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How to Impress Your Audience

Singer showcaseThere are right ways to impress your audience. Things you can do to set yourself apart, to let your audience see who you really are, and to capture & engage the people watching you so they’ll never want to miss any of your shows.

But few artists know the right ways — because they’re not looking at it from the audience’s perspective. And that can be deadly to a long lasting career.

Let me explain.

Some artists are married to their audiences. They come out onstage and the entire audience stands and begins to sing along with them because they know every word of every song.

Those artists who are married to their audience are interviewed regularly on TV and radio, they sell thousands of CDs, and you hear their songs being played in stores and restaurants everywhere.

But most of you don’t have the luxury of being married to your audiences. You’re in the dating stage.

When you step out on the stage your audience doesn’t stand and sing with you… they give you curious stares. They don’t know all your songs, they don’t own your CDs, and they certainly haven’t seen you on TV (unless you were part of an eye-witness news story recently on a local station and they just happen to recognize you)!

So you have the job of “impressing” your audience. You will impress them — one way or another. But obviously, you want to make a good impression. So how do you do that?

The Wrong Way to Make an Impression

Most artists make the mistake of thinking the impression will be made by how well they play and sing. Don’t get me wrong — I want you to play and sing well. But if you mistakenly believe that’s what will impress your audience in this dating relationship, you’ll have the wrong focus as you plan your show.

When your audience comes to your show, they are there to see you, not just to hear music. If they had just wanted to hear music they could have stayed home and popped a CD in the player.

People come to see people, not just hear music.

Not only that, but when they hear you play and sing, most of them are not listening the same way you or I listen to music. They’re not musicians. Again, I want you to sing and play well… but that’s not the key to truly impressing your audience.

There are some things you can do, however, to truly impress and connect with the people watching you.


I know this sounds wrong to some artists — that humility is the beginning of a good impression. After all, they’re standing on the stage and accepting applause, right? How is that humble?

Humility (to me) means you are fulfilling the role you are called to. If you are called to be standing on the stage, then you are humbly accepting what you should be doing.

I don’t mean false humility: the “Aw, shucks, it’s just me” thought process. That thinking will inhibit your growth as an artist.

But if you believe that music and performing is something you were meant to do, that you have a role to fulfill on the stage, then accepting, owning, and reveling in that role is true humility. And that makes an impression.


When you’re in the audience, you want the people onstage to be confident. If they’re not, then you’ve got a problem! Because it’s really hard to relax when the people onstage make you nervous.

As ignorant as audiences are musically (remember what I said above about your audience not being musicians?), they are geniuses when it comes to human behavior. This is something they can understand and connect to. Your confidence will go a long way in impressing your audience.

That confidence will come from preparation. You’ll need to woodshed on your instruments, woodshed your singing, woodshed your performance fundamentals. You should rehearse and get the music tight — but you’ll also need to rehearse the delivery of the songs, placement onstage, transitions, what you’ll say to the audience, etc.


Authority comes from inside. It’s built on a foundation of humility and confidence.

When you are “walking in authority” onstage, your audience senses that you know what you’re doing, that you are in charge, and that you have something important to say. It draws people in.

There is anticipation in the room, a sense that something special is going on.

Having Courage to Take Risks

This is one of the keys to impressing an audience that most artists aren’t surprised about… but they’re not always sure how to do it.

They recognize that an audience will be impressed with someone who is spontaneous from the stage, an artist who is willing to surprise them with something interesting and captivating. However, what they think is spontaneity is often just “winging it.”

True spontaneity comes out of form. An NFL quarterback has a play to follow that the team has practiced (the form), then drops back and looks for the receiver to see who is open (the spontaneity). The best teams know it takes both form and spontaneity.

There’s no question it’s true that your show will evolve while you are out playing gigs, but you need to build on the right foundation. Know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and when to do it, rather than just winging it while you’re onstage.

That’s what will truly impress your audience.

Who you are is more important than what you do. [tweet this] Twitter Bird logo grayscale

Being humble and confident in who you are and your giftings onstage, and being in control and free to take risks, will mean more to your audience than being a performer who tries to impress them by doing something onstage musically or visually to make up for a lack of authenticity.

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. This is good stuff!!

  2. Hello Tom Jackson,

    I am D.W. McDonald of Chicago’s own Original Rock Music Indie Band “MISSIN’LINK” and
    I saw you on Skype this past May 2014 while I was attending Ted Braun’s Extreme Tour meeting in
    Nashville. You are a very talented and extremely inform person. I understand what your saying and I am in agreement. My question is what does one have to do to locate a good Booking Agent? I do every
    thing in my band “MISSIN’LINK” write music, play Bass Guitar, etc. So, my time to do Booking is
    limited and I am not a Booking Agent to begin with. What do you suggest I do?

    Thank you

    • D.W., you may not like my response to this — but I believe it’s what almost anyone in the industry would tell you: you need to book yourself until you’ve built up enough momentum that someone else will be interested in booking you.

      It’s really the same answer for any of the questions, “How do I find a manager, a label, a booking agent who can help me?” Those people aren’t looking for unknown artists who aren’t already gigging. They’re looking for artists who are building momentum with their live show, who are selling out their local venues, who have good relationships with promoters, etc. And you do that by working your live show to create moments for your audience! (That’s why I believe so strongly in developing the live show the right way.)

      Don’t be discouraged… to be honest, right now, YOU are the best booking agent for your show! You are the most passionate about what you do. You know yourself and what you can bring to a venue that no one else can. And when you get to the point where you can bring that unique YOU to a venue and prove that you can sell out the house, then all of a sudden booking agents, managers, and industry execs will want to join you because they’ll have something to be passionate about as well!

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