IHM News

IHM Road Tips 9: 3 Ways to Create a Memorable Live Experience in the Age of Youtube

Posted By : IHM, Posted On : August 23, 2013

The following blog post assumes you have great music and a solid live show before hitting the road. Not sure? Contact Bram, head of IHM Artist Relations & Support about a show evaluation,, on twitter @bram_rocks or call 877.994.6446 xt. 2.


“You’d be amazed at how many average people still love rap music but most emcees don’t give them a reason to drive out somewhere and throw down $15 to see them on stage…” – Zilla Rocca

Your reason for playing live shows begins with a question – with all the entertainment options available, from movies, to sports, to staying home and watching Netflix, why would someone spend their hard earned money to come see your show (and purchase your music and merchandise)? The answer lies in creating a unique experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else. In IHM’s #roadtips volume 9, we’ll look at three keys to create an unforgettable live experience that leads to music and merchandise sales, including building unique moments, being unpredictable, and the importance of your final song.

Whether you’re applying for a music conference showcase  (#roadtips 3) or building a Kickstarter project to fund your tour (#roadtips 7), you must find ways to stand out from the pack. Building your live show experience is no different.  

1. Focus on Creating Moments – from Tom Jackson Productions

“I have a simple rule: sing fewer songs, create more moments” – Tom Jackson

Most artists look at their live show from the wrong perspective, and it is the biggest reason why their live shows don’t translate into music and merchandise sales.

As Spence Smith points out, artists divide their allotted time for their live show into how many songs they can play, when they should focus on creating moments. Creating memorable moments that engages the audience starts with breaking apart the structures of your songs by identifying the main themes, and expanding those themes. Amy Wolter from Onstagesuccessdiscusses how you could take an interesting two bar bridge and make it longer and more dramatic, extending a song intro, or having the audience sing along to a chorus. Even good songs have to be rewritten to be good live songs that create memorable moments and connect with the audience.  

Lastly, don’t talk too much in between songs in an attempt to engage the audience. And don’t use cliches when introducing songs, if you introduce them at all.  

2. Be Unpredictable and Unique

“…don’t perform and do the same things you see rappers do on TV when they perform, because if you see them do it, chances are so did someone else and that will make you look corny and look unoriginal” – Jabee

Here’s another question to ask of your live show – if people can watch your live performances on Youtube, what reason do they have to come out to your show? The answer is to have an unpredictable and unique live show.

Ben Weinman from The Dillinger Escape Plan says a simple way they achieve unpredictability is through changing their set list every show. He states that live bands like Black Flag played without a set list, though he doesn’t recommend that himself. Yet the idea remains – every show must be unique. Weinman points out that The Dillinger Escape Plan nurtured the unpredictable aspect of their live show which has become part of the band, a reason why fans pay money to see them live, and mostly importantly, why fans buy their music and merchandise at live shows since the band formed in 1997.

Your personal engagement with the audience is another aspect of the live show that cannot be replicated on Youtube. As Jackson says, “communication with your audience is 15% content, 30% tone or emotion, and 55% is what they see”. He recommends thinking of your relationship with the audience as you would a relationship with a stranger. And much like relationships, first impressions count. The first 6-8 minutes go a long way in determining the rest of your show – so start off with two strong songs, and don’t start off with a song about your sadness or woe. After all, is that how you would introduce yourself to someone you just met?

A final note on this topic: being unpredictable does not mean being unprepared and winging it.

The Final Song Leads to the Merchandise Table

“Audiences go to a live concert for 3 reasons: to be captured & engaged, to experience moments, and to have their lives changed in some way” – Tom Jackson

While every live song is rebuilt towards creating memorable moments, the final song leaves an especially powerful impression. The right experience in the final song leads to music and merchandise sales. As Wolter says, you create enough moments in your show that audiences  “want to take that moment home with them. That’s how creating moments translates to merch sales”. Jackson recommends either going with an original song, or a long, slow building song with a peak to close the show and leave them wanting more.  

And finally, after you’ve earned these moments, point the audience to your merchandise table.

Join the indiehitmakermailing list and receive more tips on funding tours and getting the most from the road.

Have a question, comment or feedback? Tweet us @indiehitmaker #RoadTips orcontact us online.

IHM Road Tips Readers get one month free when you register for IndieHitmaker monthly live venue reporting services. Click toSign Up for the Newsletter Now and receive your immediate discount code.  Code lasts for a limited time only!

Help others make it count, share thisShare on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Tags: , , ,

About IHM

Indiehitmaker (IHM) is the cornerstone of PolyPlat Records ADSD, the Artist Development Services Division that provides independent, unsigned and DIY artists the same advantages as major label recording artists. We make your sales and streams count by working with Nielsen's authenticated partners and BuzzAngle directly to... +more

Our Partners

Learn about other companies that make up the new music industry

View our partners
Phone & Fax 1-877-GO-IHM (877.994.6446)
F: 877.994.6447

Twitter Feed Follow IHM