Audience engagement is one of the most important parts of music, along with being a talented performer. Whether it’s singing, playing the guitar or any other instrument, if you can get a crowd to like you, then you are well on your way to making a name for yourself in the music industry.
Engaging with your audience on stage is an easy way to get a crowd to like what you are doing. If the crowd likes who you are then they will enjoy the music you are playing and it will be a successful gig.
It’s not just how well you sing or play an instrument, often the first thing that people notice when watching a band or singer perform is how well they interact with the audience. If they are into what the performer is doing then they’ll reciprocate with good energy. This is one of the most important parts of the performance – audience engagement – and here’s how to get the crowd on your side.
Engaging your audience
The main aim of the performer at a gig is to get the crowd to reciprocate energy. This means that the performer will engage the crowd in such a way that they enjoy every moment of the show and hopefully come back to watch again.
Engaging with an audience can be difficult. When musicians or bands first put themselves out there, they need to make a name for themselves. This can be among people in your hometown and eventually record executives at labels.
Getting your name out there is part of why you want to perform in the first place. The better you are at performing, the more you can do it and getting people to a gig enables a musician or band to keep on performing.
If you are nervous and have never before performed live there are a few things that you can do to calm those nerves.
Firstly, consider taking a few drama lessons, as these will help build your confidence which is what you need. According to this article, studying drama can have a big impact on self-esteem.
However, if drama is too expensive, there are a few at-home tips that you can try in order to make yourself more engaging to your audience.
How to perform on stage
You can engage with your audience more by learning different breathing exercises. For example, before you go on stage, learn to control your breathing so that you are not breathing too heavily and ensure that you are breathing at a slow and steady pace.
Try to maintain this pace of breath throughout your performance and you will see a difference in how the audience responds. If you have a calm and controlled manner of performing and don’t show that you are nervous, the audience will respond to this and show positive interest.
Your manner and how you want your performance to look is important as it shows an audience who you are as a musician. Whether or not you are playing in part of a band is not important, what is important is how you as a musician envision yourself.
Practice self-visualisation to make yourself more engaging with an audience. This is a technique where the person envisions themselves performing in front of an audience. Try this for about 5 mins before you sleep each night, and more importantly see yourself being successful at performing.
The more you practice positive thinking the more comfortable you will be on stage, and therefore performance will come more naturally. Find out more about positive thinking in this article.
Talking in between songs when performing
Some people are naturally magnetic to an audience so they will always have confidence and perform well. However, it isn’t this way for everyone. There are many excellent examples of performers who are outgoing and confident and seem more at home in front of a crowd.
As Lady Gaga told the Telegraph, “Even as a kid I always had eyes on me, like bees on honey. I was always outrageous.”
If you are the opposite and don’t like performing in front of a crowd then it is important that your crowd like you and see your love for playing music. The best way to do this is by interacting with the crowd and speaking between songs to help put you and the audience on the same level.
Go out and watch other performers and measure yourself against them. See how they interact with an audience if you are nervous about doing so. John Mayer, an American singer-songwriter is fantastic at engaging with his audience and always talks to his audience between songs. This helps the crowd love and respect him as a musician and as an entertainer.
Talk to your audience, make them see you as not just a musician but as a person who has goals and aspirations. Tell them a little about yourself, even ask questions and get feedback Something like, ‘How am I doing tonight?’ will hopefully get a good response.
Take time in your schedule and go to gigs that you wouldn’t normally go to, experience different types of music and see how each genre interacts with their audience differently. For example, go to a rock gig and experience head-banging or go to an Afrobeats night and experience some dancing.
A performer that can get their audience to sing and dance to their music is the height of audience engagement. This is essential to help build a large live following and set the foundations for a long and successful career in the music industry.
Make eye contact with your audience
Seasoned musicians will know that eye contact within the audience is key. This gets your audience to participate and is the best way of engaging with them during a performance.
Eye contact is the most important part of any gig or show. Have a quick scan of the audience and see who is having a good time. You don’t have to stare at them but just maintain eye contact for a second or two. See if you can smile or show appreciation for them at that moment and you can build a deeper connection with your fans.
Once you can maintain eye contact with an audience you can maintain that 2-way flow of energy that the crowd gives out. By engaging with your audience in this way, you are showing them that you love what they are doing.
How to connect to your audience as a musician
Alongside the music, the flow of energy between a musician and an audience is what people go to gigs to experience. If you can maintain that emotional connection and take it to a level that they have never felt before then they will probably want to come back and even pay to see you again.
Your posture definitely helps with how people view you on stage. You must appear confident to a crowd so that they will want to listen to what you have to say and will be more responsive as an audience.
Stand tall with your shoulders back and really make the most of the area of the stage that you have. Move about if you feel comfortable enough and engage with other band members. This creates energy that the crowd will feed off.
If you are a solo musician, then you can still bring plenty of energy by yourself. It can be intimidating but use the whole stage and make yourself seem bigger than you appear. Sometimes one performer can make a bigger impact than a whole group.
Stage presence as a performer
Stage presence is incredibly important when engaging with your audience. It shows what kind of musician you are and how you interact with the music that your performing. You set the tone for the audience so the way you carry yourself should be how you want your audience to be.
Vary the pace and dynamic of a gig. Audiences will be responsive to your stage presence if you go from being energetic and fast-paced to something more calming. Keep the audience on their toes the whole time and don’t let them know what’s coming. If you can project this as a musician or as a band then you are going to have a responsive and engaged audience at your show.
People want to be surprised at gigs by how good the music is as well as by the atmosphere. If you can create an atmosphere as a musician then audience engagement will come easy for you. Show the audience with your music and your voice and your presence on stage how you want them to feel.
If you are playing a sad song and want them to feel a certain sadness, explain the story behind the song before you play it, therefore they can really get into the right frame of mind and enjoy it even more.
Crowd interaction ideas
Make sure your voice carries to the back of a room so that you entice all audience members. There might be some people that are at the back because they are too nervous to be at the front. In this case make sure that your voice reaches all audience members, not by shouting, but by projection. This way everyone feels a part of the magic that is going on onstage.
Another part of getting the audience to engage with you is by dropping any plan that you feel is not working. For example, the audience may feel that you are talking too much between songs, or not talking enough. Don’t be afraid to change your game plan halfway through a set. Have a few tricks up your sleeve to ensure that you can change your stage persona according to how the gig is going.
Audience engagement activities
Check out how Robbie Williams engages his fans by having them use their mobile phone cameras:
If you are extremely extroverted, you could dance for the audience. Singers like Robbie Williams find that if they are talking a lot, they can swap talking for dancing and vice versa.
Dance can make up a huge part for the set for any musician. Take dance lessons or practice at home if you feel like this is something your set could use in order to actively participate with your audience.
If you are a singer with a punk attitude, come off the stage and engage with your audience while they dance away to the music. You could even go crazy and stage-dive. Get the audience to sing along to parts of a song and if they don’t know the words at first then tell them.
When you play an instrument, it is also important that you use it in performance and not just as a thing to play. You can do all sorts of cool tricks with instruments. If you are a drummer then learn how to throw up and catch spinning sticks’, this is always a great crowd-pleaser, especially if done at the end of a particularly epic drum solo.
It is usually the lead singers’ job to use the whole area on and around a stage. Make sure this is done with a dynamic and confident nature that the audience is inspired by. Make sure the everyone is clear on who the focus should be on at any moment because you don’t want to be fighting for attention on stage.
In short, there are many ways in which you can engage effectively with an audience, but most importantly it comes to practice. For you to become confident and competent at engaging an audience, practice your songs, practice routines and practice performing. The more you do it the better you will become at engaging your audience.
Who do you think is the best artist at audience engagement? Feel free to share any amazing live music videos from YouTube in the comments below.