How to Win the Crowd

Seven effective tips for winning a crowd at your concert.

Ultimate Guitar
We have all been there before. You're mid set, between songs, and you have nothing to say to a crowd that is silently watching you, waiting. You've already mumbled out your social media account links, already introduced each member of the band by their full names, already mumbled about some EP you're releasing at some point in 2023. Half a set to go with nothing to say, you can hear the wind blowing that tumble weed across the stage...

TIP ONE: Learn from the Pro's

One of the easiest ways of finding tricks and tips is by watching and learning from the pro's. Absorb as much as you can whenever you see a band play live. Analyse the performance and their actions both during and between songs. See an idea that works well? Steal it. Expand upon it. Make it your own. You might not be able to teach old dogs new tricks, but you can certainly learn from them.

TIP TWO: The Entire Set is a Performance, Not Just the Individual Songs...

The best way to describe this is by comparing an artist's performance to that of a film. Imagine a movie without the soundtrack behind it. It would have less tension, less build up, less energy. It would be quite boring for many. Sound is used to amplify what is happening on screen (or not in some cases), for example the sharp violin stabbing sounds in horror movies to cause shock in an audience.

This doesn't mean get a violin out between songs and try and make horror sequences, what you do is amplify what is happening between songs.

“Hello FUCKING London!" sounds much more impressive when you have guitars ringing out a power-chord behind it and the drums rolling off the toms. You aren't exactly playing anything in particular here, you are just creating an effect that will make the performance that bit more exciting.

Obviously, shouting "Hello FUCKING London!" is more of a metal/hard rock/punk thing to do. I wouldn't expect a jazz band to get on stage and shout that. That isn't to say softer genres of music can't use this to great effect however.

As an example:

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TIP THREE: Got Nothing To Say?

This one can be a tricky one, especially for those who are anxious when talking to large crowds of people they might not necessarily know. In these sorts of situations it is very easy to just slip into talking about safe topics in your mind which leads to the repetition of URL links, social media, band names, etc, which can lead to a very boring moment between songs. Nobody really wants to hear about website URL's between songs, nor will they be able to remember it (particularly after several pints). Leave that for business cards given out by the door staff (little promotion tip there for you!).

A trick around this is to change your safe topics. Give yourself ammunition that you can fire out whenever you do lose track of what to say that is more interesting than your old safe topics.

A good example of this would be Axl Rose from Guns N' Roses. He is notorious for ranting on stage but also for his little short stories he tells.

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Base it on real events or make it up. Whether the stories are true or not doesn't matter. Bards used to tell stories of dragons being killed! What matters is if it's interesting or not.

"Never let the truth spoil a good story" - Bill Wyman, commenting on Keith Richards' memoires.

TIP FOUR: Interact with an Interactive Crowd

If you do manage to get a crowd interacting with your performance, use it as fuel to ignite the flames higher! There are a few ways to approach this, some more simplistic, some requiring more confidence. If you have ever seen a comedian doing a stand up show, you will notice that they are masters of interacting with a crowd. Whilst this may require a truck load of confidence, being able to single out a member of the audience and engage in some witty "banter" with them can create tension, excitement, laughter.

It's drama unfolding before their eyes and we all know how much people love drama shows like "Eastenders" (a terrible British drama series for all you non-UK folks)... The ability to engage in such a way is more compelling than a constant barrage of one liner's and can provide variety in your performance. Then there is the simplistic version of this, such as when you ask how the crowd is doing and you hear one person is louder than the rest, point them out!

"She's having a good time!" You might get a light chuckle or two from the crowd. Oh, and you know those jokes your Dad used to tell you round the dinner table? They work.

TIP FIVE: Set the Flow of the Performance

One of the biggest mistakes I see unsigned bands making when it comes to performing is that they constantly stop after every song, talk, and onto the next one. Every time you stop, a fan yawns tiredly at the back of the room or worse yet, goes for a cigarette break. A neat trick in keeping the energy flowing throughout your performance is by doing a seamless connection between two different songs, allowing them to flow from one to the next without a moments pause in pace.

This can be as simple as leaving the last chord ringing from the previous song and abruptly starting the next, or as complex as a little jammed out session that flows into the next song. Be sure not to overuse it however since it can be overkilled. There is also a slight tension in the air if you do have a slight break between songs of an already energetic performance.

Black Stone Cherry are a great example of delivering a killer live show. Even if you’re not necessarily into this sort of music, you can certainly pick off a few tricks they have up their sleeves:

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Ignoring Jon's bass tech not tuning his bass guitar correctly at the start, watch how the band begins their performance, then see how they transverse from their song "Rain Wizard" to "Blind Man" at 3:30 on the video. (Check out the choreography of stage swapping they have going on as well, HA!)

TIP SIX: Plan and Rehearse Your Live Show

This is something that feels cheesy and lame to do at rehearsals but is well worth doing. If you practice your live show at rehearsal to how you would do it live, you will pull it off much better when you do it for the real thing. Captain Obvious this one but again, you would be surprised by how many bands are still deciding their set list a week before the show.

TIP SEVEN: The Don'ts

- Don't introduce your band members by name unless you have rattled the audience up enough to get a response. Never if you're playing to a dead room.

- Don't mumble. Obvious one but necessary to say. Sing it if you can't talk loudly. If you can't sing loudly then you have an even bigger problem.

- Don't appeal only to your friends standing at the front left of the stage. It can be easy to direct all your attention to the familiar faces but all you will end up doing is alienating the rest of the room.

- Don't start shouting the bar for a drink from the stage UNLESS your stage persona is that of a prick. You will come across as one so be sure that it's intentional if you do so.

- Don't keep your back to the audience. You might rehearse all facing each other, but for a performance you want to be facing the crowd a majority of the time. Use the back turned for affect, not a display of not being confident enough to face the crowd.

- FUCK The Guitar Solos!

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About the Author:
Paul Williamson
, founder of, musician, singer, and promoter. In the past 3 years I have worked as a promoter, putting on events in London, working with a variety of bands and artists ranging from small garage band acts, to international touring acts.

34 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I'd be honest and take a leaf from Akerfeldt's book: "Do you want to know why I'm talking bullshit? It's because I'm tuning my guitar"
    Although on the Pale Communion tour there was also "I like tuning my guitar with the volume up because it annoys people".
    #8 Don't say "fuck the guitar solos". If you don't like them fine, but he just sounds like a cunt. Unless he's talking about people showing off between songs. Still I'd rather hear a guitar wanker than his opinion. And yes I realise the irony of my opinion here.
    The true irony is that 'fuck the guitar solos' is in the 'dont's' section, which means the article is actually promoting your entire set being a guitar solo.
    Especially with that new generation of 7 and 8 string wankers ''Fuck the guitar solos'' kind of becomes important to me. I am so fed up with every band having a 5 minute guitar solo inbetween songs, or those post-rock-alternative whatever bands having the guitarist buzzing around on one note for a minute with tons of effects because it's so ''athmospheric''. Also these typical drum solos in which the drummer tries to include the audience are really getting annoying. A short solo section is always nice and cool, I know one band which has a jammed bass solo every night, but the rule is: not more than two minutes, one minute is perfect.
    20-45 seconds is the sweet spot in my opinion, but definitely anything shorter than 2 minutes.
    where are these bands? i want to hear them! i grew up listening to Eric Clapton and Allman Brothers, and in my area, every single band is a death metal band that never plays guitar solos
    I would recommend the 'Monsters of Rock' concert in Russia in the early '90s. Metallica and Pantera destroyed despite the language barrier and communist military presence. Or just watch it because it's the best Dimebag performance I've ever seen (and yes, I've seen Pantera live in person).
    That's pretty nice! Although reading it so far rather as an experienced concertgoer, planning to be on the other side of the stage in a year or a few... Two things I'd add: 1) regarding #5 - I think it's good to combine the two. Sometimes it's quite awesome to seamlessly combine two songs together, but if a band doesn't say almost anything throughout the show, it feels to me like there's no, or not much, connection, even if the performance is awesome. Opeth is a brilliant example in my opinion, at times they just play and everyone is "YEEEEEAAAAAHHHHH" when it's e.g. The Leper Affinity, but if you haven't yet heard Mikael Akerfeldt go on one of his crazy talking phases with absurd humour, go and watch The Roundhouse Tapes or the Royal Albert Hall DVD. Pain of Salvation or Devin Townsend are also amazing examples. Generally I find it best when the band says enough to really establish a connection, but also keeps a fairly steady flow of the songs. 2) One of the things I personally like a lot, and I doubt I'm completely isolated, is when a band introduces a song "properly" every now and then - like, you know, saying what this song is about, or how it's always been important for this or that reason. It's usually interesting if not absurdly long, and really shows the band takes their music seriously (even if they don't take themselves too seriously. Opeth example again.), rather than just "doing their job". I hope this makes sense.
    Completely agree and most of that is in there, just not elaborated well enough I think! If your set is just one big river, it will lose the impact of the energy you are producing. That stop every now and then to do whatever, be it a story about the song, just talking to the crowd, etc, is a good way to add 'texture' to the tension. You can't have a great horror moment if there is loud music all the way up to the stab. The stab always follows a moment of quietness and eeriness.
    Many great bands also use the break to great effect, no one speaking or anything. Just shut the lights while you change guitar os something. Just make sure to do it early enough that no-one could possibly think the set is over. It creates a nice tension when the audience starts wondering what the hell you're up to next.
    What gets published on this site is considered by many as fact so I've decided to clear a few things up. In regards to #5... Those are not musicians. Those moves are fake and forced. I guess that with the lack of real musicians that exist today, an article like this will emerge. But it really only applies to you if you're not a "real" musician. If you can actually play your instrument you're free to be yourself like any well known virtuoso. Don't introduce your band members by name? I'm sorry by that just wouldn't cut it if Gary Moore or Nathan East was in your band.
    Oh mighty arbiter of all things "real", are either of those in your band? No? Then your comment was ignorant. Worse, it was uninformed because it failed to take into account the balance of the sentence, the part that began with "unless".
    You introduce a musician out of respect for their craft and the amount of hours they have invested into practicing. If the audience appears to be disinterested is definitely not a valid reason to skip the introduction. Sometimes people that look the most disinterested are enjoying themselves the most.
    Ok, say you are watching some unsigned band that not many people have heard of. The singer then halfway through the set starts introducing the names of each of the band members. Are you really that interested as an audience member? If it was a big named guy/gal then yeah sure, name away since the crowd will already be hyped from the pre-existing excitement. If its just some unknown guy in a fairly unknown band, it's a mood killer.
    On the contrary, most of the skilled musicians of the world will never achieve anything of note. Opportunity is rarer than talent.
    There will always be work for the skilled musician. Maybe they won't be recognized as an icon, but they can definitely participate in the industry on the same level as any big name artist. With that being said, the unskilled musician will have a very small amount of time to participate in the industry if any degree of fame is achieved. If you're not destined to play an instrument, it's time to stop making excuses for yourself. Chasing "being famous" will never get you anywhere.
    99% of the time, I do not want to know the names of the musicians that I watched. But if the person is a great player that left an impression on me, I want to know who they are so I can see them again in future. The problem is that most so called "musicians" today think it's okay to learn a few first position chords and throw on the right T-shirt. Personally, I want to see people who are passionate about their craft and who have invested hundreds of hours into practicing. Not people that want to be on stage in front of people.
    So you are saying that only 1% of the time is it worthy for a band to announce their individual names? You have just proven my point... Also here is a news flash: Bands are bands, musicians are musicians. You can have musicians in bands, but being in a band doesn't make you a musician. However, it isn't necessary for you to have musicians to be a successful band. It's about how you relate to the audience be it through relatable topics, energy, or emotion. Just because current bands don't appeal to you doesn't mean they're not great. Don't muddle your own personal tastes over fact. That is the great thing about music.
    It is not personal taste. It's how things like MTV have influenced people. As a musician myself who has spent hours and hours practicing, I'm sick of seeing people who have no talent and no chops filling up this industry. But who knows, maybe one day Justin Bieber will stop filling stadiums with people of zero music understanding and taste. After all, there was once a time where EVERY band sounded different.
    It is completely down to personal taste and how the music relates to you. The whole punk movement in Britain during the 70's is a testament to that. It caught on because it was a style of music any one could do. These bands weren't incredibly talented at all and they certainly weren't propelled by any media such as MTV. I think you need to wake up to reality and realise that fame and fortune isn't for the most skilled player, it's for the one who knows how to make music that relates to an audience and has the business skills to market it.
    tip #8 act like David Lee Roth (Singer of Van Halen) on stage 1.) Put the mic down your pants 2.) Dance around stupidly 3.) Dance in front of the guitar during a guitar solo so you steal the show 4.) Even if you're older, act like you're in your teens and/or 20s 5.) think you're cool Congrats, you've become an idiot