This is another one of those things that seem obvious and you would think anyone can do it, but it really is a skill, an art form, that you have to work at. Just because you are a great musician or singer doesn’t mean that you will be a great frontman.
It’s easy to get on stage and think you’re ready to “work the crowd”, but once you get there any number of things can change how you come across. Hecklers, quiet crowds and so on, can throw you off your game. It’s good to have a plan on what you’ll say and even plan on when you’ll talk to keep the pace of your night moving.
So, here we go:
Talk and act naturally, forget what you see at concerts
This is the big one. I know we’ve all been to concerts and heard the singer say things like “it’s really great to be here” and “Hello, (City/State name)”. You can almost count on these things.
My friends and I have used it as a drinking game. If the singer says “it’s really great to be here” then we take a drink. If the singer says the city name we take a drink. If they say the state name, we take two drinks. If they say both, we have to chug whatever we have.
Of course, we only drink soda at concerts…
The best thing you can do is talk naturally. Forget the cliche’ and just be natural. You can use some of the standards if you’re totally stumped, but try to be original and most of all mean what you say. Don’t tell the crowd you love them. You don’t love them. You love that they are there, so say that.
Don’t act the fool. I’ve seen font-men (and women) try to dance when they’ve got no moves, over sing, yell at patrons, try to show up other band members. Stay calm. Know your talents and help your band mates shine.
Plan breaks to talk to the crowd and what you’ll say on those breaks
We usually like to keep the night moving by not stopping between songs. We’ll get to the end of the song and the drummer, or whoever starts the next song, will take us right into the next song.
But, we do sometimes need to stop for tuning, promotions and introductions (more of that in a sec) or to take a drink, so plan this out.
On the set list we will often draw a line between the songs we want to use for a break. So maybe between songs #5 and #6 we’ll draw a line and everyone knows we will break then. If more than one person talks to the crowd you can add their name to the line so everyone knows who will be doing the talking on that break.
I will often put a note about what I plan to say during the break. If I plan to introduce the band, I’ll put a note like “Rus – introductions”. This keeps everything moving really well.
There are almost always hecklers. Think about what you will say to them or how to handle a bad situation.
One of the most important things to do during the show is to promote. If you don’t tell people about you, where you’ll be and so on, they won’t know and won’t be able to come to future shows.
Use this time to tell people where to find you online. You should have your website and social media sites set up before your first show. Tell people “be sure to check us out online at (website) and join our Facebook group”. Tell them that they can join your group or signup for your newsletter to get the latest information about gigs, etc.
Tell them if you’re working on a new CD and when it will be available or about new shirts and other swag that you have available.
Promote the venue you’re in. Tell the crowd when you’ll be back, about upcoming bands, drink specials and other special events planned at the venue (even if you’re not involved). This will show the venue manager that you want them to succeed. You’ll earn brownie points.
You can also promote shows that you have planned elsewhere. Definitely check with the venue manager before you do this. They may think that you’re trying to take business away from them.
Introduce the band
Oh yeah, remember to tell the crowd your band name. Some bands will have a banner that they hang behind them so it’s obvious, but you should give your name at least once a set. There will hopefully be new people at all the shows and they may already know who you are, but, the more you repeat your name the better they’ll remember it.
You can also introduce each member of the band. This is another one of those things that can come off as cliche’, though. The band will go into some long tune where every member takes a solo and the singer introduces that member.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If your members can’t solo, then this could be bad. You could, instead, use the end of the last song; “Were Bobby, Robby, Ricky and Mike and together we are Steel Wool”. It works.
Unless your show includes you talking to the crowd a lot, remember to keep it short and only say what you need. If you have someone asking questions during the break, keep your replies short and to the point. Don’t say more than you need and use language that is appropriate for your crowd. Dropping F-bombs at a family friendly show most likely won’t get you invited back.