Unfinished Mail – July 2018
In the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a couple of artists that mystified me, and not in a good way. Each artist had their own eccentricities on and off stage.
Artist #1 is a well-known artist with a couple of different bands and collaborations with other artists. On stage, she is wildly entertaining and engages the audience. Off stage, she is standoffish and almost rude. She refuses to do encores and seems offended to have to sell merch and sign anything. She is not a new artist but a veteran of a few years.
Artist # 2 comes from a well known musical family. She does not emphasize her family ties. On stage, she curtsies and seems to wrap herself up in a protective bubble in a fetal position Off stage she wants to have security. There is no audience engagement and a distance and coldness.
Artists regardless of medium are different. It takes a huge amount of courage to put all of yourself into your art. Many artists tend to be shy and introverted because their best communication is through their art. Musicians can be both shy and engaging. On stage, a musician must give their all. Many artists have pre-stage rituals from drinking heavily, getting high, assuming a persona and more. This pre-stage ritual allows them to be someone they naturally are not, a star. Offstage they revert to their humble roots. It makes many artists endearing and human to their fans.
Both of my examples above are artists who have adopted ways that don’t serve them. On stage you can’t retreat nor should you. People are there to see you. Drink in their energy and let it fuel you on stage. Concerts are participatory on both sides. Look me in the eye from the stage, even if I’m a vague shadow past the lights. Move around. Dance. Have fun. This is your calling, not your job.
Offstage talk to your audience. It always amazes me at small shows, before the curtain has been raised, how many artists don’t try to talk to anyone but their friends. If I’m at a club show, and I’m one of 20 in the door and you’re waiting for your set to begin. As long as it doesn’t interfere with your pre-stage ritual, walk around the room and put out your hand and say “Hi. I’m so-and-so. My band is playing first. I hope you will watch us.” It takes all of 5 minutes and there is a strong chance everyone you said “Hi” to will watch part or all of your set, not just your friends. When the set is done, wait to see how many of the people you introduced yourself to come back to you to give you feedback and buy merch.
When you look at a painting or watch a movie there is no engagement. In live music there is a back and forth. There is energy in the room. Don’t hide when you can bring people into it.