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How Your Perspective Effects Your Success (or Your Failure)

The AudienceLooking out into your audience, it’s hard to know why they react the way they do — or why they don’t react at all!

The reason it’s hard to know is because you’re facing the wrong direction. You’re not sitting in the seats out front like they are. Perspective is everything.

And it’s not just the direction you’re facing. It’s the people, too. They aren’t musicians or singers. They don’t understand the tones you’re using, the way you sing licks & trills, or the awesome chord changes you wrote.

Why does all this matter? Because experiencing your show from their perspective can mean the difference between long lasting success and a very short career (or no career at all!).

Today I want to look at a live show from the audience’s side of the stage.

Let’s Pretend You Know Nothing About Music

Let’s say you’re just an average Joe or Joan who likes music, and you go to see performers at coffee houses, clubs, churches, concert halls, or arenas… wherever music is played.

You are in the audience one evening (about halfway back). Maybe you were dragged there by a friend, or you’ve gone to see an artist you really like and they have an opening act. The point is, there is someone onstage performing, and you don’t know them or their music.

They come out onstage and begin to play. Because of the venue it’s hard to hear the lyrics, they don’t really look at the audience, they’re preoccupied with their vocal lines, their gear, they keep pointing at the ground and then put their thumbs up, and you’re trying to figure out what that means. Basically, they’re singing at you.

What if you were in that audience? How would it make you feel?

Who Are They Talking To?

After the first song they mumble into the microphone, “Are you having a good time?” You think, “I don’t really know… they’ve only done one song.” But you feel manipulated into saying a half-hearted “yeah…”

They start the second song. And it’s more of the same. They’re still not looking at the audience, they’re messing with their equipment, and you get the feeling they’re trying to impress you in some way.

The second song ends, and there is a long silence. The singer goes to get a drink of water while the guitarist mumbles something into the mic that you can’t understand. A couple of the other players laugh, so it must have been an inside joke.

The third song starts. You sense the band realizes they need to do something onstage, so they start jumping around. The guitar player runs over to the bass player and they start rockin’ out together. But it doesn’t look natural. It looks really canned.

Right after that, the singer yells something into the microphone and holds the mic out to the audience like he wants you to do something. But you’re not sure what to do. He yells a few more things in the mic and holds it out again, and about 20 people in the front of the venue start yelling something back at him – but you don’t know what it is.

What if you were in that audience? How would it make you feel?

Do You Really Want to Hear More?

That song ends to a smattering of applause, and you notice a few people leaving. You wonder, are they hungry, do they have to go to the bathroom, or do they want to go outside and talk until the artist they really came to see comes on?

The drummer puts his sticks together and yells 1-2-3-4 and they power into the next song. You see the guitar player has a new guitar on – but to be honest, you can’t really tell any difference in how they sound. And they proceed to jump around again like the last song, all the while the rhythm guitar player stands in one place looking at his shoes.

As the evening progresses, all the songs keep sounding pretty much the same. Until about 3 songs later, the lead singer says something about “bringing it down.” And for the first time in the night, you begin to pick up a few of the lyrics to this song. It’s something about truth being “out there.”

When it’s over, the lead singer mentions something about talking to you at the merch table after the show. You think to yourself, “what’s a merch table?” He holds up a CD. “Ahhh, he’s trying to sell me a CD!” His songs all sounded the same – why would you buy his CD?

They start another song, and you think, “not another one,” or “there’s more?!” In this song, the energy rises to the highest point of the night. They seem real serious and they jump and rock a little harder, but after a minute, it again sounds like the last 5 songs they played (other than the ballad). You do see the guitar player has another different shiny guitar and the drummer has taken his shirt off.

They finish the song with a big bang, and there is a smattering of applause – but those 20 people in the front start screaming, “more, more!” And you think to yourself, “no more, no more!” But sure enough they come back out and say “thanks, it’s been an awesome evening…” — and you think “for whom?”

And then you realize… it was awesome for them… they got to be onstage.

Perspective is Everything

This time they play a song you recognize having heard on the radio, and it’s easier to understand the words now. They actually do a good job with the song. Quite honestly, you think this is the best song of the evening. Now, if they had that song on their CD, you might buy it! After it’s over, they say “thanks” and walk off stage.

The intermission music kicks in. You make your way to the back to head for the bathroom before the act you really came to see comes on. You notice their sales table at the back, and see those same 20 people from the front rows. “Awesome,” “great show” you hear. And you think to yourself, “what show did they see?”

But then, their perspective was from the front row — and maybe they were friends of the band. You see, perspective is everything!

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. Amy Shane says:

    Great stuff to remember. Thanks.
    (PS The perspective of my years as an English teacher necessitates my telling you: it’s “affects”, not “effects”.)

  2. This kind of scenario is all too common. Indeed I have been guilty of some of the indiscretions mentioned, myself, over the years. Accordingly, it’s an area I continue to work very hard at improving.

    Thanks for posting.


  3. Dazzle your audience, but do it in such a way that it’s fairly genuine. Keep the energy high and you gotta sweat! Above all though you need to sustain this with good songs/writing and interaction on stage!

  4. Tom, One of your best articles yet. I want to pass it along to my fellow band members but I’m afraid it will hit too close to home.

  5. Amy Wolter says:

    Definately a MUST-READ for every artist…I’m tweeting this now!! Good stuff as usual Tom.

  6. Very insightful article, Tom. I suspect that the band you were describing is “everyband” in a way. At the heart of the perspective problem is that most performers have never made the jump to “service-provider” status. They somehow still have the very amateur perspective that people in the audience are there to see them… when the audience came for a very different reason all together… they came to be served something worthwhile (an experience, an emotion, a positive blip on their otherwise dull radar).

    THEY are the diners, YOU, dear performer, are the cook/waiter. THEY are the client, YOU are the service provider. THEY didn’t come to fawn over you, they came expecting YOU to fawn over their need for a night’s engaging experience and do the hard work of giving it to them. NONE of them are named “Cleveland” so don’t say “Hello, Cleveland” as if you’re addressing an entire population. THEY didn’t come to cater to your need to feel impressive and important, YOU were supposed to show up impressed by the importance of their desire to be moved and engaged. YOU aren’t the tourist attraction, YOU are the tour GUIDE on a journey you should have taken the trouble to design carefully…because THEY are more important than YOU.

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