Many artists make great music in the studio but struggle to get an enthusiastic response from their audience during live shows. Thankfully, there are techniques you can use that will get the crowd involved and fully invested in your music. Try these five ways of getting more energy at your shows, and you'll leave a strong, lasting impression every time you hit the stage!
1. Interact with the crowd
Connect with people on a human level by introducing yourself and asking people how their night is going. When you engage in conversation with the audience, they’re more likely to be lively and attentive during your set.
If you pick up the microphone and just run through your set without saying anything else, it makes it seem like you have no personality and are just there because it’s your job. When performing in an intimate setting (which is quite common in the indie scene), crowd interaction is a must, and it all starts with you setting the right tone for the evening.
2. Be an entertainer
No matter how serious you are about your craft as an art form, music fans spend their hard-earned money at live shows because they want to be entertained.
You may embrace the opportunity to tell jokes onstage in between songs, and that works great. But if you're a more mild-mannered artist who makes music that's darker and less playful, don’t think you can’t be an entertainer as well. Everyone likes to laugh and has a humorous side to them, so find the qualities that you most likely share with your audience and embrace them onstage.
Your music is the fuel that drives the entertainment throughout the night, but being versatile as a performer who can make people smile is a great way of getting that extra boost of energy from the crowd.
3. Identify opportunities for audience sing-alongs in your songwriting
When you're writing a song, think about how it’s going to resonate during your live shows. A great hook doesn’t necessarily need to have radio pop appeal in order for it to be catchy; just put extra thought into the lyrics, melody, structure, and how you'll deliver it onstage.
If all of your choruses are too wordy and hard to follow along with, it becomes very difficult to receive the energy you want from the crowd. Ultimately, the right hook can make or break your performance, so be sure to take that into consideration when you're writing.
4. Plan the audience participation moments in advance
Once you have your set in place, it's on you to direct the crowd and tell them when it's time to kick their energy up a notch. You need to be 100 percent aware of when you want the crowd to start clapping or chant a certain part of the lyrics, because once you let that moment pass, it's nearly impossible to get the audience to adjust. You're not only a performer of the music, but also the conductor who has the power to create the exact type of atmosphere you think your music represents.
5. Put all of your energy into the performance
Above all else, you need to put every ounce of energy you have into your performance in order for the crowd to respect it and give their energy in response.
Performing in nearly empty rooms is very frustrating and makes it hard to be genuinely enthusiastic about the situation. But every person at every single show is a potential new fan who could support you throughout the rest of your music career. So no matter how tired you are or how bad of a day you might be having, never just go through the motions as a performer.
When it’s time to hit the stage, you're the living embodiment of the music you work so hard to create, and you need to represent your work with pride. Positive energy is contagious, and when you put everything you have into the performance, you can turn a lifeless room into an amazing experience that will be remembered by all.
Next up: 6 Stage Hacks to Engage a Crowd
Eric Bernsen is a marketing/public relations professional and music journalist who specializes in the genre of hip-hop. You can find more of his work at HITPmusic.com (where he is an editor/writer) as well as HipHop-N-More.com, where he contributes album reviews. Follow Eric on Twitter @ebernsen.