I find that especially when it comes to live performances, it’s obvious that there is no “right” way to create an incredible experiences for fans. If you think of every amazing concert you’ve ever seen, I can bet that they’ve all been extremely different, however, the common trait in each was that each show accurately captured and featured the artists’ overall image, persona and emphasized what makes them most unique and different from other artists. I keep repeating myself in these articles, but when it comes to live shows especially, the only way to really develop an incredible experience is to determine how to create and emphasize the artists’ overall image consistently throughout the entire night. Since there are so many factors that contribute to live shows, the artists’ image can be developed through many different factors, whether it’s the lighting, stage setup, costumes (if any), props (if any), merchandise, interactions with the crowd, the songs performed, the attire of the performer(s), the state of the performers (are they completely wasted on stage, are they in a good/bad mood, have they showered in the last three days), background images/ visuals playing on screens, videos/ songs played before show starts, banners, the organization of the show (does it start on time, how many people do you have at the merch table, how organized is it overall), etc. Basically every factor of a live show that you can think of is able to contribute to the overall experience that the artist wants to create, you just need to determine how to make each element contributive in affectively developing that vision.
Despite the fact that I mention Taylor Swift in almost all of my articles, it’s justified… I swear. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to see Taylor Swift live you’ll know that her performances are incredible, theatrical, productions with costumes, dancers, and props that bring all of her songs to life. She develops her overall superstar image with the incredible and huge production of her show, along with her fans whom she encourages to create and wear elaborate costumes, and bring huge lit up signs. On her 1989 World Tour, there was a bracelet on every seat in the stadium which fans wore during the show which lit up the entire crowd into specific colours, and flashing to specific beats. I mention Taylor Swift specifically because she’s the most recent that I’ve seen, however there are many artists in the industry who put on equally theatrical and entertaining shows tailored to their music and personas. Good examples are Lady Gaga and Katy Perry who both use incredible costumes, dancers, and props to bring their songs and performances to life (if you have any more examples of artists for this section please comment below I’d love to add them in). Obviously a large amount of money is invested into creating these massive tours, however, any artist can create equally entertaining, theatrical, visual and captivating shows at any level of an their career if they get creative enough; money should never restrain artistry. Looking at artists like Melanie Martinez, Marina and the Diamonds during her first tour, Lady Gaga during her first tour, they all developed incredible shows with the purpose of entertaining the audience, and they successively brought their overall image, persona, album, and songs to life (again obviously those artists do have money invested into their tours, however I wanted to provide examples of the possibilities of theatrical shows being put on in smaller venues).
Going back to Taylor Swift’s live performances, aside from the incredible production, the other significant aspect of her show is that she focuses solely on her performance, and does little to no interaction with fans in the first few rows of the stage. ***This isn’t a bad thing at all*** Many artists such as Ed Sheeran, Drake, The NBHD, Charli XCX, talk to the whole crowd during their shows instead of having one-on-one interactions with fans in the first few rows like some artists do. This doesn’t take away from their performances at all, instead it in some ways strengthens other elements of their shows. Every time I’ve seen these artists, they’ve been completely focused on their performances and into the show, which almost always leaves fans with the experience of an incredible concert. A good example of this is Ed Sheeran who I’ve seen six times now, and every time he has had general conversations with the entire crowd throughout the show, however no direct interactions with fans by the stage. Like I said before, this is not a bad thing at all, and if you’ve ever seen Ed Sheeran live you’ll know that he creates an incredible and unique sense of intimacy with the entire crowd by focusing on everyone.
Staying on the topic of Ed Sheeran, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to see him live you’ll also know that he puts on a completely unique type of live show; one with no band, no background singers, no props, no dancers… just him, his guitar, and a loop pedal. Seeming like the COMPLETE opposite of the theatrical type of show that someone like Taylor Swift puts on, Ed Sheeran’s style of performance is equally as captivating, entertaining, and memorable because it is completely true and unique to his personality and his image as an artist. When I talk to people about his shows, the idea of a typical “guy with a guitar” sounds pretty boring, and the majority of artists doing the same thing probably can’t pull it off to completely captivate people with their performances. However, when Ed Sheeran performs, you can feel his passion, and his recognition of the amount of work, time, and patience that it took him to achieve his level of success. He puts every ounce of his energy and focus into the music that he plays and the performance that he delivers while always remaining the casual, calm, and amusing character that he has always been.
Another example of an incredible experience that can be created a live shows is the one created by One Direction. Compared to theatrical shows of done by artists such as Taylor Swift, and the incredibly intimate shows done by artists such Ed Sheeran, One Direction’s concerts are completely different, however, offer just as much of an incredible experience that persuades fans to literally follow them on tour. So what makes One Direction shows so entertaining? For fans lucky enough to have a seat close to the main stage or catwalk, it’s all about the fan interaction. When going to a One Direction show with a good seat, getting interaction with at least one member of the band is almost GUARANTEED which is why so many of their fans are willing to invest into good tickets, and to travel to different cities to go to multiple tour dates. The bands’ recognition and appreciation of the incredible relationship that they have with their fans is obvious, which they clearly demonstrate by spending all night waving to their fans, reading posters, responding to posters, talking to fans in the crowd, throwing water bottles and towels at them, having water gun fights with people, and for those lucky enough, jumping off stage to sign things and to hug people. The advantage with these type of shows is that each is completely different and unique. There are no choreographed dances, props, or costumes used, instead it’s completely dependent on the fans in the crowd. On top of that, their vocals are consistently amazing, their set list is composed of their best songs, they have a stage with a catwalk that stretches across the entire floor ensuring that everyone has a good view, and to top it off, incredible fireworks and confetti at the beginning and end of every show.
Before I end off, I’m going to mention another way that artists successively create INCREDIBLIE experiences for their fans. This is probably the most meaningful gesture that you can do for fans, and the most impactful way of creating a lasting and memorable experience for them, and that is by bringing them on stage. Take a moment to imagine the significance of being brought on stage by an artist whom you admire, and what a unique moment that would be for you. This is an incredible way for an artist to display their appreciation for their fans because it is what most artists do not usually do. When artists bring fans on stage, it is typically done at a specific moment on their set list, or during a specific song. Some examples of artists who have done this include Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, and The 1975.
The examples of incredible concert experiences that I mentioned above have been some of my favourites, however every single concert is different and offers a completely unique experience. Whatever an artist choses to do in their live performances, the most vital thing to remember is that it has to be done in the way which they believe is best for them as an artist, and to create their overall image and personality.
Creating an incredible experience for fans at live shows is especially important in the industry today because it is the main income source for artists. By creating a memorable experience for fans, they’ll be more inclined to talk about the show more often to more people, spreading word of mouth and possibly convincing others to either listen to that artist’ music or even attend future shows. It’ll also be the factor that persuades fans to go to more extremes for the artist by lining up for hours for general admission shows, and making costumes and posters because those fans are confident that the experience that that artist offers is worth their time and effort.
IF YOU’RE AN ARTIST:
– Get cheap tickets and go to AS MANY live shows as you can, even if you’re not completely interested in the artist, go and study the show; what does the artist do on stage, what makes their show unique, how is their image/ personality created and mirrored, what kind of atmosphere do they create in the venue, and how does the crowd respond to everything that they do. The only way to completely realize what makes you unique as an artist is to get inspired by others, and to determine what you like about different performances, what you don’t like, and how the make a live show experience ten times more incredible.
– If it’s difficult for you to get to may live shows, or even if you do go to a lot, spending time searching videos on YouTube can also be really advantageous. Start with doing a search of major artists’ tours (go back and check out the links that I included throughout this article), look up videos of the best tours of 2015, the highest grossing tours of all time, and artists with a similar style to your own. Again, spend time watching as many as you can to get references and inspiration to drive your own creativity as an artist.
– Whether you’re attending live shows, watching videos on YouTube, or doing both, keep a list of your favourite aspects of each show, your least favourite aspects, how different artists develop their personalities, how they emphasize their unique traits, and what kind of overall experience they deliver. Keep adding to this list, and keep a separate one to jot down ideas for your own live performance shows; how you can make them unique, ways in which you can develop your image as an artist, and how it can be created into an incredible experience for fans.
By Casey Aonso