The vast majority of your audience has come to your show to have a good time -says Tom Jackson.
Many years ago, I worked with a band who totally transformed their show by adding a simple moment of fun.
There were three people in the band, and when they got on stage, they were good musically, but not physically. They didn’t move. They were totally serious, played through their songs and that was the end.
Off stage, however, they were funniest people I’ve every worked with. They were always poking fun at each other.
Two band members were southerners, and married with a boat-load of kids. The other band member was a northerner and not married and, as we often pointed out, easily the best looking guy in the group! It was a running joke.
The Serious Band That Transformed
Since they weren’t great physically, I said, “Let’s do fun a different way.” I told them to get some stools, and part way through the show, when they began introducing each other, I told them to sit down. I told them to start drilling each other like they always had done off-stage.
They started out something like this, “Everyone, this is Randy, he has 6 kids…”, “Wait, what?”, “You have that many kids!?”, “Wow, what do you do in your spare time?”
Once they started drilling each other, the audience thought they were hilarious. They were able to be totally loose, even though they had never been that way on stage.
In one show, some time later, they were just killing it during this section, and one of the guys started doing his Donald Duck voice. It was so funny that they ended up doing an entire song in Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck voices.
They have had ten number one songs in the course of their career, and even to this day, people tell me they remember the Donald Duck voice!
They were hilarious when they were having fun, and we found a way to bring it to the stage.
I gave them the vision for how to do it, and they were willing to take a chance.
Your Audience Wants to Have Fun
I have talked to thousands of people about why they go to see live music. The vast majority of them – probably 90% – give me the same answer: “to have fun”.
When I think of the hundreds and of artists I work with however, most of them don’t know how to work any kind of fun into their show.
“Well, that’s just not me”, they say.
“That’s not true,” I say.
You may see yourself as a shy or serious person, yet if I followed you around for a whole week, I bet I’d catch you laughing your head off at a party, high-fiving a friend, or sprinting wildly after the bus.
We all have fun and loose moments somewhere in our lives. You just have to find the right way to bring that to the stage.
Two Ways To Create Fun on Stage
There are two ways to create fun moments for your audience.
- Find the fun or excitement that is already in your life and look for the right way to bring it on stage (like in the example above).
- Adapt tried and true techniques that you have seen other artists use.
Painting By Numbers
The second way you can bring fun moments into your show, is by using what I call the “painting-by-numbers” approach. In other words, notice something others are doing, then make it your own.
When you use a paint-by-numbers guide to create a painting, the outline is done for you. You just fill in the colors. Your end result is not original, but it looks good when you are done.
Using someone else’s ideas and techniques is a great way to learn; in fact, it is how I started as a musician.
I started by emulating the artists that I loved.
Emulation became Influence. Influence became originality. It is the same process for learning any new skill, including creating fun moments on stage.
Reinvent things you’ve seen using your own songs, your band and your personality.
The Old Dueling Audience Trick
Imagine this scenario: an artist on stage says, “OK, everybody, I am going to sing something and you sing it back. Can you do that? Yeah? Can you do that!?! Yeah?!”
Then half way through, the artist says to a bandmate, “You know what John? I think this side is louder than that side…” and so on.
How many times have you seen that script being used? Probably a lot!
Since it is used so much, you might worry that the audience is thinking, “Oh this is cheesy, I hate this.”
Not a chance! They are screaming. They love it.
Plan For Fun at Your Next Show
Building a fun moment into your show begins with a vision. You have to have a clear idea in your head of what your fun moment will look like, and where you will put it in your show.
Then you need to work it in rehearsal. Once you’ve experimented in rehearsal, try it on stage. Then you’ll need to tweak it over several performances.
Having a plan does not mean you are eliminating spontaneity – it just means you know what you are trying to accomplish. Having a good plan can help bring out even more spontaneity, because you know what you are trying to do.
Once you and your audience experience a fun moment on stage, you’ll never go back to the way you were before.
Tom Jackson is the author of Tom Jackson’s Live Music Method, and the DVD series All Roads Lead To The Stage. He tours internationally as a live music producer and speaker as well as being the founder of Live Music Cares, which helps touring musicians bring awareness and fundraising to charitable organizations. Find out more about Tom at On Stage Success and Tom Jackson Productions.
Tom’s team of certified live music producers includes Lang Bliss, who will be contributing this month’s feedback for our singing competition entries.
Lang Bliss has played and sung with award-winning artists including Michael W. Smith, Rich Mullins, Michael McDonald, and has been a songwriter for BMG publishing. Find out more about Lang Bliss.
Here is Lang’s feedback for this week’s competition entry:
My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry
Arthur Daniels - Lonely Boy
I like Arthur’s approach to the tune; he’s got an interesting thing going on, on guitar, and sort of an 80’s New Wave approach to his vocal style; which he’s probably not doing on purpose but it does set him apart from a lot of other singers in his age group which I think is a positive.
I’d recommend a little different approach on the arrangement of the guitar part though, that might help the song not lose energy when he goes to the single note melody lines. It is a “bigger picture” recommendation to make the song more his own by not feeling like it has to be exactly like the recording.