Why is connecting with your audience so important to your music career success?
The answer is simple: to build a dedicated fanbase…
…a fanbase that can help to scale the introduction of your music to others who haven’t heard it yet.
When you connect with your audience well — via online or live interactions including live performances — you leave those who gave you their attention a feeling that you care about them, or the opportunity to get to know you a little better as a performer. The end result is that the relationship between you and your fan has deepened, and hopefully strengthened, in some positive way because of the interaction.
As a performer, what’s the secret to connecting with an audience to provide them a meaningful experience? Is it even possible?
The answer is yes… and, no.
- YES magical moments are possible during your performance. The secret to cultivating those moments is always thinking of your fans first.
- NO you can’t “make” those special moments happen, but you can influence situations to help encourage good, memorable moments to occur for both you and your fans.
Performers have various reasons for getting up in front of groups of strangers and supporters to sing and play original or interpreted music. Yet why do you really do it?
Motivations for a career in music are as diverse as the songs we sing. Many artists claim to be inspired to create similar meaningful moments to what they have experienced in the past:
“I want to help *YOU* feel the way *I* felt when I first heard [fill in name of song/artist/band].”
It’s an altruistic intention. But how can this be accomplished? Can a soloist or lead singer truly connect with the audience? What about the rest of the band?
Be Real With Your Fanbase
While performing, find friendly faces and interact with your fans. They came to see you, or they came to hear good music. Smile, and direct the lyrics or your killer licks to various individuals. Talk to the crowd between songs if you have a mic; if you’re not a singer, talk to the people before and after the show. Most importantly, be yourself. That’s what makes your act unique. No one can appreciate your music if they don’t connect with you.
Don’t be mean. Don’t shame your audience from the stage. When you chat with your audience between songs from the stage be the host of the show for the audience. You’re their guide throughout the evening helping them navigate your songs to stitch together a wonderful, music-filled night. However, if you turn the audience off because you’re having an off night, not feeling well, or you just don’t want to be there and you take it out on the audience (cough, Ryan Adams in Madison, WI on March 28, 2023) you risk alienating a group of otherwise raving fans. That’s a cardinal sin in the live music business.
Fans who have a negative experience because a performer was rude to the audience from the stage — an audience who gave up their time, attention and likely money to see this artist perform, essentially helping to financially support that artist — are very likely to share their negative experience with friends and online. This has the opposite effect on what you as a musician trying to grow a fanbase will want. This will detract fans from you vs. attract them to you.
Instead you want to help audience members have wonderful experiences at your shows so they tell their friends and others on social media about the positive experience they had (like the amazing Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers show I was at in Madison, WI on March 27, 2023, the same week as the terrible Ryan Adams experience), which will bring them back to the next show and encourages them to want to bring their friends as well (more fans for you).
Be Well-Rehearsed for your Fanbase
Prevent bumming the audience out with tuning issues, false starts, forgotten lyrics, and setlist confusion. You will perform the way you have rehearsed (though likely not as well). It’s probable that your very best musical moments will happen during band practice, when no one else is listening. So, on stage you can expect to bring about 80% of your best. Thus when you are well-rehearsed, you raise the bar. Eighty percent of chaos (poor rehearsal preparation) is still just…chaos.
The good news is, when you are well rehearsed for a live performance, it means you’re not totally focused on only making sure you hit the notes in the song, it means you have songs down as much as you’re going to be able to so you can spend a little more energy at the gig thinking about how to positively engage your fans from the stage as well as before and after the performance in any one-on-one mingling you end up doing with fans (and I encourage you to mingle with your fans, it’s a big deal to them, and only takes a few minutes for you — it makes them feel special and they end up being more likely to advocate for you and your music to their friends).
You will perform the way you have rehearsed.
Be Wonder-full for your Fanbase
Keep in touch with your sense of wonder. What do you love about music and about performing? Remember that artist or song that inspired you long ago? The good news is that you CAN experience the wonder again. The other news is that you CANNOT, ever*, directly cause anyone else to have those awesome feelings. You just can’t, no matter how good you are.** But, you can cultivate situations that lend themselves to your fans having a great time by being gracious for your fans’ attention and support and ensuring they know that at your live shows…and by continuously tapping into the way music you love creates magic moments for you.
You have to feel the magical feeling music creates within yourself. Concert-goers seeking to experience see and hear something like what you are offering will be with you. Whether you are the bandleader or rhythm section, soloist or part of a 10-piece ensemble, when you are truly in touch with the magic that music creates for YOURSELF, you will be doing your job.
You have to feel the magic within yourself.
Audiences respond to authenticity. When you find a way to keep it real for YOU, to stay well-rehearsed, and to be present, right there in the moment with your audience, you will connect with the people who are on your wavelength. Some of them may have magical experiences just like you have had. One or two may choose to follow in your footsteps.
For everyone else, there’s always the next show.
*No, not ever!