In the past, I have written about a surefire strategy to get more gigs: no matter who your audience is: you need to exceed their expectations!

But before you can exceed an audience’s expectations, you need to know exactly what they do expect. You might be surprised to hear what it is…

Almost everyone involved (musicians and audiences alike) think that the only reason people go to a concert is to hear music. So of course the usual goal for musicians and singers is to technically play and sing the songs perfectly.

This is like saying a movie audience goes to a movie to see great technical skills. But they don’t go to look at lighting, camera angles, blocking and positioning, the actors’ movements, timing or delivery. They go to get pulled into the story; to experience “moments” in the film!

In a concert, technical perfection is not the goal; the goal is communication.

In a concert, technical perfection is not the goal; the goal is communication. Now I’m not saying “don’t play well.” You should nail the vocals, find great tones, play tight – but the common person in the audience doesn’t know if you’re playing a mixolydian scale, if the drummer is doing a triple stroke roll, or if the singer is hitting a high C or drinking it!

Here are the real reasons an audience goes to an event:

  1. To be captured and engaged

All this really means is that they want to be present. They don’t want to be thinking about something else when you’re performing; and you as an artist don’t want them to either. You want them to be completely engaged in what you’re doing. If they’re looking down at their watches or constantly checking their phones, this means they aren’t really captured or engaged. This is often hard for an artist to grasp onstage because they’re engaged, they feel the music, it’s happening for them. So the artist thinks that since they feel it, so does the audience. And that’s not always the case.

  1. To experience moments

Your audience wants to feel something, not just hear or see something. Your audience wants to laugh, cry, to be touched in some way. They want to participate. They don’t want to just listen to music and hear words. They want to have fun! They want to think, feel, and experience. Your songs need to be rearranged to create moments in a live show. If you’re playing just the radio versions, you’re making a big mistake. You need to find the moments inside the songs and develop them. They come for the moments.

  1. To be changed or transformed

Want to make a fan for life? If you can move someone to look at the world in a different way, respond to a cause, or simply change the way they think – even a little bit- they will like how it feels, they’ll come back to experience it again. An example would be the movie Schindler’s List: it changed the way I looked at the world, it made me feel something I had never felt before. It was the start of a change in my life. And as a movie goer or concert goer, I wasn’t conscious that I wanted that to happen. But when it did, I became a fan for life. And so will the people that attend your shows. People want something to happen during the concert to move them, to help them grow, to make them think…they want to be changed. Is that happening at your shows?

The artists I work with, the ones who really want to develop their show, run everything through this grid. They understand that if they ask themselves, “are we capturing and engaging the audience, are we creating moments, are we changing them” – that’s what will help them exceed their audience’s expectations.

And isn’t that what we should be doing?

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