Photo: Jeff McQ.

Musicians, when you’re playing live onstage, your stage presence is key to your success. In my experience, bands and performing artists are generally doing one of two things when they are onstage: they are either commanding the stage, or they are demanding attention. And there seems to be a fine line between the two.

What’s the difference?

Let’s start at the beginning: if you think open stages and open mic nights are beneath you, you need to read the previous post.

Yes, open mics can definitely be a mixed bag–a few people who think they can sing/play, occasionally some people who simply like to hear themselves play/sing (whether the audience concurs or not)–and a few occasional moments of absolute genius. And a built-in chance for you to play for a new group of people and get some new fans. (Translation: you get to try for one of those “absolute genius moment” things.)

Continuing our “Polishing Your Performance” series…this topic ties in with the articles about stage presence, but interacting with your audience deserves some discussion on its own. 

As musicians, we all want our music to be heard and appreciated.  That’s one of the big reasons why we play live.  But one simple mindset in the live setting can make all the difference between a great show and a mediocre one:

When you perform live, it isn’t just about you.  It’s about your audience, too.

In the previous post in this series, we started to talk about what stage presence is, how it makes a difference in a performance, and some things you can do to improve your own stage presence.  In this followup post, let’s give some down-to-earth, practical do’s and don’ts about handling and owning the stage when you’re performing live.

Ready?

DON’T…try to hype audience response by constantly coaching them what to do, or demanding a response. 
DO… Encourage audience participation once in awhile.

This topic of stage presence actually qualifies as part of the “Polishing Your Performance” series, but is important enough to be a little 2-part series on its own.

Stage presence is one of those concepts that is difficult to describe or measure.  Kind of like the wind.  You can’t see or touch the wind (unless you’re in LA or Beijing, maybe), but you can certainly see what effect it has on the stuff it blows on.  In fact, we tend to describe wind more by what it does than by what it is. (For example, “That wind done plumb blowed over my whole chicken coop!”)  Or, as a more scientific example, the Fujita Scale measures tornado winds after the fact, by the damage left behind.

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