Before The Show: Get Creative
By Tom Jackson
They’re “artists,” after all, and real artists are spontaneous, instinctive, organic, led by the Spirit… you name it. Really, it’s what I call “winging it.”
Unfortunately for most musicians, planning and preparation means to:
- learn the songs in practice (get them tight & be able to sing them well)
- make a quick set list 30 minutes before you walk out
- then go out and try to act spontaneous from stage
It’s because they think creativity can only happen when they are either writing the songs or performing them onstage. However, there is another way to plan your show that will make you much more successful, cause your audiences to become fans & tell others about you, and give you more fulfillment as a performer. It will happen when you get excited about the creative process of putting a show together before you walk out on the stage… before you even go into rehearsals! I’m talking about getting a vision for the show: a vision for what you’re doing, a vision for the songs and how you can create moments. Because people don’t go to a live show just to hear songs, and the goal of your show isn’t just to sing and play correctly. The goal of the evening isn’t even for people to hear the words because your message is important. The goal of your shows should be to create emotional “moments” for your audience, to engage and captivate them throughout the concert, and to change their lives in some small way.
Getting a vision for your show — the process of doing it, anyway — isn’t necessarily easy. But in reality, it is one of the most creative parts of a great show. It’s where you, as an artist, have the opportunity to turn the music of a show into an emotional experience for the audience.
The ideas you might get for your songs may come to you as you are writing a song, watching a show, driving in your car, or spending dedicated time coming up with ideas. But however they come to you, they are the ideas that will bring uniqueness to your show.
So many times I see artists perform who obviously have no vision for their show. They’re winging it. They’re just trying to figure out what’s supposed to be happening with the audience. The truth is, it’s you who has written the songs, understands the songs, and knows what you’re trying to communicate – YOU are in charge.
So you’d better have a vision for what you’re doing onstage.
If you have no vision, then in two or three years you’ll likely not be performing anymore. You’ll be thinking it just wasn’t for you. Maybe it’ll take five years because you’re pretty persistent. But you won’t be able to figure out why it “just wasn’t working for you” or why it worked one night but not the next. The reason is, you didn’t have a plan! So let’s think about a plan for you. First, you need to ask yourself, “who is my audience?” Are you dating your audience or are you married to your audience?
If you are playing to all or mostly all new people who don’t know you, you are “dating” your audience. The way you approach and plan your show is different than if you’re “married” to your audience. If I’m dating a girl, my approach to how I communicate with her is totally different than after I’m married to her and going out with my wife. I don’t have to go through all the preliminaries with my wife.
Most of you reading this are probably not married to your audience. You haven’t sold a million records so when you come out onstage everyone starts singing along because they know your music so well. You might have a few friends at your show, or maybe some people already know you. But the majority of your audience is new.
So you’ll want to start your set list with an “Introduction Moment” — usually 2 songs, back to back, not too high energy, not too low energy. They’ll need to be something you’re singing “to” the audience because you want to start out the relationship with them in a friendly, positive way. And you’ll need to listen carefully to their response to you (you do that by accepting and encouraging their applause in the right way).
If you want to go into detail and dig deeper about how to get a vision, plan your show, create your set list, learn the concepts, etc., then you’ll want to study all our videos and articles with a Backstage Pass… Until then, get a vision. Have a plan. Stop winging it! Get creative before you walk out onstage.