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Last time we talked about how we can make $850/night playing house shows and what resources I'm using to start playing them myself. This time I want to dig a little deeper into crafting your live show and I'm going to use Tom Jackson's work as a guide.

Tom Jackson: All Roads Lead to the Stage

If you haven't heard of Tom before he's a live show producer who is most noted for working with Taylor Swift as well as many others. His method first came up on my radar in 2010 but he's one of the few guys that has been doing this since the early 2000's at least. He has a LOT of amazing content but because it's pricy for someone just getting started ($300). I'll be distilling it down into the major bullet points for you here. If you like the introduction you're getting here, the next thing to do is get his full DVD set.

Building your set for a house concert

So let's get right down to it. For building an hour set, Tom says there are 9 slots for songs you'll need to fill. Each song in the show will fulfill a specific purpose and each song has a specific energy level ranked 1-5. Each thing we do in the set is carefully orchestrated to produce what he calls moments, because people don't come to your gig to hear your songs, they come to experience the moments that your songs create. More on this later. Let's look at how to get the show started.

Intoductory moment

Song #1: Energy level of 3

The first song is like a handshake. Not too energetic, and not too broody or dramatic. You want your first song to have these qualities:

  • Not technically difficult - let yourself focus on the audience and not be distracted by what you have to play.
  • Something easy to move to
  • Shorter song
  • Lyrical content that is directed at the audience

Song #2: Energy level of 3.5

This song is really similar to the first song. You can copy all of the bullet points from Song 1, but add some simple crowd participation. You'll want to be gauging to the audiences response to these songs as a way of knowing where to go next with your set.

Great Song Moment

Song 3: Energy level of 3

This one needs to be a really solid song that's going to be accessible to the people in your audience. With this one, it's less important how energetic it is, and more important that it's just a great song.

Great Music Moment

Song 4: Energy level of 2 - Do Something Different Here!!

Show the audience that the rest of the show won't be all the same as the first three songs. You want to give people the sense that it's worth sticking around and make it easy for them to keep paying attention. If you play guitar, play keys for this song, or use a loop pedal to create something really interesting.

Great Music + Great Song Moment

Song 5: Energy level of 3

This is the hardest one from a technical standpoint. This needs to be a great song that's also great musically. Other than that, there's not much to it!

Big Fun Moment

Song 6: Energy level of 5

This song is:
* Light lyrical content * Fun * Move around * Audience participation

Touching Moment

Song 7: Energy level of 2

It's great to play a song here about something that you've experienced that changed you in a meaningful way or something you've learned or been told in your life. Give people a message.

Song 8: Energy level of 1-2

Song 8 is also a soft song focused on message. Think less is more!

Closing Moment

Song 9: Energy level starts as a 1 and builds to a 5

This song is an emotional build that signals to the audience that the show is about over. This should be something that brings your show to a close.

"If You're Not Getting Encores, You're Doing Something Wrong."

This statement kind of blows me a way because I've maybe only had a handful of encores at shows. I never really had all of this information put together though and I think Tom is right. We should really design our show such that people are giving real encore's at the end. If not, then that just means back to the drawing board!



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