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“If Only They Could Hear Us”

Live showGetting exposure is necessary for a career in music. Artists often say, “if only people could hear us,” or “when you hear our music, you’ll realize how much we have to offer!”

And if you can get someone to hear a stellar recording with great music, it could take you to the next step.

You can also present yourself online in a way that makes you appear to have very few flaws. Your EPK can be edited to be quick moving, exciting to watch, with just the right promo to appear compelling.

But your live show — it is what it is! It can be one of the best exposure tools you could possibly have. Or it could be your worst. And your live show is usually that “next step” after someone hears the stellar recording you may just have. So it better be great.

How many times have you heard a song, listened to a CD, watched a video, and it intrigued you enough to go to the artist’s website and check them out there. You look for their tour schedule, see they’re playing in your area, and put it on your calendar. Then when you take the time and finally go out to see their show, you’re disappointed. In most cases, the artist is just — OK.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this: “I was a fan of (insert name here) … loved their music, their voice, and then I went to their show; it ruined everything for me! I can’t listen to their music without thinking of their awful show.”

Often I have heard that kind of reaction from an audience member who saw someone who was married to their audience. But their live show was so bad, the audience wanted a divorce!

Most of you reading this are dating your audiences. Your live show will be your introduction to people who have never heard you on radio, never visited you on your website, never bought your CD. This will probably be the only time they ever hear you — unless you rock their world.

If you’re a rock band playing in a rock club, the people there want to hear rock. They may not be married to you, they may not know you — but they’re going to that club hoping to hear great rock music. If you’re a singer/songwriter playing in a coffee house, those people are there hoping to hear a great singer/songwriter. They’re not there to hear something you’re not. Your style of music is what brought them there. And if your show allows you to pour your personality into it, you create moments, you deliver in a creative, compelling way, and emotionally connect with the audience who has come to hear your style of music — they will become fans.

When my wife and I go to an Italian restaurant, we are wanting to have great Italian food. When the food is mediocre or average, we cross that restaurant off our Italian restaurant list. But if it’s a great experience with great food, we’ll return again and again and again. We become fans and we drag other people with us to expose them to this great restaurant! That’s what should be happening when you perform.

Please don’t underestimate the importance of your live show and the power of it generating word of mouth. And word of mouth is one of the most powerful exposure tools you can have, both in person and online. A genuine fan can expose you and your music to hundreds, even thousands of people, with the live show helping generate the passion they feel and carry over to others.

Don’t deceive yourself into thinking your show is great. It can always get better. Just because it’s “you” doesn’t mean it’s awesome. Just because you are having a good time onstage doesn’t mean your audience is having a good time. Just because you feel emotional about a song, and the lyrics have deep meaning to you, doesn’t mean everyone else will have the same experience while you’re onstage performing.

All the tools of exposure (recordings, website, EPK, radio, your show, etc.) need to be realistically prioritized. There is only so much time, energy, and money anyone has to spend building a career. But this I know for sure: your live show must be a priority if you want a career in music!


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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