Posted: Aug 20, 2018
Category: Live Performance
**Guest post written by Anitra Jay of TheCraftyMusician.com.
"The difference between a really good show and a terrible show is not how good the music was, but how good the connection was between you and your audience. How many times have you come out of a great concert where you had trouble recalling all the songs that were played, but remember all the jokes that were said and how good you felt throughout the entire show? That’s because the performer connected with you on an emotional level. There’s an invisible line between the stage and the audience and unless you break that line and make a real connection with them, your show will be just another show - nothing life-changing or memorable. The best way to break the ice and make a connection with your audience is by employing some skillful stage banter.
Stage bantering may feel odd and awkward at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize that performing live is more like hosting a party. Your the host and your audience are your guests. You’re in control of the mood and the environment. They will go wherever you take them, literally and metaphorically. Here are 5 stage bantering tricks that will help you break the ice with your audience and give them a show they will never forget...
Being able to use content from a live audience right on the spot based on their participation is one of the best things you can do to create a positive connection with them. The best part about it is that you don’t have to work too hard to come up with material because it’s usually provided to you by the participants. You can incorporate improv games into your songs by asking volunteers from the audience to fill in blanks. You can do a musical version of Mad Libs. You can make up a song on the spot with your audience. The possibilities are endless. What makes this tactic work so well? Your audience is engaged and caught up in suspense hanging on your every line waiting to see what happens next. One of the things I like to do that works like a charm is strike up a conversation with someone. Let’s say the person’s name is Joe, and he tells me he’s from Atlanta. I’ll have Joe tell me what he does for a living, what his hobbies are, how he ended up at the venue, and whatever else I can think of. Right after that I introduce my next song titled, “Joe From Atlanta.” The whole song is about the guy I was just talking to. Everyone in the audience loves it. The person I did the song about is cracking up. Their friends are recording everything, and the entire room is dying laughing. It works every single time. Improvisational comedy that incorporates audience participation creates a one-of-a-kind experience because each show will be different. Audience members will have a personal experience with you that they will remember forever.
Even if you’re not comfortable with improv, you can still use audience participation in other ways. Just like at a party, striking up a conversation can spark a connection. Simply talk to people right from the stage and be yourself. You never know what can come about. Some of my best bantering moments are me having little conversations with people in the audience in between songs. Get to know people and call them out by name throughout your set when applicable. Ask them questions. Dedicate songs to them based on something they said. Create an atmosphere of open dialogue. This especially works well in intimate venues, house concerts, etc.
In between songs, another thing you can do is talk about interesting things that have happened to you. Have you had any close calls with death, interesting encounters with celebrities, ghosts, or animals? Is there a unique experience you had locally that your audience would be able to relate to? Because who doesn’t love a good story? Storytelling is a great way to engage your audience. It’s most fun when the story relates to a song somehow. For example, if you did happen to encounter a ghost, write a song about it and add it to your set. Introduce the song with your really cool ghost story. That will definitely make for an unforgettable set.
Teaching a group of people creates an automatic connection between you and them. It doesn’t really matter what you’re teaching as long as it’s easy to learn and flows naturally with your set. There are lots of things you can teach people at your shows. Dances, sing alongs, call and response songs, and howling are just a few of the things you can teach an audience pretty quickly and have fun with. One band taught their audience how to do a rain dance and people said it was an incredibly ethereal experience. Imagine taking your audience with you on that kind of journey. Wouldn’t that be a surreal and memorable experience for them?
I once told an audience that I had forgotten to put on deodorant and warned them not to get too close when they see me at the merch table after the show. One person yelled ‘TMI’ and the whole audience started laughing. Many people came up afterward despite my forewarning or maybe because of it! It was a hot topic in conversations after the show. There’s something about just being human and vulnerable with your audience that makes you approachable. Be careful not to over share though. It could have the opposite effect.
Ultimately, people come to see us because they need to be taken away to another world. Yes, being a musician requires skill and practice. But getting your lyrics right and executing your guitar riffs perfectly is only a small percentage of the bigger picture when it comes to performing in front of a live audience. You are responsible for facilitating a mental, emotional, and sometimes even spiritual journey for your audience. Your music brings people to a state of mind and brings about a feeling that they want and crave. This performance philosophy is the bedrock of a good show. It’s how you make a connection with your audience, which can all be done with good stage bantering. "
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Anitra Jay is an acoustic soul singer-songwriter based in Houston, TX. She tours regularly up and down the US from Vermont to Texas and everywhere in between. Her music is a sultry down to earth blend of soul, pop, and gospel. In addition to being a full-time performer, Anitra runs TheCraftyMusician.com, a blog for indie artists sharing actionable tips and advice on how to promote, develop, establish a fanbase, and more. Her passion is to inspire other musicians and build a community of like-minded independent artists to encourage and promote successful careers in the arts. She appeared on HGTV’s Tiny House Hunters in May of 2017 to share her music story and her Tiny House Journey with the world. For more promotions hacks, download Anitra’s Free eBook, 100 Ways to Promote Your Music.