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4 Steps to a Unique Show

When explaining how to create a unique show, I always offer the analogy of building a house. There are 4 steps to making it happen.

And for those of you who’ve worked with contractors to build a home recently, who are thinking to yourself right now, “Well, that’s pretty over simplified – 4 steps? What did he think I was doing for the last 8 months when I built MY house!”…

…you’d be right. It is an oversimplification of the process involved. And believe me, I always remind artists that creating a unique show is a long process, too!

But I still believe all the things you do in the process of building a house or building a great live show, basically consist of these 4 steps:

1. Plan It

The first answer I get whenever I ask an audience of musicians, “what’s the first step in building a house?” is always “lay the foundation!” (That’s why we’re all musicians, not contractors.) In reality, the first step is planning the house — taking all the ideas you’ve seen, heard, thought about, and putting them down on paper.

With your show, what do you want to see (or more accurately, what do you want your audience to see, hear, experience)? Whether it was an idea you got from someone else’s show, from a song you wrote, or something from your own creative mind that no one else has ever imagined — you need to get a vision for your unique show and begin to make a plan for how you’ll make those special moments happen for your audience.

2. Lay the Foundation

OK, now is the time for that foundation! When it comes to the live show, that means the mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual parts of you and what you understand about your audience. Most artists have an unsteady foundation because they have failed to deal with what is going on at a personal level inside of themselves and their audience. 

The foundation is so very important, but rarely addressed. Your audience will be connecting with you as a person. They want to understand the human side of you. You’ll need to be confident, with authority and charisma, and that will very likely mean wrestling with yourself about being on the stage, being able to accept criticism and learning from it, working through struggles of business and finances, and more.

3. Build It

This is the part most people think of when you talk about building a home. And it’s the part artists think of when preparing a show. Getting the music right, developing the skills to play your instrument and sing, writing songs, and getting the sound & tone right, etc.

Add to that the part of “building it” that most artists don’t think about… the visual and style development… and you know this is a big part of the process, and one that will take a great deal of time to get right!

4. Move In

Finally, there is this important part of building a home (or a show). It will make the difference between moving into a “cookie cutter” house in a subdivision that has been decorated and furnished by the builder, or choosing your own paint color, flooring, furniture, and accessories to create our own unique home.

To do this with your live show means rearranging your songs so you are in control and can connect with the audience. It means extracting the moments within your songs that allow you to express yourself completely from stage. And it means learning how to effectively communicate, musically, visually, and verbally from the stage so your audience can understand who you are and relate to you and your music.

We’d love to help you with all 4 parts of the process… just let us know!

Comment below and tell us which of these 4 steps you struggle with the most and why.

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. My band and I are preparing a number of summer (festival) gigs and I’m convincing them – all great and professional musicians mind you – that “just playing the songs is not enough”.
    We’re an mix of jazz musicians (them) and a singer-songerwriter/folkrock musician, so the energy seems to be somewhat different.
    In any event, so glad I found this site. Very helpful stuff! Thank you!

    • Glad you found us Herby! Yes, people come to shows NOT just to hear music…they want an experience,
      a show! When we work with artists, we look for the ‘moment’ in each song and develop it for a live audience – producing it in a way that grabs the viewer and really makes a connection. Starts with the right arrangement of course and then
      what’s happening visually so the song comes to life! If you want a sampling of what we can do with one of your songs, start with a video critique or Zoom session….send a video of you performing the song live, and we can give you feedback and concrete ideas to try! Here’s a link to that page on our site: https://onstagesuccess.com/booking/
      Thanks Herby!

  2. I love these 4 steps. It’s such a nice reminder to lay a good foundation. I would love to hear some more advice for artists who are playing two hour gigs in restaurants where it’s hard to create a “show” when you’re kind of background music. Just a thought for a future blog post! Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. I really think you guys would benefit greatly from developing a YouTube presence “reacting” to live performances. I have three suggestions that would almost instantly develop a following on YouTube for your special skills and it would likely pay well too… React to these three live performances which have thousands of people who are ADDICTED to watching reaction videos of these performances…
    Je Suis Malade by Lara Fabian
    Hi Ren by Ren
    Lose Yourself by Kasey Chambers

    DO those three and you’ll have built a sizable Youtube following with your credentials, I suspect!
    Anyway, there’s probably more, but I personally have read your book, seen lots of your videos and been addicted to watching these three videos and 10x REACTION videos that make them all new again…

    • Thanks for the suggestions Steve! We actually ARE planning on working on Youtube content INCLUDING reactions in the near future. We recently got some equipment for it and have been doing research and prep for it but we hope to see you there. We’ll send out some posts and share it around once we get going. If you have any other suggestions, (or know anything about the technical aspects of reacting) or specific videos feel free to email our office at info@tomjacksonproductions.com

  4. I always enjoy hearing your strategy for performing. Someday I want to come to one of your seminars. Thank you so much for the on-site into performing. I have your book and have read it and try to apply it to my music. I play in a band, Lynn Goldsmith and the Jeter Mountain Band in the Hendersonville NC area, and we have a pretty good following but we could use some tweaking on performance. Thanks again for your help .

    Lynn Goldsmith

    • You’re welcome Lynn! Glad to have you on-board with us. We don’t put on very many of our OWN workshops, but Tom continues to speak around the US and Canada at various events, and I do some as well. The best and quickest way to get help and see change is to have us work with you and your music one-on-one. That can either be in-person, or via video critique. If you want to look into this, email our office at info@tomjacksonproductions.com

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