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It’s Who You Are

You just moved into a new house. You want it to have your personality and style, right? It should be unique and express who you are.

It’s the same thing with your onstage performance. Although you need to have certain basic elements, it should also be different from everyone else’s.

I’m guessing you’re in agreement with me so far, right? And no doubt you realize you do have songs, playing styles, abilities, etc. that make you different. You have your own look, tone, and voice.

But here’s the problem: you need to pull all of these unique things out and present them during your live show in such a way that the audience can connect to those original distinctions.

Musically, physically, and visually, all great artists have developed a great style. Think of some of the great front men, vocalists, guitar players, or so on, who stand out. It isn’t always their technique, but rather their style that sets them apart. This is equally as important when it comes to putting a show together, and it’s a process. It takes time and effort to develop as an artist and to learn how to use these skills onstage.

It isn’t an instant transformation. Learning these skills is worked out in the “woodshedding” process as you learn the fundamentals, and applying them correctly happens during music rehearsals as you work on your live show. Doing this work and going through the process allows you to pour yourself into each song.

You need to arrange your songs for live so you’re in control and can connect with the audience. You’ll want to extract the moments within the songs that allow you to express yourself from stage. Ignore this and you are on your way to what many bands have become … jukeboxes. They play songs and hope something good will happen. What a mistake!

Again, there is no quick answer. If you want your house to have your own style on the inside, you can’t do one shopping blitz to buy all the furniture, curtains, paints, lighting, and flooring and expect it to be put together in one day. That’s unrealistic. To get the original look you want and are capable of having, it takes time and effort. It’s the same with your show!

Many artists I talk to know they are good, unique, talented, and all that, but they don’t know how to effectively communicate that uniqueness to their audience. They resist any onstage training.

But the artists who are hungry for success, to reach the next level, will lay aside their pride and ask, “OK, be honest – what can I do to improve?” That process is part of what I help artists do: flesh out their uniqueness and help them share the unique moments in their songs the audience wouldn’t normally be aware of.

Sitting inside of you is something special waiting to come out. With a bit of work, risk taking, and development, you could be awesome and have a great shot at a career in music!


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. I’m with you too Keith. When I’m playing in the church praise band I tend to be somewhat energetic. And while there are moments I’ve felt it was ‘putting on a show’ there is a greater realization that this is where my true self gets to revel in what I was made to do. On weeks I’m not playing sometimes it almost hurts to not be up there.
    At the end of the day, we should conclude that being ‘smarter’ on stage isn’t manipulating the audience but rather allowing them to fully engage with your message.

    PS – Tom, saw you at the first 2 CD Baby conferences – and you were transformative. Heard you were awesome down in Austin all the best.

  2. Hi Tom,

    I was actually thinking of something similar a few seconds ago and then your e-mail came in. I was wondering how I can explain uniqueness to the artists I work with. I always try to help them find their true self or the true self of the stage persona they want to be (these can be two different characters). Your analogy with how a house slowly becomes personalized is right on target, I love it.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge, you are a great inspiration for me.

    Best regards,

    Olivier Laroche

  3. Hey Tom–
    I was introduced to you and your expertise at “The Objective” a couple of years ago. I was impressed then and still find your insights of great value. Your sincere desire to help others develop their skills to their fullest to bless the audience that God has given them is not only inspiring but reaches to the level of conviction. I have found myself taking time to share what small tidbits of knowledge I have with those whom God has placed in front of me. Many times we, as artists, fail to recognize what you have so eloquently described in this article that “it’s not so unique of a system” to show the incredible uniqueness that God has given each and everyone of us to shine for his glory. Recently, after playing some of my Christian songs to a childhood friend of mine ( a self professed zen Buddhist, a Jesus was a nice guy type ) he shocked me by saying “Keith, have you ever thought about doing your music ministry in this form, the way you just sang your songs to me and talked about the truths that were revealed to you on a personal level.” At that moment I realized that God’s spirit had touched him whereas before he would always be respectful of Jesus and God for my sake but always kept them at an arms length away so as not to have to commit. As your teachings show, God is a God of order not happenstance. In God’s enduring and long suffering love, not wanting anyone to perish, he has written the most perfect stage presentation for each of our lives, taking great pains to prepare us for those moments of epiphany, while at the same time making them touching & dramatic so we can hold on to these “moments” for a lifetime, to give us strength and a testimony. When I see you instructing artists on the stage, I see Jesus’ spirit flowing freely through you. I’ve learned from you that a “staged performance” is not fake but actually shows respect to your audience in that you have taken the time to make this interaction as fulfilling as possible for them. It’s much like a birthday celebration or a wedding in that it is “staged”. However, this is only to have order & to amplify those moments that make these occasions so special. The staging is not for us, it’s to benefit them, showing them how special they are to us.
    Thank you so much for your tireless work,
    Keith Bailey

    • Keith, I’m thrilled that you get it! I love your analogy about the performance not being fake and showing respect, that we should be making it special FOR THEM!

      If more artists took this approach, boy would it make a difference in their lives and the lives of their audiences.

      Thank you for your thoughts!

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