In 2016 the average ticket price among the top 100 North American tours was $76.55, a new record. As album sales slumped, the concert business boomed and fans have proven they are willing to shell out big bucks for a live show. I’m mostly in favor of this trend, as long as the market stays strong. That said, if I pay $70+ for a ticket,
YOUR SHOW BETTER NOT SUCK!
2016 saw the deaths of two of the world’s greatest performers, Prince and David Bowie. The passing of these legends made me question if the art of performing was being buried with them. Of course, that is not the case. Plenty of artists still know how to deliver an engaging show. Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar, Sturgill Simpson and Beck come to mind for mainstream acts. That level of performer does however seem to be in the minority.
Labels often groom artists now, where before they were seasoned by empty rooms and sketchy motels. Many of today’s artists haven’t earned their stage chops the old fashioned way, through trial and error. In addition, festivals have seen the almighty jam band replaced with deejays playing electronic music. I am not interested in arguing the merits of any particular artist or genre’s musical credibility. I am simply suggesting that performers lucky enough to fill large venues and charge big ticket prices owe the crowd something extra to make the experience memorable.
There are literally endless ways to improve a live show and countless sources of inspiration to draw from. That’s the reason I find boring concerts so unacceptable. For the big budget tours there really is no excuse. But the average band that is scraping by, living in a van, should also aim to be more creative with live shows. Here’s a few suggestions that require very little investment of time or money.
- Invite musical guests to join you on stage. Have you collaborated with other vocalists or players? Do you have a friend that does obnoxious solos and is a total spaz? Maybe you know a young, budding musician that could add an inspirational moment to your set? This is an easy way to briefly switch things up and add depth to your show.
- Hire some dancers. Or a magician. Or possibly a fire breather, a cheer squad, an orchestra, a clown – whatever. If you know someone that is talented and interesting, try and incorporate them into your own show. Give your audience something else to look at, if only for a song.
- Use technology. Artists on any budget can now afford a decent projector. Don’t know what to project? Go to internetarchive.org and download public domain videos that fit your style. Projection mapping opens up a whole new realm of possibilities as well. There is also LED string and tape that you can use to light up just about anything and sync it with your music. 3D cameras, holograms and virtual reality will all likely play a role in future live entertainment.
- Offer remixes or mashups. Tired of playing your hit song over and over? Switch it up and give your fans something they can only hear at your live show. I saw Snoop Dogg once in a small venue that only holds 800 people. He had a full band and they seemed to thrive in that intimate environment. He played all his hits to entirely new beats, against conventional wisdom, and the crowd ate up every second.
- Know your strengths and play to them. If you’re not a singer, don’t sing. If you’re not a rapper, don’t rap. Not a guitar player? Don’t try to do a solo. Get the drift? I’m all for experimenting and doing the unexpected, but if those experiments fall flat it can become the only thing anyone remembers. Choose wisely and remember, vibe is more important than anything else.
The financial models in the music industry have changed enormously in the past two decades and labels are scrambling to maintain profit margins. 360 deals have become the norm and artists now rely on touring for the bulk of their income, hence the price hikes. That is why its essential for musicians make the necessary investments, both artistically and monetarily, to ensure they deliver the best possible experience.
Guest post written by Scrub
Post by Corey Kleinsasser
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