Lessons about performing, lesson 34: Communicate With The Crowd!

Greetings, once again, my dear readers! I’m glad you made it back to the site and I’m very glad you find the time to visit, comment, and encourage. Without you, this would be futile. Without you, I’d have zero reason to continue writing this!

If you don’t know what I’m doing, then it’s pretty simple. I’m telling you all the shit you need to know – should you be insane enough to try to make a living as a performing musician. Instead of just telling you not to do it, I’m telling you the things that you can do if you want to increase your chances of success.

Here’s the full list and I encourage folks to read it – even if they’re not musicians. I’m told that there’s a lot of lessons in there that apply to other folk’s jobs and to their lives in general. Some of them may seem like pretty basic things, but I mention them because I see people not doing them and then wondering why they’re not seeing much success in their musical career.

This next lesson is inspired by one of our readers and regular contributors. It’s the result of me giving them a quick lesson, as they’ve recently taken to the stage and begun to play in exchange for money. As such, they’re going to make mistakes and they’ve been a pretty good source for article ideas.

In fact, if you go way back through the list, you’ll see them mentioned a number of times. Why? It was a couple of conversations and a few comments that prompted me to make this list in the first place. Most of those conversations with with our beloved Mr. Eyes.

So, if you have any questions or ideas, do let us know in the comments. If you don’t want to comment publicly, or if you wish to remain anonymous, then you don’t actually have to use your real name. You can also just use this form right here – and that will send me an email and it will be completely private.

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Rule #34: Communicate with the crowd!

Ol’ @crazy_eyes finished his set and went to grab a beer at the bar and a smoke. He was disheartened to see people leaving. They’d later return and tell him that they’d checked out the other bars and those bars were dead. They also said if they’d known he was going to keep playing, they’d have not left in the first place.

What did he do wrong?

When he went on break, he didn’t tell the audience that he was leaving. He didn’t tell them that he’d be back. He didn’t tell them how long he expected to be gone. He didn’t give them any correct information, so they made incorrect assumptions and acted accordingly.

And, really, who can blame them for leaving? They thought the show was over and went to seek entertainment elsewhere.

This one is pretty much entirely his fault – and he’s learned his lesson, a lesson he’ll probably never forget.

When you go on break, tell the audience that you’re leaving to take a break. Tell them how long you’ll be gone. Tell them that you’ll be back. Make it clear, ’cause you’re probably playing for people who are intoxicated.

It’s also a good time to acknowledge the bartender. It’s a good time to remind folks to tip their servers. It’s a good time to mention any specials that the bar might be having. It’s a good time to relay any other messages that are appropriate.

When you get off the stage for good, let them know that you’re done for the night. Tell them that you’re glad they came, you hope to see them again, and what (if any) back stage events are going to be that they’re invited to. If you’re in a bar, tell them (if appropriate) that you’re going to go hit the dressing room and then you’ll be out to have a drink or two with the audience.

Whatever – but make sure it fits. You need to tell them what’s going on. You need to give them the information they need so that they can make choices that benefit both you and them.

In this case, they didn’t want to leave – they left because they thought the entertainment was over. They wanted to hear him continue to play, but saw him finishing up, not saying he’d be back, and then moving to a different area of the bar.

That could have been prevented. He could have never had that disheartening moment. He could have entertained them even longer. Given that it was during his 4th of July show, he could have possibly had one (or both) of them volunteer to join him on the stage.

He’ll never know what could have been but he will know to inform the audience in the future. And, as he’s new to this, there’s going to be a lot of things that he learned along the way. This isn’t just something a layman picks up and does proficiently, it’s something that takes many years to learn.

It does require a comfort level with regards to speaking to the crowd. Some folks have a harder time speaking to them than they do singing to them. You’ll need to learn what works for you. Don’t be afraid to practice. Don’t be afraid to rehearse.

In fact, you should do those things. Rehearse you banter, close, opening, and break messages. Have friends and family listen. Practice them for hours on end, and do it in a mirror so that you can see your body language. You want to exude confidence and familiarity.

You want to be smooth and, here’s that word again, dynamic. You want to be able to adapt to the situation and give a delivery that is clear, informative, and interesting enough to keep people engaged. Yes, that requires practice and planning. Yes, it requires experience so that you know not just what works, but what works for you in a given situation.

It’s also true that sometimes the crowd can be unruly when you take a break. Yes, those types of venues exist. That’s why you want to be confident and commanding. You’re not asking them to return in 15 minutes. You’re telling them that you’ll be back in 15 minutes and that you expect them to be there waiting for you.

You’re not pleading with them to return. At best, you are inviting them. What you’re really doing is saying, “We’ll be back. Be here or be quiet so that the rest of the people can enjoy the show.” And, again, that’s going to vary with the audience. Most audiences and venues are quite nice.

We also see in the above example that these two people were specifically seeking entertainment. That’s what you’re there for. You’re there to give them the tools they need in order to have a good time. You’re there so that they can be entertained. Never forget that, as it’s the biggest part of your job. Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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