Why do some musicians achieve super-stardom while others never leave their local dive bar gig? The complete answer to that question cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs but one major factor is often overlooked by bands: when you are on stage, you need to put on a show! Many musicians believe that if they just play every note perfectly while standing on stage, everyone will love them and throw money and record deals at them. But let’s be real, your music may be truly great but that is not enough.

When people come to see you perform live, they are giving you their time, money, and attention. This should not be taken lightly. After all, if commercial success is what you desire, you must learn to truly appreciate and value your audience. They could be anywhere doing anything but they chose to come to your show. Now make it worth their while!

With music streaming and YouTube, the listener has access to more music than they could ever want. So why should they come to your gig, especially if they could listen at home for free? No door charge, no lines, no expensive drinks, no dirty bathrooms; they could be comfortable in their home or somewhere with headphones on and enjoy your music. So why go to your show?

When you are on stage, don’t just stand there and play. Perform! This can be achieved in many ways and will mean something different to every act but here are a few ideas:

Move. If your music is energetic, then jump around. Your movement will serve as a template for what the audience should do. If you want them to dance, then dance with them. If you want them to sway, sway along. If you are standing still, they are likely to do the same. Many people want to be out moving and feeling the music, so give them an example. This will also be more interesting to watch and allow you to more fully commit to the performance.

Dress up. This is different for each act but in almost all cases, it is better to dress for your music than to look like you just walked in off the street. You don’t have to be extreme or extravagant, but don’t be scared to put on something nice (or something terrible if your music calls for it). When you go to a big production show, are the performers wearing what they wear to work or to the grocery store? Probably not; there’s a reason for that. Coordinating clothing for your show increases your production value.

Use effects. While they can be expensive, stage effects can have a huge impact on your performance. You don’t have to break the bank but get some lights, a fog/haze machine, or some colorful backdrops. Anything that gives your audience something to look at while you perform. Don’t make it distracting, but incorporating visuals that enhance your performance makes your show look more professional. The goal is to be larger than life! People want to get lost in the experience of your show, so encourage that.

Be confident. If you look nervous or uncomfortable, people will notice and it is not a good look for a performer. Rehearse your stuff, practice like you play, be comfortable moving about the stage or playing your instrument, and talk to the audience when appropriate. If you are relaxed and having fun, so will the crowd. Again, you strongly dictate the audience’s mood and movement, so give the energy you want to receive.

With the internet, people have all the options they could ever desire for entertainment, so give them a reason to come to your gig. It takes effort, there’s no doubt, but make your shows something people really want to experience. You want to create buzz and you are unlikely to do so if you show up in typical clothing and just stand there on stage looking awkward (unless that is what you are going for). Get out there, put on a great show every time (no matter the size of the crowd), and give your audience something to remember.

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Educated but self-effacing, opinionated but reticent, and unabashedly eccentric; Alex aka Squatch is the lead writer for Squatchful.com. A life-long musician, he founded the blog in the interest of helping independent artists gain exposure and to provide insight into navigating the creative arts industry.

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