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New Beginnings: Start with Endings

Happy New YearBefore I tell you a little about “beginnings” and “endings,” you need some background information…

I just finished getting Winter Jam started (Winter Jam is the largest tour in the world first quarter every year). There are ten acts – it’s like a traveling festival that goes to about 40+ cities. Each of the acts have between 12-40 minutes to perform. And my team and I have worked regularly with 3-6 artists on this tour every year.

Many of you know my teaching. You understand there are signals and cues we constantly send to our audiences, both consciously and unconsciously. These cues can be verbal, visual, and/or musical. And unless you understand what they are, how to use them effectively, and when (and when not) to use them, your audience can get confused. Let me explain.

One of the artists on Winter Jam this year (who shall remain anonymous) had dinner with me in catering. They were glad to see me, and remarked, “I remember what you taught me years ago when we worked – it really made a big difference in my show.”

“Great!” I said, secretly wondering what they had retained over the years. Fortunately, they remembered much of the visual part of what I had taught them. And they were effective in moving the audience.

Unfortunately, they didn’t remember the importance of putting the right endings on their songs. That may not seem important – but it can make or break a show!

This artist has had quite a few hits over a long span of time, so they played quite a few songs as part of the tour. I could sense the audience was with them during their songs. But I believe only 1 of their 6 songs had an ending that helped the audience know the song was over. At the end of almost every song they did there was an awkwardness between artist and audience. It killed any momentum the artist had developed during the song.

By simply putting correct endings on all their songs, this artist would have built momentum throughout their set (and quite a bit of peer pressure with 15,000 people!). If they had built that momentum, by the end of their show they would have received standing ovations. Instead, because their audience wasn’t given visual or musical cues to clap, the response they received was only a smattering of applause.

It reminds me of other groups I’ve seen. They’re excellent players with good (even great) songs, but they have the wrong ending on most of them. They never develop peer pressure in the room to unite their audience and create some momentum.

In my Live Music Method Book, I go through the verbal transitions, the musical endings, the visual cues, and more, and the best use of them to end your songs.

It’s important as you begin this new year: pay attention and learn how to have the correct endings on your songs. Then before you go out and play, work it out in the rehearsal room!


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. Thanks Tom! As always, GREAT info!

    Happy New Year.


  2. Happy New Year, Tom!

    This post really spoke to me. Over the summer, I put a band together. We had a ton of fun. But some of the band members didn’t understand the importance of song endings when playing for a live audience. They took some of the stuff that you and I worked on together and morphed it until it was nothing like what we intended.

    These “creative” endings truly changed the whole character of the song, as well as my vision for them and their impact. Let alone the fact that they no longer fit the moments I was trying to create in the set list.

    Things change when you move from solo artist to working with a band of course. But some things shouldn’t change. 😉

    The band drifted apart, but next time I will be sure to lay all these expectations out front, more strongly. 😉

  3. Amy Wolter says:

    This was a big issue with a few bands I’ve worked with and seen recently….KILLER songs, then splat. Absolutely no real endings to finish them off. Such a let-down, and fairly simple to correct if you just take a little time to work on this!

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