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When 30 Minutes Is Too Much and 2 Hours Isn’t Enough

I went to a show at the arena here in town to see someone I’d worked with – a #1 artist with lots of #1 hit songs. It was totally sold out…lots of excitement in the room.

The first opening act had some great songs, lots of energy, and did a decent job onstage.  Unfortunately, they weren’t all on the same page.

Tom with arms folded


You see, as a group, you need to understand the importance of directing the audience’s attention to the right thing; otherwise, the audience won’t know where to look.  I call it misdirection, and it takes away from the effectiveness of what the group is trying to do.

It’s sort of like a football team where everyone knows their assignments except for one person.  And that breakdown can mean a major loss of yardage!  So even though this artist group had good songs and sang well, the audience was watching one person distract them – and group effectiveness was diluted.

The second act had a great band!  This artist is very well known, and has had a couple of hit songs. Their set was about 30 minutes long – and unfortunately, it felt like an hour!

The artist was onstage singing their heart out, telling stories about the songs and what they meant to them. In fact a couple of times the camera pulled in close and we could see teary eyes.  Obviously, they were very emotional about their songs, and they loved what they were doing.

But they didn’t know how to get that emotional connection with the audience.

They wandered around stage, doing stuff they’d seen other people do.  By the response from the crowd, after 2 or 3 songs, they didn’t want any more!  The artist wasn’t boo-ed off the stage.  People clapped for them.  The artist maybe even thought the audience loved them.  But there wasn’t one person I talked to after the show who didn’t feel the same way – the 30 minute set was too long.

I’ve said it many times, and I’ll keep saying it: people don’t go to hear your songs, they go to experience moments!  Though this artist had hit songs, they had no moments in their live show.

I’m always tempted after a show like that to talk to the artists and tell them how Tom Jackson Productions could help them.  But in most cases it’s a losing battle, because the artists don’t comprehend what is happening in the audience.  They are so connected to their own music onstage, they think everyone else is, too!

Finally, the headliner came on.  Two hours and 20 minutes later I wanted to see more!  There were moments everywhere.  Touching moments, fun moments, musical moments…there were visual moments and more throughout the night.

People ask me all the time: “how many songs should I have in my show?”  That’s the wrong question.  The question I have for you is “how many moments have you created for your show?”

Because if you’re just singing songs, 30 minutes is too long.  If you’ve been creating moments, 2 hours might not be long enough!

For help creating moments onstage, see Turn It Up to 11, DVD #2 in the All Roads series.

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. Yes, so true. I went to 2 shows one night. One was in an arena and the arena show had many moments by each of the artists. I followed this up with a club show. they were an awesome band and had a couple of hits, but I’m not sure anybody was paying attention after a while. No moments, nothing to hang on to. I was there with a radio producer and he was of the same opinion and explained that a radio show is much the same. The best performing radio shows had moments where the on-air personality had a connection with the audience. Otherwise it was just background music. The music will create an emotional response, but the listener has to feel like the artist cares about them and is speaking directly to them. If the artist can do this in all of their media and live content, I think this elevates the art and is the difference between having an arena show or just having a club show… My opinion…

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