In Performing Live, Part One: Rehearsals we covered many of the musical and technical aspects of rehearsing for the big gig. But there are plenty of other aspects to performing live that many musicians don’t even consider. In this article, you’ll find the insider information to sharpen your edge as you move from rehearsing to starting to plan the show itself.

Planning for a Successful Show

This step is an obvious one but that doesn’t mean that doing it right comes easily. You need your music to be on point: all the musicians have to be ready to play their parts, and know the arrangements inside-out. Rehearsals are the place to prepare the structure for your show and discuss how to make your performance stand out from the crowd.

Think about this: there are countless other artists who don’t have an established name. So what can you do during your show to be remembered.

Hey, it’s all about the music, man!” This is true, but in our digital era there is a lot of great music being written. You know that musically you are the Beethovens of the 21st century, but is that enough to for the audience to even remember your name after the night is over?

You have to “kill it” at the show! Rehearsals are there for you to put your attention on your presentation before the pressure is on.

Here are six make-or-break your performance issues that can be worked out in the rehearsal phase:

1. The Set List

What songs are you playing and in what specific order? Don’t count on yourself to go with the flow when the lights are up and the pressure’s on. A well-constructed set list is an art form in itself.

DJs are not exempt: have a structure for your performance, for example: start with 128 BPM (eg. Bass house) go into 140 (several dubstep records) and take it up to 160 BPM (trap or future bass)).

2. The Segue

A segue is a smooth transition from one topic to another. So, in a live band setting, you can create musical fills or drones for a specific amount of bars resolving into the next song. These transitions will create magical times of simmering anticipation for you and your audience.

3. The Stage Setup

You want to max out the limited amount of time you have on stage, and in some circumstances you will also want to hustle off the stage (for example, if you’re being followed by another band. So make sure you know how you’re going to be positioned on stage and handle all the equipment.

You’ll want to make sure all your valuable and essential equipment arrives and leaves the gig in your possession! Make a plan with the band: some will need more time and assistance than others.

Show your drummer some love! Ask her to train you to help set up and break down her rig.

4. The Backdrop

Many venues today have a projector (more on this as we continue this series when we cover the show itself and discuss the importance of a technical rider), or you can bring your own. What video sequence are you going to play? Having a backdrop with cool images will make your performance much more visually appealing.

Consider using software like Resolume and getting one of your friends to VJ (video jockey). This software will help to easily map out the light show. It’s up to you to pull together the video artwork itself. Two options:

  1. Hire a production team to design it for you (expensive)
  2. Purchase or download available stock video sequences online.

Here’s an example of Erik Prydz’ new stage visuals, called Epic 4.0. Jump to [13:20].

Also check the visuals at [35:50]. This the kind of show you’re going to remember for life.

If as a new act you can’t afford such production, consider a few ideas to improve your visual experience. This is something the majority of live bands have been ignoring, while electronic artists push the industry by acquiring insane stage setups.

Discuss these at rehearsal, and if possible run the visuals there as well: the show will run smoothly and the experience will pump you up for the big night!

5. The Stage Presence

The philosophy of performing live is quite simple: put on the kind of show where people to go around for years saying just how awesome it was. Think of your favourite artists, don’t they seem to be the coolest people in the whole world? The way they look, talk, perform on stage… Guess what?! Now you’re that iconic person!

Play around with this at rehearsals. Recreate yourselves as a larger-than-life characters, the ones you always dreamed of being. Step into that role, on and off stage, and feel your audience fall in love!

6. The Props and Giveaways

What else can you do during the show that will make you stand out from the crowd? Maybe it’s worth renting a few cryogen guns and using those during the peak of your performance—people love those, always did and always will! Budget pinch? Throw a few glow sticks in the crowd. Brainstorm with your bandmates in rehearsal and see what cool ideas you come up with.

Give away free merch with your project’s logos and especially your name. Thumb drives with your music are a great way to give away your songs that’s also useful to your fans in the future. How about negotiating a few free bottles with the venue and giving away free shots to the crowd before or during your show?

Prepare for Greatness

Even before you strike that first power chord, it’s time to show the audience you care! You’re ready to do more than just a few social media posts announcing your shows. Think about yourself as a business: establish the value proposition before you start monetizing your project. Invest a little effort and it will all pay off.

Psyched about the show? Um… what show? In our next article, we’ll show you how to get booked in the first place.