A few months ago I saw the indie rock band We Are Scientists play in Austin. The performance was hits-filled and fun. And included some of the best band banter I’ve ever heard. Almost every break between songs was filled with laughter from either bizarre banter between bandmates, jokes, or short conversations with the crowd. Because of this, there was no wall between the performer and the audience. These guys took full advantage of the opportunity they had to connect with their fans and kept the audience engaged and captivated throughout the night.
Not everyone is as comfortable speaking to a crowd but it’s important to develop these verbal skills. A little practice and preparation can go a long way. Here are some suggestions on where to start:
This seems obvious but it’s surprising how many times I’ve had someone at a show ask who’s on stage. If you’re the headliner, it’s likely the audience knows your band’s name but if you’re an opening act or at a festival, there is a chance people don’t know you. So take a moment after the first or second song to say hello and introduce yourself to the audience.
While you’re tuning instruments, share a story with the audience. Introduce the next song by talking about what led you to write it or what it means to you. Don’t be afraid to show emotion! This displays a sense a trust between you and your fans which will help foster a connection.
If you’re on the road, make a comment about the local culture or talk about what you did that day before the show. In Austin, this usually involves mentioning where the band ate tacos that morning (this is a tough decision, trust me).
Encourage Audience Participation
Engaging your audience is especially important; we like to be a part of the show! This can be as simple as asking if we are ready for the headliner or asking us to give it up for the other bands. Talking to your bandmates is a simple act but it makes the audience feel like they are a part of the conversation.
Don’t make your merch pitch the first thing you mention on stage but don’t wait until after the last song to push your merch either. Towards the end of the set, make sure to verbalize your appreciation of everyone coming out and let them know when, where, and how they can get merch. There’s no need to be super sales-y so just be natural and ask for some support!
Band banter doesn’t have to be a scary thing and it can’t really ruin a set but only make it better. So as long as you remember why you’re talking and what you’re attempting to accomplish, you will be fine!