Tom Jackson (onstagesuccess.com) has developed a career as a Live Music Producer. What does that mean? It means that his interest is in helping performers produce a remarkable live show. If you get a chance to see Tom speak, or to check out some of his video, don’t pass on the opportunity. He has a host of great lessons for performers of all levels (for example, he’s credited for the live production of some of Taylor Swift’s bigger television appearances).
Some of Tom’s observations are so simple, yet so effective. One in particular is to control the attention of the audience and direct that attention to where the important action is taking place on-stage.
At every point in your live show, there’s something musically important to deliver to the audience. At a given point, that might be the lyrics of the song, or it could be a musician taking a solo. It could be the integration of all the performers hitting an important stop together.
When there’s something important to deliver to your audience, the last thing you want is for them to be hunting for the source of the moment. Perhaps your drummer is singing. When the audience has to look around for a while to determine who is singing, the moment is lost. Maybe the bass player is performing a meaningful musical motif. This moment is lost if the lead singer is busy gyrating and drawing attention away from the bass player. If the important moment of the show is the lead singer dancing, then by all means, take it away.
Frame the Picture
Just as your musical arrangement of the song has “lead” and “supporting” parts, your stage presentation of the song should aim to direct attention towards the “lead” parts. It’s not enough to simply “play your part” when you’re not meant to be the focus of attention. Go further, and help direct attention to the right part of the stage.
- Lead vocalists – when you’re not singing, move your face away from the microphone and look over to the appropriate focal point of the stage. The audience will look where you’re looking. When it’s time to begin singing again, approach the microphone and invite the attention of the audience back to you.
- Musicians – whenever you can help direct the audience’s attention to a better place on the stage, do that by facing your body and your attention to the right place on the stage. If something musically important is about to happen behind you, get the hell out of the way and show the audience where the important stuff is happening.
- Harmony singers – since you’re not the lead vocalist, then it’s generally a bad idea for you to be doing your “deep in the groove” dance. Anything that visually draws attention away from the most important elements being delivered, takes your audience out of the action. Save that dance for when you’re singing lead vocals.
Support the Intention
Do everything in your power to help support the unified presentation of the stage show, and to avoid distracting attention away from the important elements. Show all of the moving parts – don’t hide anything – but avoid distracting from the key elements.
And, as much as we’d all like to think we’re fantastic enough to do this spontaneously, REHEARSE IT. Discuss the stage choreography and practice it as much as you practice the musical parts.
Be the act – solo or band – that puts energy and thought into the visual presentation of your live show. The end result will be a live show that your audience wants to talk about, to all their friends who were unfortunate enough to miss it, this time around.