There are a lot of reasons why people go out to enjoy live music. It could be their favorite song, band or artist. People crave the sounds and tones that can only be delivered from instruments, drums and amps. They also like to watch music being composed live. They like watching the drummer, then watching a lead guitarist nail a lead or watch the front person dig deep for that perfect note. A full band also offers audience connections by inspiring people to dance.
As a soloist, all of that needs to come to play from one person. If you perform like me as a singer/songwriter you might inspire a few slow dancers but you are not going to find that many people moshing.
During a 2-3 hour show you’ve got to expect the audience to slip away into conversation from time to time and you shouldn’t think anything of it if people don’t clap after every song. Also, you should expect people not staying the duration of the show, especially if you are soloing… BUT there are a few things that I do that helps keep the audience from asking for their tab and packing out and keeping them around.
Your goal as a soloists should be to keep things interesting and keep people around for the duration of your show. The venue will love you for it, the audience will appreciate it and feel that they made the right choice to come to your show, also as an artist you’ll feel pretty satisfied.
A Few Things I Do
I get to the venue pretty early so I can set up the stage and lights. If the stage looks thrown together with cables everywhere and you are doing sound check during the time you’ve advertised the show starting you are just going to look either like your late or you don’t care.
I loop my guitar to break away with a harmonica solo. I like to loop for a couple reasons: the performance factor and ability to break away to do something aside strumming the guitar. It helps keep people interested with the first impression of “wait a minute he’s not playing the guitar.” I’ve noticed that people stay engaged after they realize that I’m looping (and I really try hard to make it audibly seamless as possible).
Another thing is I have on the stage is a projector screen where I have visuals played from a DVD/projector. I use spaghetti westerns because it suits my music, but it could be anything. Audience members watch me play, loop and harp solo then they kind of get sucked into the flick. It’s kind of cool from my POV actually. It’s almost like I’m playing the soundtrack for the movie and a lot of people. Anything visual is a great way to keep things interesting on your stage.
During my set breaks I go out to the audience, engage with them and thank them for coming. This is great to not only help build a fan base but also adds to the small venue vibe. Also, during my set breaks I play my favorite music from an mp3 player in the board. This helps keep the music in my own genre flowing rather than silence.
At the end of the show if there are more people than where there with some of the original audience members still there… And if they asked for an encore, I feel that I did it right.
It’s all a work in progress and I’m now looking at how to get automated stage lighting to help keep it even more interesting.