Stage presence is a term that gets thrown around quite a bit these days. As live performances become a bigger piece of the economics in the music industry, knowing that an artist is going to be a well-rounded entertainer gives confidence to managers, promoters, venues, and other influencers who can open doors.
We pay close attention to this as we watch hundreds of shows every week. A few do’s and dont's start to emerge:
1) Have a purpose. Treat every show as an opportunity to promote yourself and your work broadly, but also have a specific objective in mind. Are you there to grow your Twitter followers by impressing fans of the band that’s playing before/after you? Are you there to sell your latest album? Are you there to wow a specific industry person in the room? Yes, it’s always “all of the above” but if you communicate too many messages, people will start to get lost.
2) Self-deprecation is cute and funny...when you do it once. It’s amazing how often artists make fun of themselves repeatedly in front of a live audience. It’s charming if you say “My piano skills are a bit rusty, but I’ll give it a go” and then blow the room away and continue strong with the momentum. It’s a different story when you repeatedly remind us how broke you are, how you may forget the lyrics, how your album may not be that good. In a world of unlimited options for music, it’s just not funny!
3) If you’re selling merch or albums, act like you’re proud of your product. If you've spent your time and money on creating a product, you should be proud of it - so act like it! Some say a product is only worth how much people are willing to spend on it, so plant the seed of positivity, pick an affordable price, commit to it and spread the word. Your merch is an extension of your brand - not a church gift basket.
4) Who are you again? How do we find you? People shuffle in and out of the room. We wouldn’t suggest repeating your name after every song, but have the discipline to clearly announce who you are at the start and at the end. Simultaneously give people your simplest online URL – when you tell people 6 URL’s, they won’t remember any. If you couldn’t avoid using an “_1” in your Instagram, skip it and just tell people your Facebook or website. They should be able to find all your links there anyway. If you need help setting up and maintaining your social media, check out management.livamp.com
5) Arrogance may work for rap superstars but why would it work for you? We recently saw a show at a half-full, 100 capacity bar where the artist stopped mid-song to yell at a few members of the audience for being too noisy. Yes, it’s annoying and disrespectful as hell but you just aren’t there yet. Similarly, if your general attitude reads “I’m too good to be here”, please remind yourself that what works for Kanye isn’t the right template for an up-and-coming indie band.
6) Save the inside jokes for the after-gig cocktails. It’s awesome that your friends made it out to the show! Definitely give a shout out and thank them. But don’t start a prolonged sidebar conversation making fun of your best friend’s funny sweater – this is not your happy hour, you’re there to pick up new fans.
7) We’re here for the music, not a sh*tty comedy show. Charm is everything and humor plays a big part in it. Non-stop dad jokes after every song are a) a lottery + b) a distraction. Polish your performance by striking the right balance between lightening the mood after a dark ballad with something short and sweet without trying to make us laugh every time you open your mouth.
8) Engage with fans after the show. There's no better way to gain a fan than serenading them and following it up with some real conversation. Stick around for a drink or two at the venue and mingle - you never know who you'll meet.
9) Cross the t’s and dot the I’s. This one is obvious but always worth repeating. At the end of every show, thank the sound engineer, the venue and/or the promoter who booked you. You may have thought there was not enough bass in your monitor and you’re very frequently going to think you’re being underpaid, but again, suck it up and go off with style and grace. Remember, you’re playing for the audience – they need to see you as a decent human being. Unless, once again, you’re going for that Kanye thing.
10) Do what works for you. Know who you are as a brand, and work with it. You can't be everything to everyone - but what you can do is understand yourself as both a musician and an enterprise and use that to your advantage. Comparing Ed Sheeran's stage presence to that of Beyonce's is like comparing apples to oranges, but when it comes down to it, they're both grade A fruit.
Let us know if you disagree or if we're missing some tips that may be helpful to other musicians! And if you'd like to chat about how we can help with all the boring computer work (social media, bookings, blogs, etc) that's distracting you from rehearsing send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org!