We've already discussed the various ways to improve your stage presence, but now let's talk about being a better performer as a whole. Everyone has their own way of doing things that's unique to their individual stage show, but you can start working on these three tiny tweaks right now to make yourself a better overall performer.
1. Focus on your audience, not yourself
Remember that no matter how much you practice in your room or at rehearsal with your bandmates, it all means nothing if you can't connect with your audience. Your audience is filled with fans and fans-to-be. Chances are, they've spent their hard-earned cash to get into the door tonight, and dammit, you'd better give them something worthwhile! Once you enter that stage, remember that it's no longer about you anymore. It's about them and how you make them feel. This is your audience, and their hope is to be taken away from their everyday life for just a few hours to enjoy some live music that they can truly connect with.
Whether your material will make them smile, cry, or rock out, it's imperative that you engage them. Break down that invisible wall at the end of the stage and look right into their eyes. Speak to them between songs. Tell your story. Allow them to feel connected to you. And that's the way to accumulate life-long fans that feel they have something to write home about. Because without that audience coming out to every show supporting your dream, let's face it, you're just another talented musician with a burning passion for what can only be described by the average person as a "hobby." (Yikes!)
2. Practice for the stage
It's imperative that you get into good practice habits for performing. This has little to do with scales and run-throughs of songs and much more to do with practicing your movements, stage presence, fluidity, and audience engagement. Whether playing solo or with a band, try to find a practice space that's comparable to the stage on which you'll be playing. It's also absolutely necessary to practice in front of a mirror. These tiny adjustments can take a performer from good to great, because now you're really preparing for the performance that's to come. How are you going to work the stage? What will you say to your audience between numbers? Are you physically embodying the type of performer that you think you want to be? Are you awkward in your movements? These are all questions that you'll never have to worry about asking yourself once you start practicing correctly. And these are all questions that you want to have the answers to before those lights come up and there are tons of eyeballs on you, waiting to be impressed.
Want to take it up a notch? Set up a camera and run your entire set straight through while recording yourself. Give it your best, so you can play it back after and critique anything that could use improvement before your next performance. This is your craft, and it should be taken as seriously as any other profession (though this is admittedly much more fun than most!). Practice makes perfect, and perfect practice is even better. You owe it to yourself to not be complacent with your talent; push yourself to continue to set the bar higher, improve yourself and your skillset, and continue your musical and performance education so you can always give your loyal fans the performance they deserve.
3. Remind yourself before every show why you love this
It seems silly, but this is a very important piece of the puzzle. Sometimes what you do can become monotonous if you're playing the same stuff all the time, or even tiresome if you're constantly on tour, wondering if the grass is truly greener somewhere else. Wake up, people! This is music! Why did you start this in the first place? If you're one of the lucky few who's able to do what you love for a living, never take that for granted for a single moment. Even if music isn't your full-time gig, but another form of income or just pure enjoyment for you, you need to remember how fortunate you are to even have the opportunity to perform out.
There's something that made you fall in love with this in the first place, and that's what you must tap into every night before you step out onto that stage. That fire, that passion... that is what people love to see. Fans come out to see someone having the time of his or her life, living the dream, and giving the audience raw inspiration and something to hold onto. They call it a "gift" for a reason, so if you have a God-given talent that you're fortunate enough to be able to pursue, appreciate it every single time you get to perform, and always remember why you love this.
Christine Occhino is the founder and artistic director of The Pop Music Academy and has experience working at Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment, in addition to working as a performing artist for over a decade. She has a bachelor's degree in music business and management with a concentration in entrepreneurship and vocal performance from Berklee College of Music, where she was a vocal scholarship recipient and former editor-in-chief of The Berklee Groove.