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How Soon Should You Work on Your Show?

Tom working with singer songwriterI’ve gotten both kinds of calls — the kind where I’m asked to help an artist with their show 1-2 months in advance of a tour or showcase, and the kind where I’m supposed to be the “fix-it” guy working with someone a few days before a big, important show.

So when is the best time to work out moments in your songs and put your show together? Should you plan ahead of time and work on the details?

What if you don’t know what shows you’ll be doing? How can you work on your show in advance if you don’t even know what, when, and where you’ll be playing?

It might be good to look at the pros & cons of working on your show well in advance of important gigs.

Pro #1: You Have More Time

That may sound obvious. But there’s more to it than simply having more days on the calendar to rehearse when you start earlier. Not only will you have more days — you’ll also have fewer other things going on to crowd out the rehearsal time. The closer you get to a “big showcase” or “great touring opportunity,” the more time you’ll need to spend on your website, social networks, travel plans, press releases, etc., etc.

Pro #2: You Can Get Comfortable with Your Show

When you take the time to start working on your show well in advance, you’ll have more time to get comfortable with the songs, the moments, the transitions, the movement, the places you’re leaving open for spontaneity… all those things are more fun for you & more meaningful for your audience when you’re truly comfortable with them!

Pro #3: You’ll Give Your Show More than Leftovers

To be honest, as much as I try to follow a budget in my own life and business, there are times when I overspend on some things. That means I don’t have enough money for other things I would have liked to have had. It’s the same thing with the investment you make (of time, energy, and money) in your career. If you’ve spent hours, days, weeks of time on recordings, videos, photos, bios, websites, social networking, booking, publicity, attorneys, management… and then leave the live show development until last… it gets your “leftovers.” That’s not wise.

Pro #4: You’re Ready When a Big Break Comes Along

I worked with an artist who was amazing at networking. Every day, without fail, she religiously worked her website and social sites. But at the same time, we were working on her live show — perfecting each song, creating moments, working on movement, fundamentals, transitions, talking to the audience. Her music started finding traction, and a national TV show took notice and had her on their show. She went on to deliver a stellar performance in front of a major audience because she was ready. The result was a first-round Grammy nomination, and CDs flying out the door. Her manager commented to me that he was glad they hadn’t waited until the last minute to work on her show. 

Pro #5: You May Find Success Sooner

As Henry Hartman said, “Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity.” I believe if you get ready, opportunities will come. You don’t need luck — that’s chancy. But when you’re preparing in advance, looking for opportunities to share what you can do, you will find success.

So those are some of the pros to working on your show in advance. Next week we’ll take a look at the down sides to rehearsing earlier rather than later.

Tell me about why you like to work on your show with “time to spare” — I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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 did 8 hours of working on our live show with Amy Wolter from Tom Jackson Productions. It wasn’t really in our budget, but we felt it was important to put on a professional show every time we got the opportunity to play. We didn’t have anything specific to plan for, but we ended up needing a strong 45 minute set to open for Drake White at a fair in PA 4 months later, and it went really well. It was my hometown area, and everyone was blown away at the difference the changes made! It was so worth it, and we will definitely do it again!!

    • So happy you had the foresight to prepare for the ‘what IF’s’! I enjoyed working with you guys – wish we’d had more time but glad your fans loved the show. Had an young artist in 2020 who had never done one show but had signed with a manager who heard something in her. She had no shows booked but was doing a lot of writing. Over the next 2 years we worked on smaller shows as they came up and she showed lots of growth and grew comfortable onstage. When her very 1st single hit, it hit BIG and her booking agency was flooded with requests for shows and it’s been nonstop since. We both were saying how glad we were that we did the work BEFORE, and not ‘last-minute-hurry-up-and-fix-it’. Well done Issac! Say hey to the band for me. 🙂

  2. Tom, The wife and I are an acoustic duo playing the Asheville NC area. We are playing to small venues, house concerts, private parties etc.
    I’ve been playing live since ‘67 and our duo has been a live act for fifteen years. Your insights and directions have revamped our stage show for the better. We crank dialogue, short stories, simple fun non threatening jokes, and good vibes into our show interspersed with oldies, new, and obscure songs… we work very hard to insure venue owners and patrons have a great time.
    I’d like to explore further improving our act.
    Thanks Tom.

  3. I am a person who does not do well against the clock so preparing ahead of time is a must for me as an artist. I don’t have all these transitions down to a perfect spot but I feel like I do bring some good energy on stage. I feel much more comfortable after rehearsing well in advance because I become so familiar and confident with my set that my confidence is through the roof on stage

  4. Hi Tom,
    I feel that there’s real value in what you do. I am a 69 year old that plays a combination of cover and original material locally but have had some recognition outside of our local area mainly due to a promoter associated with Fireworks in the UK. I just don’t think at my point in life we will ever need your level of coaching as we are unlikely to tour at our age. We were late starters. If interested you could listen to our original music at the site below.

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