Artist Development MIIM Win over Audience

Published on August 26th, 2013 | by Hugh Hession


What it takes to win over your audience, Pt 1

This is part 1 of 3 series on winning over your audience. This series brings to light the typical mindset of a band when dealing with a difficult or non-responsive audience and offers time-tested tips on how to overcome performance obstacles with your audience whether you’re playing in a new city or just dealing with a general snag at one of your shows.

As an artist performance coach, I am by nature, meticulously observant when I go see a band play live. While fans and patrons are getting their drink on, I am scoping out the room (the venue), the bartenders, the people walking in (and leaving),  the way people and groups interact and react, and of course, the band on stage.  By doing this, I have a complete view of all the elements that come into play when a band performs. Each of these elements are very important, and a successful show will be based upon how well a band can bring all those components together and influence that synergy into one universal perception – that the band completely ROCKS and you bet your sweet ass that a whole lotta people that night are going to be telling a whole lotta other people the very next day, just how damn good the band was.

And to that band, whoever and wherever you are…a job well done. Any questions?

In a world, where no one knows your name

So there you are. In a world, where know one knows your name (in my best Don LaFontaine voice)! Your job is to deliver a mind-blowing experience to an audience that may have never heard you before. By the way, please note the word “experience” and store that away for now. We’ll talk about that again, soon.

For some bands or artists, a show like this might be with three or even four other acts, or what I call showcase gigs. Each band plays one set, which may run from 30 to 45 minutes, while the headliner may play longer in duration. Now, you very well may be the only band on the bill that is unknown in this new market. How do you make impact? There’s only one way. You gotta BRING IT!

So, it’s time to go on stage. You come out of the gate swinging and the crowd seems anxious. Into your second song, all of sudden everyone begins to disappear and leave the floor. After your third song, you’ve lost three quarters of your crowd.

What the…

I hear ya. That’s not a good feeling. First, let me tell you how most bands interpret this and then I will tell you my observations, based on witnessing this scenario play out time and time again. My intent here, is to help you succeed. To do that, it takes some self-awareness and the ability to take a hard look at what needs to be changed to improve.

What the band thinks

1. We’re an out of town act and no one knows us
2. We just weren’t feeling it
3. The sound sucked

My observations

1. We’re an out town act

Being out of town has nothing to do with it. I know this can be hard to accept, but you simply didn’t WOW the crowd enough to keep them engaged. Truthfully, a great band is a great band. And one that creates a memorable experience will be remembered. There’s that word “experience” again. Something about that word! Hmm…

2. Just not feeling it

To piggyback off of my first point, your playing is only ONE part of what it means to “bring it.” There are other variables involved that are often overlooked. Playing a show is very much like acting. Successful bands know how to turn it on and off even if they “just aren’t feeling it.”  Basically, when they hit the stage, it’s show time and nothing less. In my experience, bands that respect their fans and go all out to win over new ones, are going to be further along than those bands that don’t. It’s all about “we,” not “me.”

3. The sound sucks

I think we can all pretty much come to the conclusion that the sound usually sucks in some way, shape or form in most venues that have their own PA system. There are exceptions in any given market and those exceptions usually vary depending on the size and production budget of a venue. However, I’ve experienced way too many, kick ass bands play with a substandard mix and bring the house down. I’ve witnessed shows where the attitude, energy and swag are just dripping from a band. It was so contagious, that the sound inconsistency had no negative impact. That’s when you know, you’ve pulled it off. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of getting the best sound possible. But let’s be honest, that’s not always going to happen. You have to be able to understand this and get past it as a performing band. As much as this sucks, it’s just a reality.

Now let’s move forward and talk about the psychology behind a memorable show. On to part 2!

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About the Author

owns and operates Emerging Artists Entertainment Marketing & Consulting, LLC - a company devoted to cultivating aspiring music artists, He is also the head of Hession Entertainment Group, LLC (artist management) and the Music Industry Liaison for the artist discovery site, TalentWatch ( He has over 25 years experience in the music business as a performer, composer, producer and artist manager. Hugh holds a BA in Marketing and is a professional member of NARIP and a voting member of The Recording Academy. He often speaks at seminars and workshops on artist development.

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