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It’s a Mistake if You’re Just Playing Songs

Onstage Success artist Robert Pierre

It is a distinct craft and art to create the “hit” song. That’s why the best producers in the world get paid extraordinary sums – to produce those hits for the artist!

But even well written songs don’t necessarily become hits. If that were the case, the well crafted, lyrically clever, well arranged, tens of 1000s of songs written every year in Nashville, LA, New York, London, etc., would all be hits. But they’re not.

Here’s the good news: if you have a well written song, usually inside that song is a “moment” you can share with your audience to make an emotional connection.

You as the artist know it! And the job of the Live Music Producer is to find that moment and help you deliver it in your live show. But if all you do is play songs… most people will miss those moments we know are there. And that’s a mistake.

Living in Nashville, I’m aware that a huge part of the music industry is still consumed with having a hit song. In days of old, the record company hoped the song would drive us to the record store so we’d buy the CD.

The way to get the hit song is to create a song where people (usually listening on radio) are compelled to go to iTunes or to Google the artist to find the song. My belief is they are looking for a song with a “moment” when someone connects emotionally with the artist.

We need the same thing to happen in our live show. You see, audiences go to an event for 3 reasons: 1) to be captured and engaged, 2) to experience moments, and 3) to have their lives changed.

As musicians, we make the mistake of thinking the wrong way about our live show. Why? Partly because its us – we’re musicians, so we think differently than other people!

And it’s partly because our adrenaline is flowing. We’re playing our music… so we think “this is awesome” and “there are moments all through the songs!” And there are – for us. But we need to create moments for our audience, not just for us.

For those of you who are really great songwriters, you especially have to look at this a different way. (Check out my Backstage blog on The Great Song Paradox…)

This is what a huge part of rehearsal is for: to find the moments in our songs, and then rearrange the songs so they become moments for the audience (not just us).

But if all you do is play songs…


Tom Jackson

Tom is uniquely talented and skilled at transforming an artist's live show into a magical experience for the audience; helping artists at every level create a live show that is engaging and memorable, teaching them to exceed their audiences' expectations and to create fans for life. Tom has taught indie and major artists of every genre. He has worked with Taylor Swift, Le Crae, Home Free, The Tenors, Shawn Mendes, The Band Perry, Francesca Battistelli, Jars of Clay, & many more. Tom also teaches at colleges, conferences and events worldwide.

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Greenroom Comments

  1. Tom is a master of helping you “create a moment” onstage, and this article definately reinforces that. I just wanted to mention again that you need to also think about that when you write the song and when you record it. As the 6th paragraph of the article states, your song has to jump out of that radio and grab someone. How many times do you listen to the radio and really are not hearing anything? Most of the time? That’s because not too many songs that I have been hearing on the radio have that sort of magic to capture the listener’s attention and get them to pay attention to the song. Sometimes you don’t know which song from your CD will be the one that gets played, so you have to be sure that every song on the album does this in one way or another. In closing, I want to thank all of you for trying to create music that is acutally enjoyable to listen to! Your presense in this forum shows that you have good intentions!

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