Chris Herndon on What Makes a Good Live Show

Flabbergaster Music
Within the last decade, our society has experienced a momentous shift in the way we receive and experience music. At one point, artists were able to make a moderate living off of recorded music while touring to support their record. Those days are to a minimum—nearly a dim memory, at this point. The stage is, and has always been, a musician’s full-time platform because it is where they influence others the most. It is very frustrating to see an artist who cannot match their studio efforts with their live presence. Here, we will discuss the live aspect of music and the importance behind good stage presence, how it effect’s the audience, and ultimately—your career.

Good stage presence is no accident. It with comes strategy, manners, and a sense of humility. Being a musician on the rise is comparable to running for office—you have to give people a reason to want to listen to you. Artists that have captivated their audience over a long period of time may have a better grip on their listeners, but even then, they have to be proactive; it doesn’t hurt to plan out your show, either, whether it is getting everyone to jump at the same time, teaching the crowd a new song and giving them the mic for them to yell into during their favorite parts, or using Adobe Audition to make an alluring intro (which most bands are doing these days).

Bands are becoming very creative in refining their stage presence because it is where their talent shines and their inspiration reaches those who matter the most—their fans. Vocalist Jordan Pundik from New Found Glory specified that he learned to get in the crowd’s face from all the hardcore bands they played with in NFG's early days—playing shows as teenagers in a pop punk band. He said he adapted his stage presence based upon that, but also learned that kids come to shows because they want to be entertained; they want to walk away knowing their time and money were well spent, and even have the feeling that their contribution mattered to the band. Jordan said that 10 years ago, but I recently caught NFG at Warped Tour, and they haven’t compromised their stage values one bit. They are still engaging, and they still put on a memorable show.

A steady flow between songs helps keep an audience occupied by motivating them to engage beyond the bare minimum. It is not necessary to pause after every song and tell the audience what the song is about. Instead, maybe pick one or two songs that have the most significance behind them and share it, on the condition that it motivates the audience in a relevant way. When there is no reason to pause, have a song transition in mind so there is no dead air. Stage presence also means knowing the "when and where" when it comes to rocking out, and what is appropriate for each genre. If you play like Matchbox 20, rocking out like you’re August Burns Red may appear silly and confuse the audience. However, there is also a double standard attached to it—artists must also have the courage to try something new but should also know when to quit if it seems counter-productive.

The live aspect of music remains to be the driving force behind a musician’s career because society has deemed it so. People would rather go to a live show and buy merch than have to pay for an overpriced cd, and money earned from sales on iTunes are comparable to sprinkles on a cupcake. Recorded music is still a valid medium, but there is nothing compared to a good live show where the set list flows just right and the stage presence shines. Historically speaking, we are back to where we started—with a few modifications. Bottom line: touring and playing live (and playing live well) is what it takes to succeed as a musician in the modern day and age…and succeeding is a term I will not use lightly on this subject. Playing music because you love it has greatly surpassed the desire for fortune and fame—something that is gradually falling to the wayside.

—C.Herndon, Flabbergaster Music

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