Live shows are the backbone of the music industry. From Metallica to Madonna and Gaga to Green Day, most of today's icons are as famous for their explosive live performances as they are for their album sales.
Finely-tuned stage shows aren't just for superstars, either. With file sharing growing at an ever-increasing rate, playing live is fast becoming the emerging artist's main source of income, and a skill that any budding musician needs to master. Of course, getting up to play in front of an audience can be a nerve-wracking experience at the best of times, and one that can even become a chore for some musicians. These five tips will help to give your live playing extra punch, and make sure your show stays fun for audience and performer alike.
Get into the music
If you're not absorbed by your playing then the crowd won't be either. Appearing to enjoy yourself onstage – even if you're secretly terrified – gives your audience the cue to enjoy themselves as well. Let yourself get lost in the music: move about, jump around, close your eyes during the tender bits; whatever works for you.
Respond to the crowd
Involving the crowd in your performance is a key part of a successful live set. However, different crowds respond to different actions, so be prepared to think on your feet if you feel you're losing them. For example, if people sneak off to the bar during your between song banter, then cut it down a a minimum for the rest of the set.
Don't fear mistakes
It's impossible to completely avoid onstage mistakes – even the biggest acts make them. If you can accept that fact and learn to calmly carry on when slip-ups occur, you'll find it much easier to settle into your performance. Remember: most of the time the audience won't even realise you've gone wrong.
Give the audience a focal point
A gig is as much a visual performance as it is an aural one. While having a conventional frontperson isn't a necessity as such, you do need to think about that the crowd sees while you're performing. Audiences subconsciously focus on the centre front of the stage, so by putting your most charismatic band member in the middle you'll be giving them what they want without them even realising.
Practice, practice, practice!
There's no substitute for practice. Working on your songs until they become second nature frees you up to fully concentrate on your performance, and will give you a visible self-confidence boost too.
Playing live music is easy, but playing it well is extremely hard. These tips should give you a solid grounding to launch your playing career, but as a musician and performer you'll never stop learning. Ultimately, live performance is all about confidence. If you know your material is good, and you know you can play that material well, then you're setting yourself up for some excellent gig experiences.