Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tips for Rock Stars

After more than twenty years of attending rock shows and 2.5 years of nitpicking over them in this blog, it's time for some summarizing summary action. I'm putting The Fanalyst to bed with two last articles. This is the penultimate post.

Tips for Rock Stars

These are not new concepts, but they warrant tabulation and repetition. They come from the perspective of an audience member, not a musician. They come from a place of love for you and for your music. They can apply to new bands, old bands, solo singer-songwriters, and duos. They apply equally to rock, country, dance, electronica, and other styles of music. They are free to implement. They are for boys and girls. Whether you sing teary songs of loss or polka songs of booze, they are for you. Because you are a rock star.

  1. Make an entrance
    You don't need to plunge through a cloud of dry ice and strobe lights to effectively announce your presence, only to walk purposefully and commandingly on to the stage. Slinking up to your instrument will make people think you are doing a sound check. Take up space.

  2. Look good
    While I love a band in a uniform, it isn't necessary to go all Devo on your crowd. Simply avoid crappy jeans, ratty t-shirts, and ball caps. You are a rock star. Dress like one, and do your hair like one. Besides, it shows that you respect and care about your audience, many of whom got dressed up to come out and see you.

  3. Talk to the audience
    Yes, they want to hear lots of songs, but what they really want is a personal connection with you (otherwise, they would just listen to the CD). If you ignore them, they will think you don't appreciate the fact that they are the reason you are on stage. Talk to them. Say hello. Tell them what you saw in their town today. Tell them a story.

  4. Say your name
    The audience at every show you play will contain at least a few people who have never heard your music before. Unless your name is written on a huge banner behind you, say it out loud several times during the show. Make sure these new potential fans walk away with your name seared on to their psyches.

  5. Tell your audience what to do
    Dance, clap in time, scream, move closer, sing! Provided there are enough people in the room, they will respond to your commands with glee. Crowds love receiving instructions - it helps them bond with each other and bond with your music.

  6. Play the songs your fans already know
    A live show is the perfect place to introduce new songs, but do this in addition to the songs your fans already know and like. They came to your show hoping and expecting to hear their favorite song, so play it for them. If you are dead bored of the song, mix it up or try different instrumentation, but get it out there.

  7. When the crowd wants to sing along, let them
    If your popular song is a ballad or has a rousing repetitive chorus that the majority of the crowd clearly knows, quiet the band down and let the crowd hear themselves sing, even if only for a few seconds. This is supremely satisfying to an audience, and they will do their best to please you and each other with their voices. It doesn't matter if they get the words wrong. Let them sing.

  8. Look at your audience when you play
    You may be playing an instrument, operating a sampler, talking to a bandmate or futzing with guitar pedals, but try to spend the vast majority of your time playing to the audience. Otherwise, you will look like you're phoning it in, and audiences will take your lack of attention personally.

  9. Don't be a whiny baby
    I know that your sound guy was barely paying attention during sound check and that now the levels in the monitors are totally messed up. I know that you can't hear the bass. Ask that it be fixed, and move on. Ask again if you need to. But please dear lord do not stop a song to complain about the mix, the instruments, the microphone, or anything else. Your fans will walk away remembering the complaints more than your music.

  10. Fake it
    Maybe you spent 11 hours in a van to arrive at your gig and you're feeling grimy and exhausted. Or maybe you are terrified of this show. Or your pet just died and you are stricken with grief. Unfortunately for you, your audience does not care. Take those feelings and hurl them into your performance. Even if you don't feel like it, pretend that you are a professional musician that is here to create a positive experience for your audience. Suck it up and deliver to give your audience the best possible opportunity to love you forever.
Feel free to chime in with additions or rebuttals.

-The Fanalyst


Anonymous Roger said...

I just got back from seeing U2 and Pearl Jam in Honolulu, and I can tell you that both bands did everything on your list, except "Say your name" and "Fake it," both of which were unnecessary.

12:06 PM  

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