Realistic Music Careers 101: I Spy…Myself on Stage
COLUMN: When was the last time you videotaped or digitally recorded yourself on stage? When was the last time you watched yourself perform, scrutinizing the playback for performance issues, pros, cons or just an overall review of your stage performance?
Most people never have. Or, if they have recorded themselves, the footage was taken by fans or friends from a terrible vantage point or the cameras were directly on stage for music video footage.
Videoing yourself and your band can be much more than just a marketing and promotional tool for videos, YouTube segments or anything else that shows off you or the band. Self videoing can be a helpful instructional tool to help you in a number of ways: refining your stage presence, tightening your musical technique, even straightening your slumped-over, emo posture.
For the sake of how you appear, how you play, how you stand and act, interact and react on stage, get in front of the lens and record yourself. Learn about your stage show, including all the stage habits you have–good and bad. This awareness and study of yourself on stage can help you present a better show as well as point out problems that may be occurring that you do not even realize till you see them for yourself.
Approach watching the video playback the same way you approach your recorded audio playback. Watch, analyze, learn. It will help you in more ways than you could ever imagine.
Lights, Camera, Action?
For starters, you have to set up cameras in places where there are unobstructed views. Sometimes having a camera on a tall stand that is above the mixing board or somewhere close to someone that will keep people from stealing it will help you greatly.
Having someone shoot you can be helpful, but make sure they understand that they’re shooting for your benefit and not the master genius behind some music video. It’s also a good idea to have a couple of cameras if you can, or if you only have a single camera, concentrate on different people for each show so you can see all the different elements that are occurring.
Talk to the venue to try to have enough lighting or, for that matter, shoot in rooms that have good lighting so that you can clearly see and review the video instead of squinting at a dark mash up of the stage and some shadowy figures on it.
Basically, use your head. You are recording yourself so you can review your performance. Take into consideration all the aspects of lighting, placements and, most importantly, make sure you or someone is turning on and off the cameras. It sounds stupid, but bad communication and lack of preparation can mean you have some great cameras angled that aren’t even turned on. Oh yeah, take off the lens caps, too.
Man, I look good, but what else am I looking out for?
Okay, get over that little ego flare of watching yourself on stageâ€”especially, you, guitarists. Yes, guitarists I am picking on you. Stereotypes are based on truth, and this one’s no exception. Okay, end of guitarist rant. I know I will pay for it in some emails, so bring it!
Anyways, after you get over the fun of watching yourself perform, then it’s time to get down to watching for the core elements that can help you develop the best show possible.
1st Review â€“ Technique, Posture and Exhaustion.
This is probably one of the best things to be aware of and review. How are you performing with your body and your instrument? How is it effecting your abilities and your performance?
Look for signs of bad posture that might being about early fatigue. Are you moving around like a wild person for the first half of the set and then pretty much stationary for the second half? Then maybe you should spread out how often you are moving or how active you are to be able to have the best level of endurance for the show.
Watch for the technical aspects of whatever instrument you are playing as well. How is the posture of your drumming if you are the drummer? Are you finding that you are tiring out too fast or can barely finish the set? Maybe your posture or certain flourishes are actually detrimental and extra exhausting when you are playing live. Reviewing from this prospective can help you with your performance, your technique and your endurance. Whether you are holding your bass too low or jerking your neck while singing, this first review can help clean up and fix that.
2nd Review â€“ Appearance, Interactions and Reactions.
How do you look on stage to each other? How do you look on stage to the audience? Do you look like you are having fun? Do you look like you are interacting with the members of the band and the members of the audience? Is the stage balanced? Is the main action centered? Does every part of the stage get played throughout the performance?
Sometimes having a camera pointed from behind the drum set and out to the audience can help you gauge how the audience is interacting and reacting to your performance. Watch for when they are most connected and try to figure out why. What songs are getting the best reaction? Which ones are getting the worst? When as a whole does the audience look disinterested and when are they hanging on every note?
Watching the audience can help you design better set lists or become a little more aware of when things are seeming to move too slowly. Remember, you want to keep the audience involved and connected. Sometimes it is hard to take stock or be aware of when you might be losing them or when you have them hanging on every note. The videoing will help you dial in how you are reacting and appearing with each other as performers and how you are reacting and interacting with the audience.
3rd Review â€“ Eye Contact, Reoccurring Technical Issues, Marketing and other Miscellaneous things.
The last review is the overview including eye contact, watching out for common and repeating technical issues, as well as marketing and anything else that might be an issue.
Watch where you are looking. Are you connecting with the other members and the audience? Are you always looking down, closing your eyes or looking in one certain direction. In this last review, watch for both good habits and bad habits that might be occurring from eye contact to marketing.
Watch for technical issues as well. What constant or common problems have to be addressed with your equipment or your set up on stage? What can be streamlined, adjusted or taken care of before a show to keep those time wasters down to a minimum. Again, this is a great time to watch and really identify those issues.
And what about marketing? Are you saying the name of the band? Are you promoting while you are on stage? Are you keeping it short and sweet and keeping the motion of the show moving? Do people know where to buy merchandise or where to sign up for a mailing list? Make sure you are not talking too much or for too long. Watch for moments that slow down or hasten the pace of the show. Analyze them thoroughly. Again, this can help refine your performance and keep an audience connected with you from start to finish.
Just like you review your audio to ensure you are delivering the right sound, review the video so you can make sure you are delivering the right performance. Most artists perform a great deal more than they record, so it is absolutely necessary to review all aspects of your stage presence. A great deal of bands are not taking that step, so it becomes one more thing you can do to step up and stand out a little stronger. Lights, Camera, Action–then Review. Make the play back work for you by increasing your awareness of what’s happening on-stage. Use that knowledge to heighten and tighten your show and deliver the best possible performance.
Watch out for Loren Weisman's book â€œThe Artist’s Guide to Success in the Music Businessâ€ coming in late fall 2009.Â www.braingrenademusic.com
[tags]Loren Weisman, music careers, music business, music industry, Brain Grenade Entertainment[/tags]