In a city full of talented songwriters and artists, it is tough to differentiate yourself from the competition you face at every bar, restaurant and coffee shop. You can’t go grab a bite to eat or even visit the farmer’s market without seeing your competition up on the tiny stage with their tip bucket and acoustic guitar in hand. With so much to compete with, it’s easy to file into line with everyone else and do what you think they are doing so that you can find equal (or even more) success.
What can you do to make yourself stand out from the ever-constant noise of Music City? What can you do in your hometown that will make you the go-to singer or musician for every event?
We had the pleasure of welcoming Live Music Producer, Tom Jackson to our lineup of speakers at Tin Pan Songwriting Seminar this past year. After his session, we asked him to share valuable tips on performance and practices that could be hindering you from reaching your full potential on stage. Whether it be an arena, your local venue stage, or a friend's back porch, if you don’t know how to perform, the audience won’t want to watch.
“If you want to make a living doing this, you will have to dot your i’s and cross your t’s because the competition is fierce.”
Here are some of the noteworthy performance tools from our interview with Tom:
• Rearrange your songs for live performances. You may be feeling it, but your audience may not. When trying new songs out for an audience, have a friend take notes on how the audience is reacting. Sometimes talking too much or talking too little makes an audience less responsive to you. You have to figure out your niche and run with it, and like most experts in their field, this comes from research!
• Learn your instrument. For your first few (or first 100) gigs in town (and especially for out of towners), you may be your only bandmate. You need to feel comfortable playing your melodies to a crowd. If you feel awkward with your instrument, I promise the audience will feel awkward watching you with it. Like Tom said, Ed Sheeren is his own band. If the bus broke down and he was already at a venue, the show would still go on because he knows his instrument.
• Arrange your songs to create moments! How many times have you been out with friends celebrating something and a performer at a bar or restaurant totally kills the mood with a heartbreaking ballad after a 5-song set with party jams? Once you are Garth Brooks and everyone knows the words to your own version of “The Dance,” then a ballad will suffice at any given time in your set. Until then, know your setting. If you are playing a wedding, focus on the feeling of love and happiness. If you are singing at a county fair, don’t sing a song about how cold winters are without your man/woman. The best moments are created organically and usually come from an artist paying attention to the crowd and treating them accordingly.
Lastly, in the words of Tom Jackson: “If you want to do this, WORK at it!”
Go work, you creative souls!