prepare for it beforehand.
How to manage this list when you are a musician just starting out? When you’re famous, the set list is usually built according to the popularity of the artist’s titles. Try to think the same way with the music you have in your repertoire. Highlight your favorite pieces. Start with an energetic title for example, warm up the audience with rhythms that make you want to dance. Continue with calmer, more introspective tracks, to lower the tension and create a form of expectation around the arrival of a more rhythmic title.
Remember that to have a successful stage performance, you have to be both hot and cold. Create tension and then free your audience from it. That’s the roller coaster.
4. Stage performance = audience interaction!
The development of your career obviously involves the artistic aspect, but there is also everything that surrounds your character. The audience must love the music, but also the person who created it. This is how you become a fan. Interactions allow you to partly build this character. Your goal is to create a persona.
There are two types of interactions: one-way and two-way. The latter will make it possible to engage the audience and therefore to better capture their attention. Have them play little games, tell them how to react, guide them. The former is there to give details about your artistic approach as well as thanks and introductions to the team.
These two types are very complementary, but obviously there is no obligation. It is your personality that takes precedence, if you’re not comfortable with interaction, don’t force yourself; it’s counterproductive and the audience will realize it. A few words at the beginning and at the end may suffice, as long as you can feel sincere.
5. Onstage blocking/choreography
You probably know the drill here—you have to fill the stage. To excite a crowd, there’s nothing better than communicating verbally as well as physically. A live show is an opportunity to communicate with your audience, to enter into a symbiotic relationship with them. So, you have to try to reach each of the spectators individually. Look at your crowd, open up to them, they will open up to you.
Not all musicians are made to gesticulate in all directions and jump into the crowd. Fortunately, this is not necessarily the right way to go. As with the verbal interactions in the previous point, spice up your performance as best you can with movements on the stage, but never feel compelled to do so.
Whether or not you’re in tune with the concept, try to plan your movements during the live rehearsals. It will allow you to be more comfortable on stage, and maybe even to plan some form of choreography, alone or with those who will share the stage with you.
6. End your stage performance in style
The last impression you leave is very important. It will engrave itself in the memory of the audience, and make them want to talk about the concert with their friends: “Seriously, onstage, so-and-so was incredible, you have to listen and go see.” That’s the kind of reaction you’re going to want to get. Yes, a concert is above all a way to promote your music. Playing your flagship title, for example, can be a good way to highlight it. Have the audience repeat the chorus, and leave with panache. That’s the final touch. If you decide not to, design your last song this way anyway. Put it center stage.
7. Selling merch
Always with the aim of making your music known, you may have developed a range of merchandising to reflect your musical project. After the concert is the ideal time to sell it. At a time when artists’ incomes are becoming leaner, this is an opportunity to build a budget to support your approach.
But the advantage is not only financial. Run your booth yourself and take the opportunity to connect with those who come to see you. Discuss, ask your audience what they liked about the concert. This is a great way to get feedback from the audience on the spot. This can help you identify things to correct for your next concert!
– Translated by Kole Wright –