Stage banter: How to win your audience over between songs

In the war of affection, battles are won in-between the songs sung. 

Shit just got real.

With that setlist you’ve crafted, you’re making them gasp! “Holy shit! Did you hear that?!” or something like, “I’ve never heard that covered that way!” Or the best would be, “Who wrote that song?” and you respond, “Well, I did! Thank you for asking!” Let me tell you, the easiest way to lose someone 

A quick example of someone crushing it

Banter is a skill that must be developed; it creates the moment that captures a person and changes them from a listener to a fan.  

I haven’t met a person better at this than my friend, Jacob Morris. I would guess that at some point, he wasn’t as good as he is now. Natural talent only gets you set on your path, you have to develop it to become great at something, and this is worth being great at. So how do we get better? 

I’ll plug Jacob’s music at the bottom of the post!

  • Tell concise, funny, interesting stories.

Work on making these strong facts and stories. Maybe you’re like me and you don’t like repeating yourself. But it’s okay to tell the same stories! Just like how it’s okay to play the same song to different audiences. Some key points to talk and embellish would be something like

  • Where was the first time you heard the song you’re about to play?
  • What do you love about the song?
  • What’s a funny lyric in the song?
  • If you don’t have anything attached to the song, why are you playing it?

If you tell a story and people respond well to it, keep that story! If they don’t give two shits, edit that story! For reference, a story should never go more than around 45 seconds long. Seriously, unless that’s part of your act or you are SLAYING, don’t go on for too long. Talk when tuning your instrument

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. But it should be worked on and mastered! Silence is okay. Seriously, it’s okay for there to be some dead air in-between songs. Being able to talk fluently while tuning is the icing on your cake, baby. It is a subliminal action that leads others to believe that you were made for this. Plus, it keeps in control.

  • People like being talked to (for the most part)

You will quickly learn when someone does not like being pointed out. Most of the time, this will not be the case. Be smart about it. More often than not, pointing out someone and playing with the crowd brings them closer to you (duh) and gets you better tips! Come back to these people in between songs. If you feel confident in taking requests, ask them what they want to hear! Most of the time, you can get away with only play a verse and a chorus of a requested song, ask them their name, use the mic to tell everyone this song is for “Jim. with the cool boots.” People eat that shit up! 

  • Play to your strengths

You have the microphone, you’re in charge! If you are naturally good at noticing a cool article of clothing someone is wearing (that’s a real quality), then play to that. I mean, within reason, of course. Don’t go overboard. If you’re really good at telling stories, then strongly integrate that into your act. If you’re good at improvising, do that! Ask yourself what you do well, then when you print your set, make a point to allocate time to these attributes you have, they will feel like home base and keep you grounded. It’s not only a good idea, but it’s also encouraged to write down, “Say something to the audience.” You can reuse the material you’ve said at other shows. Keep them engaged, damn it! 

There’s no love like self love!
  • Learn from your mistakes

Do you know what the difference is between stand-up comics and a musician is? They tell jokes, you play music. That’s about it… ok, obviously that’s not the only thing, but I’m driving home a point here. Both required you to make up a set amount of material. They hone their set and have to cut jokes (or for you, songs/stories) that don’t work. 

Don’t be like Gob
  • Pay attention to names when they’re given to you.

What do you have to do to remember someone’s name? Well, shit, do that! I usually associate them with someone from my childhood. The name of an actor or an old neighbor almost always works. If you don’t know anyone with that name, ask them how they spell it, then spell it back to them. That usually works for me! You can’t do that into a microphone, and you don’t want to take more than 15 seconds on one name. If you can’t remember it, don’t bring them up again! Haha, don’t risk it. If you can write down a name without it being too blatantly obvious, then do it. If you’re playing with multiple musicians, have one of them write down their name when you ask for it! Hey, that’s a cool idea, huh?!

Yeah, tell ’em B
  • Plug yourself.

I don’t know why this seems like such a hard thing to do. But you should be saying your name and where people can find you once every 3 or 4 songs. Does that seem like a lot? Just think back to when you asked for someone’s name, remember how hard it is to remember it when you only hear it once!? Well, others feel the same way! Always have your name listed someone near you, and if you have a social media tag or a plug on a streaming service, even better! 

Plug it in, plug it in
  • Don’t come off as an asshole.

Don’t be too smarmy or too self-deprecating. Let people decide if they like you. You really don’t have to tell people how great you are or how much you messed up. They have eyes and ears, they already know. Just be yourself, baby! Everyone will love you, and if they don’t. Well, f*** ’em. 

Great, can you act a little less like a person acting terribly though?
  • Remember how boring it can be to talk to a stranger who doesn’t know how to edit down their story. It’s the worst. I mean literally, it’s 
  1. Hearing a story about someone that isn’t you 
  2. Cancer 
  3. The holocaust 
  4. Cardi B’s Last album

Sorry to jump on the bash Cardi train. It was an easy laugh. 

Lastly, I want you to think about the physical space you’re taking up on the stage. Are you tucked in a corner? Can you move without knocking something over? Feeling a little claustrophobic? Well, that’s hurting your act! I’ve played plenty of tiny stages, and I know it’s not always an option, but if you’re trapped, you should always ask to spread out just a little! Seriously, you not being able to move is a “no duh” concept, but one that most of us just suck up. Well, NO MORE! You’re a performer damn it! I want you to read this and fully understand any physical discomfort you’re feeling is coming through in your music, and the way you talk to others. Be proactive and make a move so you can give the show what it deserves! 

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