#043: Tom Jackson – Creating Moments On Stage

Tom Jackson is a performance coach. He works with major label artists from all over the world in order to produce stage shows that will create a memorable experience for concert goers. Knowing your songs and reproducing your record live isn’t enough to dazzle an audience.Step up to the mic Tom helps artists develop shared moments on stage that often send an audience clambering to the merch table. Tom says the trick is to develop a structured show that leaves room for spontaneity. Join us as Tom shares his expertise on this often overlooked aspect of being a successful performing artist.

Check out Tom’s website Click Here!

  • Hey, this was a great podcast and an awesome interview. It would be incredible if every band could have someone like Tom who could really help them out. But unfortunately, there aren’t that many guys like him out there, and most of them are pretty expensive. A trick that my band Spiral Trance uses frequently is video. Have someone shoot a video of your show. It doesn’t have to be high quality at all, because it’s just for you. Look at what you’re doing on stage. Time moves pretty fast when you’re up there performing, so you may not notice the little nuances of your performance or the audience’s reaction to you. But if you videotape it, you can go back and watch it closely to see what you could be doing better on stage. See if you’re having a lot of dead air between songs, or if you’re just standing still and not really PERFORMING. Watching your own shows is an incredible way of bettering your performance, which definitely leads to making more moments with the fans.

  • Kevin


    I agree that every artist should be videoing their shows. It’s amazing how telling they are. Thing always feel much different when you’re on stage, so it’s always surprising to see what really happened.


  • Ian

    Hi guys,

    I agree with everything Tom has here, and believe that there’s a lot to be noted here that many bands have forgotten about.

    Video is a good way to see what you’re doing on stage. Ironically, (Using Tom’s Football analogies), my band calls that “Game Tape”. And who knows, the video might make for an interesting YouTube video for fans to see as well?

    This is all something that we’re constantly trying to improve on our band, and it has been a constant improvement. I think the part that makes it hard (at least for us), is getting everyone in the band on board for your goals for the show. Some musicians just want to play the music, get paid, and go home and some are just bitter.

    I think it’s also important to realize that we’re not just musicians, we’re entertainers… our job is to entertain in many shapes and forms. Comedians have to plan for shows and leave room for moments.

    Great Episode. It brought a lot of issues to the surface that we have within our band for our shows, and many things to think about and improve on!

    – Ian

  • The sports analogy was interesting. It is not only about improving your game — it is about we do against the competition. We are all competing for the public’s time and dollars — we compete with other music groups, television, film – whatever out there can fill up someone’s evening. We, in our group (an acoustic chamber group), work on our music, our intonation, our ensemble – we don’t work on the show. After listening to Tom, we’re going to put the show on the agenda too.

  • Joan,

    Good to hear! Like Tom mentioned, when people go to your show, they are going to “see” you as much as they are going to hear you. They also want to feel like they have a stronger connection to you and the music, so when you plan out your show, be sure to think about how to draw people in to what you are doing. Sometimes, it’s just a few simple adjustments to what you are already doing.


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  • Tom’s awesome. We have him in to teach at our indie conference we do in Nashville every march. http://www.ciasummit.com

    He’s always the hit with attendees!

  • After listening to this podcast last week, I couldn’t help but think about it as I watched Bruce Springsteen play the Super Bowl Half-Time show. His performance was amazing! He created moment after moment after moment after… Well, you get the idea.

  • It was quite a performance, and I really don’t like Bruce Springsteen. It was a well crafted set, and I think it was a good example of the planned and spontaneous aspects that Tom talks about. Everything was completely thought out, but those were just the pillars for Bruce to be Bruce.

  • Kevin,

    I think we may have seen two seperate performances. Bruce’ half time show was contrived and commercial from moment one. He sold out big time in that performance. And lost any cred he had at that moment in my and many others opinion Bob Lefsetz to name just one other… Was it good, yes. Was it real, no. Might as well have had Janet and oh who was that lamo boy band guy? do the tearing off the fake bra routine again… Forgettable is all this was…

    Sorry, for a moment to be memorable and meaningful, it must at least come across as real. Neither were true of Bruce’ performace at this event.

  • I loved this podcast. I went out and applied the concepts in two back to back gigs I had immediately. Instead of trying to sing the song the best I could, I tried to create moments the best I could. I sat down for a set, I wore my snakeskin boots, put on sunglasses for a couple tunes, closed my eyes sometimes when it felt appropriate, made eye contact with the audience at times, tried to mix it up and just be aware of the space in the songs. Sometimes talked to the audience, sometimes not. I sold 8 CDs (usual sales 1 or less with some exceptions). Sure beats selling nothing.

  • Chris,

    That’s awesome! It does make a difference, and your audience told you by buying more albums. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

  • I’m thrilled to get Tom’s link to his CDBaby podcast, knowing that millions of people can now gain an “i-glimpse” into his genius. Our 1 year-new bluegrass band, Anna Mae Mitchell & Rising Tide, attended the 2008 IBMA Convention in Nashville, and two band members (unfortunately, NOT all 6!) attended Tom’s seminar, coming out of it with tremendous lessons and a new focus on our stage production. We purchased Tom’s 4-dvd set “All Roads Lead to the Stage” – a wise & cost-effective investment – and have been using his insights ever since, to continue analyzing & improving our show, with tremendous audience (and booking!) response. It’s a JOURNEY we are thrilled to be on, and we give a sold-out recommendation to artists of all genres to take his advice, in whatever form they can get it!

  • Thanks for highlighting theses additional factors of relating to the audience which need to be remembered when moving from the studio to the stage. Really, a live performance give you a more unstructured opportunity to add to whats on your CD, to be yourself, to show who you are, to make some friends. Some people doubtless neeed more help here than others. The musical purists, who want to their talent and music to do the talking (who I personally appreciate) would do well to get their stage act together. We all can think of bands whose musical ability, and even material is nothing special who make a name based primarily in their “look” and stage show. The importance of learning to relax, feel you audience, and add something extra to your performances certainly makes sense. The fact that some “moments” can be planned is provocative. I am thinking there needs to be some balance here to avoid being “fake”. But even if you don’t want to mechanically replay some effective “moment” of the past, you can certainly learn to allow yourself the freedom to try new things on the “spur of the moment”; and if the moment calls for it, do something you did before, without being mechanical. One could develop and rehearse special “events” or versions of a song for use on the stage. Of course, the increase in sales is a salient confirmation of the importance of this capability.

  • Great Show.
    Tom reiterates what I have been saying for years about today’s bands. Although his viewpoint makes it seem easy for anyone to adopt.

    For years musicians have been asking me why I think there has been such a decline in people going out to see bands like they use to.

    My response is always the same. What’s there to see? You got a few guys plugged in playing in the corner under a dim light competing with a large screen TV most of the times.

    Years ago many of these same small clubs had bands that had their own sound man, Light crew and even brought in pipe staging with spot lights to shoot only 30 feet away to the stage. Almost always standing room only.

    Don’t waste your time perfecting a song to be so verbatim that is paralyzes your appearance onstage. Your audience is an extension of your show. Bring them in like you do to each other to get yourselves fired up.

    Sorry, I went of track there a bit didn’t I? LOL

  • What a great Podcast!! We as artists definitely need to take the advise of Tom. If you can’t afford someone like Tom, review your videos. You can catch a lot of stuff you doing wrong on stage. Its quite an experience when we review our videos. Often times, its funny because you can straight out see the awkward stuff did on stage. Now we know why the audition didn’t get certain songs like we did. The expressions and the mood of each song is very important to communicate to the audition. If they can’t see it, that’s 60% of communication gone!

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  • As Chet Atkins once said when asked to turn up the reverb, “How about we turn up the talent”

  • Rock’N’Roll
    Brazen Angelz

  • Great podcast. Very helpful at this point for me as I am just getting out there after recording my debut album. Many Thanks, Amanda

  • Thanks for the podcast! I found it very helpful. I am thinking of all the key, random, accidental, spontaneous moments my band Stellar Corpses has created in the past so I can begin to create a better live show.

  • That was a super interview with Tom. Thanks for such useful and helpful insight.

  • Great little podcast – thank you CDbaby…
    and a good episode for sure. Our band Antioquia recently went into the studio for a week and recorded our 2nd album (available for free download from our website http://www.antioquia-band.com on April 3!) — and we definitely had a lot of work to do to adapt our songs to be suitable for an album.

    Some comments have suggested video — heck yeah, very helpful. Our band almost always records audio of our shows and even that can be helpful. For a while we were anti-setlist because they made us feel rigid, but after touring lots we’ve gotten much more relaxed and now our setlists allow us to play continuously instead of having a bunch of dead air in between songs — when I then felt pressured to say something… often bla bla bla bla blaing and not realizing it until I listened to the audio.

    Another thing I think is really relevant to a lot of acts touring but usually playing small to medium sized venues is VOLUME. It took us a while to figure out why sometimes there would be a 4-7 meter gap between us and the crowd… it was either because we had our amps up too high on stage or because the sound engineer was deaf, or a combination of the 2. Make sure you have a friend in the crowd let you know if the overall volume is too high, or else all that planning around moments can be ruined. Unless your crowd’s deaf too… then turn that shit up!!

    rock n roll


  • This was very interesting! We have just recently been involved in a local radio/band project which sent 20 bands to a band (boot) camp where we had the opportunity to learn and share information on everything involved with being a successful band or musician. One of the things we did touch on was exactly what Tom Jackson was talkin about “creating moments”. Here is a video from that camp of my band “Danny Echo” performing our last song of the set with a special moment.
    We are working on more moments to have a bigger impact at forthcoming shows!
    Danny Echo

  • interesting angle on performing live. As an audience member a special performance often contains personality, taking yer time and u can tell they have worked hard to get the show together for you. As a performer, i enjoy developing these aspects and delivering an authentic live experience.

  • aim

    I’m very good with computers and stuff, but I have been trying to find the link to listen to this podcast for over 30 minutes now. Can please somebody help, where do I click to listen???


  • You’re not crazy. Our audio player was broke. It’s working now ūüôā


  • Sixmortsj

    Im in a metal band, and im happy to hear this, because we focus on creating moments a lot and we rehearse our live set like mad.

  • Ambiguous

    It took a very long time to get to the actual podcast..too much talking before..

  • Rene’ Casey

    Thank you for this…Now I can work on more moments during my performances…
    when I go to see a show or a performer…I am watching the reactions of the audience and things that the performer do some or lots of mistakes that he is doing. ¬†It helps me a lot when I plan my show. ¬†It is important to read your audiences. ¬†

  • Alissa Sanders

    Amazing! ¬†Thanks so much for this. ¬†Always felt like there was this big secret I was missing out on. Imagined that the great performers were just born that way. ¬†So glad to know that their are performance skills that can be learned. ¬†I’ve got 2 shows coming up and now I’m so excited to use what Tom shared to improve them. ¬†Thanks to Tom and to CD Baby for this podcast.

  • Snicker

    Hey Dusty I’ve seen you guys and your on the right path…

  • The Walrus

    often send an audience clambering to the merch table”

    They should put the table on a level floor, then people could clamour to it.

  • Not Bad Advice,My Man