Updated: Jan 12, 2019
Being labelled as a good performer is one of the most important things any independent artist can have. Considering how saturated the market is with all the other indie artists, some may deem it necessary. Having killer tracks is most probably 20-30% of the work done but being able to translate the studio energy to a live crowd alluring performance is something that all artist want to get correct. If you can get this right then you'll be able to live off of you music. An example of this is J.Cole who makes most of his money touring and not CD Sales or Endorsements. This is done by getting his fans to tell their friends about how great he is on stage and those friends tell their friends and then word-of-mouth kicks in. I'm definitely not an expert when it comes to performances but here are 5 things I've picked up that work well with audiences of many walks of life.
1. Practice makes perfect
There is nothing as unprofessional or mediocre as a performer who forgets their lyrics or who is undemanding of attention as an unprepared performer. This is more than just being able to recite the two verses of your track but to have a "song routine" for the song/s or the set of songs. Being able to relate your lyrics to a dance routine or to parts of your music video every time is a sure way to get the crowd part of the song (Everyone likes a dance along almost as much as a sing along).
At the very least you can have a walk routine and have the lyrics engraved in your memory. Forgetting lyrics is absolutely unacceptable as you can practice lyrics anywhere and whenever so this is not debatable.
2. Mash/Mix Tracks Up
A good way to keep a performance liquid and flowing is to mix your performance tracks together. It's like doing what some DJ's do when they play "live". You make a pre-Mix of tracks and perform as if there was a DJ actually mixing it live. This works well if you're performing tracks that are part of a project and want people to get the just of the project. It helps keep the audience interested as the sound is constantly changing. If you're a very energetic performer, it also helps give you sometime to rest in between the bigger tracks as you can put a slower, less intense track in between the energy demanding tracks.
The only snag about this point is that you have to be able to mix the tracks together but I'm sure you know a producer or Dj who can do this for you or you can learn to do it yourself which is the most ideal. Don't forget point 1 though. You have to have the mix so memorized in your system that the neighbours know it.
3. Semi-Cover Bigger Songs
As hiphop performers, it's not common to see other artists perform other hiphop tracks. I can almost promise you that this is an easy way to get the crowd to sing along with you and it's a great ice breaker if you're relatively unknown. One way to get this tactic turned up a notch is to only keep the important parts of this song, such as the hook and the memorable lines of the song Example: Last name "Ever", first name "Greatest". I've tried this tactic at karaokes and during regular performances. Song's that are trending are always gold for this form of crowd hyping.
Using this point in conjunction with point 2 and then you have a set of songs that people don't know and your songs. I used my song, "I Feel It" and mix it with Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" at performances and it worked well in the USA. I'm sure you get the idea. Trap songs work well with "I'm In Love With The Coco" by O.T Genasis, Dubstep-Rap tracks work well with "It's Bigger Than Hiphop" by Dead Prez. This changes all the time so try incorporate the newer songs with your performances.
4. Make The Audience Part of the Song
While I was raising funds for my trip I performed a few of the tracks that had minimal production as acoustic pieces. I taught the crowd the basic melody, taught them when to clap and then showed them when to stomp (bass drum). It worked out a lot better than expected and the audience instantly enjoyed taking part. I used it as an ice-breaker and a mic check for the sound guy to level the microphones accordingly.
Another way this could be done and has been done by many before I was even alive is the call and response interaction. An example: "When I say "Hip" you say "Hop"... Hip... Hop... Hip...Hop". I've seen multiple artists use this when they have sound issues, and trying to keep the momentum for the next track as the track is changed. Try to come up with something that you can incorporate throughout a performance so you only teach them once and use it multiple times throughout.
5. Consider Performing the Same Song More Than Once
A lot of the time one song gets the crowd going a lot more than your other songs that are on your current performance tracks. Having a different version of the same track later on in your set is something Djs have been doing for decades. Taking from this idea and implementing it to the independent artist's set up should also be okay. After all the second time people hear the song they should recognize it as it's not the first time they are hearing something similar.
Having an Acoustic version or rock version at a performance is a good way to promote one song. In essence, it's like having a remix of a song. I did an acoustic take of "My Queen" and just titled it "Queen". While the song is more or less the same song, I'm able to perform "Queen" as a more somber and heartfelt version when I play it live with some keys.
Performing is the lifeblood of many musicians and some musicians don't even release projects as their performances are good enough for them to have that as their main form of income. The key to success is always planning and when it comes to performances, practice is essential Planned practices are what make more entities, like sport teams great. If you'd like to connect and discuss ways of getting your performance better, let's connect via email firstname.lastname@example.org or whatsapp 0835709602. If you enjoyed this read, please share it with your circle of artists and let's empower each other.
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