From my perspective there is not much more demoralizing as a musician than playing for an audience that’s talking loudly, on their cellphones, staring blankly or otherwise showing you they could give a crap about your performance. On stage if feels so disrespectful. You’ve put your blood, sweat and tears in your music and you gotta deal with someone who treats you like annoying acoustic wallpaper.
But you know what?! I believe most of the time, the fault lies with the musician.
5 Common Show Planning Mistakes
1. You played all your best songs first
Patience and timing are key. In the same way you wouldn’t want someone to spoil the ending of an exciting movie you are watching, give your audience something to look forward to. Definitely start off with one or two of your best songs to get your audience locked in, but remember this is a long game. The goal is to keep your audience excited and engaged to the end.
2. Slow songs back to back
With few exceptions, most audiences prefer a nice mix of music. Be mindful of your tempos and provide a nice mix. I encourage all of my performance coaching clients to write down the bpm next to each song on their setlists. Furthermore, think about how you’d feel if you were in the audience listening to your set. If you aren’t excited, likely your audience won’t be either.
3. Covers that are too typical
Unless you are building a tribute band or are playing a tribute or theme show, focus on cover songs that people love but wouldn’t necessarily expect from you. Putting classic hit songs in your set makes it a lot easier for the audience to connect with what you are doing and definitely grabs their attention. Youtube is full of these viralexamples.
4. Too many covers and not enough originals
It’s easy to play it safe in your shows by giving your audience tons of covers, but “make sure you are playing your sh**!” as one of my dear friends told me many years ago. I always love this question when playing originals that sound amazing – hey, “was that song you played after __________ a cover or an original?”
5. You’ve created a setlist but not a show
Lastly and most importantly, start with the end in mind. Remember the setlist is the recipe and the show is the four course meal. Instead of simply thinking about getting through the next 30, 60, or 120 minutes, put your focus on creating a captivating show. People remember experiences that are special and if you take the time to create something unique you just might have a fan for life.
Neeki is a traveler, musician, performance coach, composer, writer, gardener, landlord, and is happiest when helping others grow. He has a "start with love" approach to healthy living, working, and being.