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Would You Like Fries With That?

I really want you all to succeed!  I want to help you to the best of my ability.  As they say in the south, “I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed.”….but, one thing I do have, it’s perspective on the live show. 

I’ve worked with probably between three and four hundred artists during my career and when it comes to the live show, there are no shortcuts, (..unless you have a ridiculous amount of money to spend on production…lasers, LED screens, video production, etc…) 

I wish there were, but just like making a great recording, there are steps you need to take.

I worked in a studio for about six years and I constantly heard, “We’ll fix it in the mix.”, but it never ended up the way everyone hoped it would.

Translating this to the live show, I hear: “When we get in front of the audience, we’ll really bring it!”  But, as I said….there are steps you need to take.

I can’t stress it enough!  First, get a vision for your show.

Then woodshed the fundamentals.  Then, AFTER you’ve planned out your show, and AFTER you’ve gotten comfortable with the basics…THEN go into rehearsals.

Most artists and bands skip the first two steps and go straight into rehearsals.  For them, that means they learn the songs, move a couple places on stage, and there you go.

And then what happens?  Well, I got a call once from a group that scored an opening act on a pretty major tour.  They wanted to know if I could work with them and when, how much would it cost, on and on; and I said “wait a minute – what is it you want to accomplish?”

I found out they weren’t really ready for the tour.  The really scary part (and I mean this is really scary to me) – they thought they were going to be ready after two days of rehearsal.  I couldn’t work with them, because they weren’t ready to be worked with.

If they had spent the time planning their show, and working on fundamentals, then maybe we could have gotten through four or five songs in a couple rehearsal days.

But the truth is, I know that two days of rehearsals would have been spent teaching them the simple stuff: the four ways to get places onstage, how to balance the stage, how to change pressure on the audience…Things they could have learned way before they got to me!

Instead, they walked out onstage in front of a lot of people totally unprepared.  And I wanted to lovingly say to them, “Learn this phrase and learn it well.”: “Would you like fries with that?”  Because in two or three years, that’s where they’ll be.

You see, the way you build a career is not a one time thing.  It’s a slow process, and a huge part of it is the live show.  The record company that signed them thinks they’ve got to get them onstage in front of people.  My way of thinking is they should be held off stage until they’re ready to be in front of people.

By the way, the group I was talking about earlier found someone else to work with them for those couple of days before they left.  I can guarantee all they did was major in the minors, because that’s all the time they had, and they didn’t know what to work on in the little time they had.

No doubt they learned “smile here,” “stand over there for this song,” and “put your foot on the monitor during this solo.”  Majoring in the minors. It probably made very little difference in their show.

And, I’m sorry to have to say it, but I’ll probably be seeing them somewhere in two or three years…

They’ll be like the others I’ve actually seen when I go through the drive-through (true story!) saying, “Would you like fries with that, Mr. Jackson?”

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. Jeffrey B. Scott says:

    Hey Tom – great to hear it again!
    How do I as someone who has been in your training sessions convince someone who hasn’t that it’s worth the effort?

    • Hi Jeffrey, That’s a question I hear all the time. It’s not a simple thing! They have to be willing to make changes and most of them don’t want to do that because of fear! You can let them read my book, or watch one of my DVDs because that way you’re not talking to them about it and they may be more receptive. You can let them know that artists who have implemented my performance concepts have more fun onstage, are more connected and have more of an impact on their audiences and have watched their product sales soar ten fold and their gigs increase, but ultimately they have to want to succeed and be willing to take the risks to bring about growth. We’ve known artists that have had to let their band-mates go because they were unwilling to work at improving their live show. Hope this helps….Tom

  2. One of the reasons KISS got it right when they mixed their vision with Sean Delaney and BIll Aucoin. I totally subscribe to that. Having said that though, ah maybe some people out there might want to get a degree first before failing. that way you shouldn’t have to use that dreadful phrase. I know I never did and never will!

    • Thanks Ger! Maybe they should, if they don’t want to put in the work it takes to succeed. All I know is that everyone I know who has had a fall back plan ends up going to that fall back plan when things get tough. I’m glad you’re going for it! Tom

  3. You could also call this “Why waiting until the bus is warming up to start planning your live show is a bad idea.” Thanks, Tom!

  4. Larry Cameron says:

    What is the best video for really seeing the fundamentals part in “action”?

    • Hi Larry, DVD #2 “Turn it up to 11”, covers planning the show..what songs to put where…creating moments, and graphing your show for the most impact. For the visual aspect of the show, I recommend DVD #5 which has:
      Two Sessions Include:
      The Fundamentals: Owning the Stage
      Four Ways to Get Places Onstage
      Five Places to Go Onstage
      Directing the Audiences Attention: Keyboard, Guitar, Singing
      Working an Area
      Cut-offs and Accepting Applause
      One-on-One Communication
      Zone Communication
      Your Onstage Tools

      Five Tools to Change Pressure on an Audience
      Microphone and Technique
      Using a Mic Stand
      When You Want Your Audience to Hear Lyrics
      It’s a Risk Worth Taking
      Welcome to the 21st Century
      Technology: Use it or Lose It!
      Thank you, Larry!! Tom

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