Whether you’re a band or singer/songwriter, your primary goal at gigs is most likely ‘acquire new fans’. Am I right? Okay, to achieve this, here’s a trick that’s so effective, so easy, so agonisingly simple to apply, you’ll wonder why I haven’t charged you for it when you notie an immediate change in your audience engagement. CAUTION: for this to work, you have to cultivate a level of bravery you may not be familiar with, but if you do, the rewards are enormous!
Here’s a sentence I hear all too often at gigs featuring ambitious new bands/artists:
“This next song is about… [insert stuff here]”
Now, I have no issue with musicians sharing the story underpinning their songs per se, however, by doing it in such a tired, textbook manner, you’re limiting yourself to being that musician who, by the end of the night, has done nothing more than talk at the audience. The cruical word here is ‘at’. The smart musician/band is the one that talks with their audience – subtly enticing them into personal stories. Instead of saying, “This next song is about…” imagine what would happen if you tried this…
Musician: “Hey, you [to random person in crowd] sorry, what’s your name?”
Person: “Er, me?”
Musician: “Hey Matt! Have you ever been in a relationship where you’re so bored, you want to paint your fingernails electric pink just to have something interesting to do?”
Matt: “er… no!”
Musician: “Jeez, I have, and here’s a song I wrote about it. It’s called ‘I Like My Girlfriend’s Make-Up’.”
Now, here are three powerful benefits of adopting a conversational approach:
1: The minute you spontaneously target one person in the crowd, every single other person in that room will stop what they’re doing [even if they don’t like your music] to listen. Humans are inherently nosy and hate the feeling of ‘missing out’. Salespeople call this tactic ‘Fear of Loss’. By skillfully addressing one person, disregarding everyone else, you immediately create a captive audience.
2: By asking a simple question, you’ve connected with not only the chosen person, but the entire room – trust me, eveyone will automatically ask themselves whatever question you ask your target, it’s psychologically impossible not to.
3: The entire room now has a stake in your song, they have a vested interested in it, because before you’ve even played the first chord, you’ve prompted consideration, you’ve inspired thought, you’ve drawn them in. Even if the majority of the room answers “no” to your question, it doesn’t matter, you’ve engaged them regardless.
To become a pro at the conversational approach, note the following:
1. Implement question-asking at each gig sparingly. In fact, do it once-per-gig… twice max! If you do it repeatedly, it looks like a well-rehearsed routine rather than a spontanious occurance. Also, let’s be honest, people are there for music, not a game of Trival Pursuit.
2. Select a non-easy target – maybe the man standing in the corner who looks mean and probably sells drugs for a living. By selecting someone who isn’t as obviously ‘safe’ as, say, the attractive woman in the front row, it maks things infinitely more interesting, intriguing, memorable – furthermore, it speaks volumes about your confidence. Think about it… who doesn’t want to be friends with a brave, daring musician? Exactly, we all do!
3. Whatever you say in-between your songs, always target one person. Never use sentences like, “Does anyone ever…?” “Who wants… ?” “Can someone…” because all you’re doing there is cold-calling the enritre room, in the hope someone buys. No, whenevr you’ve got something to say at a gig, send a personal, hand-written letter to the drug dealer in the corner… then just watch everyone else want to read it.