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Developing a Fan Base Live: Your Song Intros

Do you want to develop a fan base from stage or not? It begins with the introductions to your songs. (And I’m not talking about speaking to your audience).

As I always say, there’s a difference between what you perform live and what you record.

For instance, song introductions on your recording need to be short and sweet. You’ve got to get to the meat of the song immediately (if you really want to be played on radio). But live is a different animal. In fact, live you want to be creative, draw your audience in, and captivate them – with the intro!

Most of you reading this blog are “dating” your audience. In other words, you haven’t sold millions of records, appear regularly on TV, and aren’t known by everyone watching & listening. So you need to win your audience as soon as you can. That won’t happen just because you play songs correctly.

Watch this video and get a little taste of what I’m talking about:

For at least 10 seconds at the beginning of this artist’s performance, there’s really nothing to draw his audience in. He has the right elements – but he’s in a hurry to get to the song. If he doesn’t take the time to draw them in, he’ll lose some of them and they’ll stop paying attention.

It doesn’t matter what style of music you play: you want to develop captivating intros both musically and visually. In most cases, artists do their radio version introduction because they’re in a hurry to get to the song. The problem with that is the audience can’t catch up to what they’re saying or doing until the chorus or even the 2nd verse. They’re still checking the artist out, because they’re not “married” to them.

This next video is a young band’s intro, and my efforts to bring different elements into their intro. As you watch, take note of these same things you can try in your rehearsals as you develop your live intros:

  • bring spontaneity into the intro
  • build relationships
  • make it more visually interesting
  • give the artist control of the song (instead of the song controlling the artist)

This next video is for those of you who are tied to accompaniment tracks. It answers the question of how to develop an introduction that captivates while there’s no track playing, and how to pour some of your own personality into the intro so your authority onstage is established.

By the way, whenever I work with track artists, I’m constantly having them edit/manipulate their tracks on ProTools in order to develop “moments” in their show. Otherwise, the track is in control, and not the artist, which causes the artist to lose authority onstage. The audience senses they aren’t in control. We want to take some of that control away from the tracks and give it back to the artist.

Check this video out:

Now, what you see in these video clips is only a very small slice of a rehearsal. To do this properly, own it, develop it, and milk it, takes a lot more time than the few minutes we took at one of my Bootcamps. Everything I talk about in my blogs is just one small part of the whole process.

I know you can do this. Take the time to develop the intros in your songs. Make them interesting, compelling, & creative, and you’ll find this is one of the ways you can draw people into your music. And when you draw more people in live, you’ll find you’ve developed more fans!


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. It’s useful to read about these things, but to see them implemented it’s another level of helpful. I feel like if I could watch 100 makeovers with Tom back to back, there’d be very little I’d have left to learn.

    • You WOULD learn a lot, but there will always be something new! When we work one-on-one – even with an artist that has devoured Tom’s material – there are ideas for moments that emerge, SPECIFIC to that artists songs, that won’t be in any book or video. That’s the beauty of an outside eye to produce your show. We have artists that come back to us each time they release a new CD, get ready for a new showcase or in-office label pitch, to have us work on their gig for that particular audience or situation. So yes, get as much knowledge as you can Backstage and apply it to your show, but do consider going that next step and let us take you to an entirely new level! https://onstagesuccess.com/booking/

  2. Thanks, there’s some very good tips there.
    As a folk musician, I am always mindful of the spoken intros and gaps between songs (sometimes while someone retunes). Apparently I’m good at the audience chat thing, but don’t want to overdo it. Working on linking songs together in setlists atm.

    I do get frustrated when a singer / songwriter insists on introducing EVERY song, when those monologues get so lengthy and boring. You feel a bit cheated when you have spent half a gig listening to dull stories about the colour of their kitchen table of name of their horse rather than listening to music.

    So I’ll be working on intros that create moments and support the music.



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