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Going from Good to Great

Going from bad to good is easy.  Going from good to great is not.

It’s not that going from good to great is so hard, but it’s definitely time-consuming, tedious, and often a little inconvenient.  However, as my friend Robert D. Smith says, “success is built on inconvenience!”

I have a favorite analogy, and you may have heard it before… but bear with me for a minute while I tell the story again.  (I do have a point to make.)

You see, I travel a lot and stay in many hotels. Sometimes I stay in good hotels; sometimes I stay in great hotels!  One day I started thinking about what the difference was between the good hotels and the great hotels, and why the great hotels cost so much more.

The good hotels I stay in are all clean, the beds are comfortable, they have a workspace and a TV, a chair to relax in, and a decent bathroom.  Funny thing is, the great hotels aren’t that different.  In fact, the differences are small things: a mint on the pillow, fat towels, a flat- screen TV, maybe a sofa to sit on instead of a chair, fancier soaps, and in some cases the room is larger with nicer decorations … but nothing is extraordinarily different.

No flying beds, no angels that appear in the middle of the night to sing the “Hallelujah Chorus,” no closets that clean your clothes while you sleep.  The difference between a good hotel and a great hotel is the small things.

Conceptually, it’s the same thing with what you do with your music.  Every one of you reading this can say you have some songs, you can sing or play, you can talk, you move around the stage.  You’re all “good hotel rooms.”  You’re all good music career people.

But what will take you to the next level?  I’m telling you right now, it’s the little things.

Let me give you another analogy a lot of you are probably familiar with.

Let’s say you are recording a song in the studio.  It sounds pretty good, but something is missing — it’s not magical yet.  You spend hours on the part.  Nothing seems to be working.  In fact, you go home after the session a little disappointed because it’s not quite working and it’s taking so long.

Then the next day, you’re back in the studio, tweaking this and that, making minor changes.  You add a harmony part to the chorus.  You drop in a melodic line to a turnaround.  You change the way a verse is phrased or change a keyboard tone.  Gradually the lyric and vocal line come to life, and everyone in the room gets chills.  Now it is magical!

That’s what I’m talking about with your show.  In the studio you have the ability to be objective.  You play your part; you go in and listen.  Then you tweak … tweak again … tweak again.  When it comes to the studio, artists are very anal.  They can spend days and days working on one song alone!  They try different things.  Usually there’s a producer who guides and helps them with ideas.  And ultimately the producer’s job is to know the important things people want on a record, or at least help to discover them.

In dealing with your show, these small things can make a big difference, too.  They may seem like tedious steps: learning the fundamentals of performance, knowing how to walk onstage, what zone communication is, how to balance the stage, how to speak to an audience.  But I promise you, these things will make a big difference in your show.

So don’t be OK with just being good… be a great artist onstage because you’ve done the work to make it a 5-star show!


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. All Tom’s amazing tips are in his DVDs. I have been performing for over 20 years and tho not known, Ive really enjoyed my performances on national TV and for all kinds of audiences from the mega venues to singing on a platform in the middle of a 3rd world nation to sing. I totally recommend those!!!!

  2. How do you make a show great at a bar with no stage when starting a show. Read your articles all the time and was wondering if you could please give us a quick tip.

    Warmest Regards

    • We’re not good at ‘quick tips’ since what we teach is a method…can you give us a specific question though?
      Are you asking about opening the show?

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