#044: Roundtable – Polishing Your Performances

Revisiting Tom Jackson’s interview, the Podcasters offer their own thoughts on the importance of developing a great live show. Many of our listeners have taken up the Twitter challenge and called our listener line with tips and tricks for using Twitter and Facebook, plus more calls, questions, emails and comments from our audience.  Have you identified any “moments” in your show? Have you made a serious mistake you’d like to share? What’s your favorite move on stage?




  • While I agree promotion in a subtle manner is a positive thing, I cannot disagree more with the whole Twitter/Facebook/Myspace nonsense. What one finds in these locales is amateurs who are sadly nowhere near ready for the real world.

    I produce a podcast featuring local bands. The point is to promote them to locales they perhaps would never have been heard of in. It has been marginally successful in that right. However, these bands are for the most part, lame bands. Musicians with a small degree of talent and a ton of nerve but no stage presence what-so-ever.

    Which brings us to your last episode, sure feature the moment but, if the band isn’t huge already, a moment means zip. Which brings me to my annoyance with your guest. He KNOWS NOTHING! I personally, played stages back in the 70’s and 80’s in L.A. with bands that became huge. Why did they become huge? Not from their show, they became huge because they built very and oh so terribly slowly, a huge following. That following translated into repeat business ie, return crowds.

    Sure Gene, Peter, Paul and Ace even though they SUCKED as musicians put on one hell of a show, they were nothing without the crowd who all came to see the train wreck. That wasn’t a moment, the whole show was a “moment”…

    Motley Crue, RULED the strip not for their music. But for their debatchery. Their show sucked, I was there! But after the show and sometimes during the show, it was babylon…

    Quiet Riot, good band but so were 9000 others. On stage, ah, there’s the rub, Those guys put on a show that shook you. You didn’t expect it at all. They were rockers, they were bad boys but then they’d pull out this one song out of seemingly thin air and wow, who are these guys. It wasn’t their show, it wasn’t a moment, it was that unexpected song. That honest blurb from the front man or maybe just the guitar player screwing up and the singer calling him out on it. Got a laugh and EVERYONE remembered it.

    Emotion is huge musically but, there’s a lot more to it than that.

    I saw Yes live in 1974, they did an acapella version of “It Can Happen” and I’ve been a fan ever since. Before that, they were just another prog rock band to me..

    My point is, listen to these promoter types at your own parrel(?) They know little to nothing but they’ll take your money every time.

    Bono? Please, no-one gives a flying f what Bono has to say, not in the real world. Just as no-one cares what Axl has to say in G N R… They’re entertaining but not mot worth the price of admission.

    I saw the Beatles in ’64. They just stood there and the show was the most memorable show in history. The Stones in ’68 were fun, memorable, no.

  • Wow! With all due respect, you sound bitter and angry and completely out of touch. I honestly can say that you couldn’t be more wrong. There would be no music industry at all if things worked as you described. And seeing that there a millions of music fans that love and are moved by artists that are not mega-stars, your description of how things work flies in the face of reality.

  • Hi Robert,

    Thanks for your passionate note. I believe being a great stage performer takes as much study and and practice as any other performance art. Sure, naturals like Marlon Brando break all the rules, but Brando knew the rules, and he knew why he was breaking them.

    Expressing yourself on stage and connecting to your audience is what theater, dance, and rock n roll are all about. Tom is considered an expert in his field and we feel it’s our duty to expose our audience to as many learned voices in the music industry as we can. Sure the academic side of music will never be as exciting as knee sliding up to your twin in a spontaneous deluge of ear bending feedback, but I believe that Tom had some really valuable things for musicians to consider. Our focus with this podcast is providing struggling musicians with all the resources they can handle for the amazing price of FREE. We’re not concerned with judging music–we just like to help musicians.

    Robert B

  • Jaded?
    I thought this episode was fantastic and I plan to listen a few more times. I’m singer/songwriter just getting back into performing live and I realized that I’ve definitely created moments before but haven’t capitalized on them. I’ve had audience members share with me about this song or that story – but I never considered that “a moment”. I’ll be paying much better attention now and working this into every show.
    Thank you for the great interview!

  • Chris

    It seems as though all the memorable things you just listed were,… moments. Right? So the Crue, KISS, Yes, Quiet Riot, and the Beatles were all crafting moments with the strategic intent of moving you in some way. Also, if you admit that KISS and the Crue kinda sucked as musicians, but, rather, constructed their stardom out of some fan-crazed mythology, why be so hard on current acts that are “amateurs”? One of these “lame” bands could slowly build up a cult following and become the next U2 (who, although I’m not a big fan, seem to be doing just fine in the ticket and album sales department, which suggests that at least a few million people still DO give a flying filigree about what Bono has to say).

  • Tim

    I’m just going to assume the first comment was a joke… because I can’t believe it otherwise. How could someone that made all those claims know how to use the internet? Really… (picks jaw up from floor)

  • Tim

    Why do you think the soundtracks to shows like Grey’s Anatomy sell so well? They aren’t live performances, but the show makes it more than a song. Its an experience that people remember when they listen to the music.

  • Perhaps I was a bit too harsh in my remarks but think about it for a moment.

    Would you trust your finances to a financial planner who was not wealthy? Many do and guess what, they don’t do very well.

    Would you trust your physical health to a faith healer? Many do and most die.

    Would you trust your equipment maintenance to a tinkerer? Many do and end up paying much more to fix what the tinkerer did.

    My point is, a teacher who isn’t successful at the very thing they are presuming to teach is questionable at best.

  • Robert,

    I don’t know what you consider success, but seeing as Tom is working with all the chart toppers and his schedule is booked for months, I would call him successful. I would say that makes him worth listening to. If you’re saying you can’t trust what I have to say because I’m not a “rock star,” well I’m no Motley Crue, but I would say after selling over 300,000 albums, being nominated for a Grammy and 3 Dove Awards, winning a Billboard Music Video award, touring every corner of the country and playing some of the largest venues in the US, that my opinion can at least be considered something more than just from someone who “tinkers.” I don’t bring all that up much in the show, because most of what we talk about is just common sense. Beyond all that, I’ve released albums independently, and am actually starting out again from scratch with a new project, so I think it gives me a great perspective on what artists need to pay attention to, and the stuff out there that is just fluff. Outside of my personal music endeavors, I’ve placed songs for indie artists in national TV ads, Films, and network TV shows, so I’ve been at the front lines. I’m not an armchair quarter back on this one.

  • Mr. King, upon reviewing the content and references in your first comment post, I’m guessing your are over 40 and might be an expert on most topics relevant to this discussion…IF this discussion took place prior to around 2004.

    In your opening statement, “I cannot disagree more with the whole Twitter/Facebook/Myspace nonsense”, you reveal how lost you truly are in today’s world of the independent artist. Whether you want to participate or not, the music industry and the path of the DIY musician is moving on without you. You simply cannot afford to cling to memories of the Stones and The Beatles, Quiet Riot and Kiss – as your case studies for success. While they were wildly successful, they are from another time and world. Many of the steps and strategies used by these artists simply don’t work in today’s economy.

    Now I’m a fan of some of the artists you referenced as much as anyone. And like many, I certainly look for little nuggets of knowledge that can be learned from their success. But I’m sorry to say that if The Beatles arrived in a time machine today, with no money and no identity, prior success or fame, they would have just as hard of a time as many other indie artists today at plotting a path to success, no matter how you measure it. I know it’s cliche to say, but times have changed. In today’s world, I tend to believe that even The Beatles would need a guy like Tom Jackson.

    I listened to the Tom Jackson podcast. In fact, while I was about mid-way through it, I paused it, called the two bands I manage and told them both to download it. In fact, I’m considering buying the DVD set referenced in the podcast too. Am I negligently drinking the Kool-Aid? Maybe….maybe not. While I don’t expect anything Tom Jackson says or recommends to be “the answer” or to instantly change anyone’s ultimate success, I do want to find and retain as much knowledge and strategies as possible for me and the independent artists I work with.

    The world of the independent artist is an amoeba, changing significantly from day-to-day. While technology and the internet are far from being the answer, they most definitely play an important role in its future. One of the benefits of “the whole Twitter/Facebook/Myspace nonsense” is that the independent artist community can be better connected and more empowered to share the knowledge, tools and resources necessary to succeed.

    Mr. King, I think you should have a little Kool-Aid and join the party.

  • Peter

    I think I’ve got a valuable point to make: Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, the internet, and recorded sound as a medium are all fads. In fact, anything requiring electricity will be forgotten about before long anyway. Don’t believe the hype, people!

  • Ryan,

    I’ll make this short and sweet. Do you want to be the flavor of the moment or, do you want to be the flavor of a lifetime?

    Taylor Swift and her contemporaries are the flavor of the moment.
    The Beatles and many many more that did things the right way. Hard Work, talent and earning their fans one at a time, are the flavors of a lifetime.

    By all means, read and listen to as much as possible but remember, the true success stories in music, got there despite having no resources, no money and no-one to show them how to perform. Those were artists. Most today are not.

  • Kevin,

    I meant no disrespect to you or the podcast. I knew you had sold a number of records and toured etc. Anyone who’s listened to more than 1 episode of the podcast knows these things about you.

    Tom is a successful salesman yes, but he isn’t a successful artist. I’d put him in the same category as Tony Robbins and other motivational types who make their money telling others how to do what they themselves cannot do.

    There’s nothing wrong with what he does or even featuring it but in truth, the episode was just a long infomercial for his business. Interresting but of questionable value to anyone not able to pony up the cash to buy his services.

    Rather like the artist you all laughed it up about in discussing all the guest stars he’d had on his album (What’s your story episode)..

    And let’s face it, he wouldn’t be working with these Top artists if they didn’t already have a hit commercial record out there. I’d venture to say, the majority of the podcast’ audience does not have a hit commercial record out and many of them likely never will, myself included.

    Now your interview some time back with Daryl Hall was very informative. As were the episodes with club bookers, publicists and so on. Those are the things that help the little guy/gal move forward. Because even though they might seem like common sense, most artists today don’t know or understand these things. Copyright discussions are essential, none but a select few seem to understand the importance of that issue and so on.

    I appologise if I’ve offended you or anyone else. I learned long ago to speak my mind, consequences be darned. It’s hurt me at times but more often than not, being so straight about things has led to many opportunities I’d never have had otherwise.

  • Tom is a successful salesman yes, but he isn’t a successful artist.

    I understand the sentiment, but I think your criticism is misguided.

    This is not about artistry. This is about performance. And if you’re a performing artist, wouldn’t you want to know how to be a better performer as well as artist?

    Artists like to believe that our genius and talent will compensate for our shortcomings onstage — unfortunately, that’s a lie we tell ourselves so we can avoid dealing with the fact that good artistry and good performance go hand-in-hand.

    Tom’s a performance coach. He doesn’t teach the art part. I’ve attended one of his workshops, and it certainly made me rethink a lot of what I was doing onstage, and it absolutely has had a net-positive effect on the number of fans I’ve made and music sold. That’s absolutely something that helps a “little guy/gal move forward” and absolutely something you can bank on for a lifetime.

  • sonhen

    Robert Lee, I can understand where you’re coming from time-wise, as I’ve been performing since the age of 14 and I am now 55. I was there when the Beatles were getting their start as well as Al Green and many others. What others on here are trying to tell you is the times we live in are different now. I will agree that the high level of talent and artistry is at an all time low. The public has been dumbed down to where mediocrity is the norm. Thank American Idol for that.

    This one of the reasons why people are flocking to see a lot of the older groups get back together again. The level of artistry was high then. But getting back on point, EVERY musician and singer who wants to progress to the level of a world wide entertainer HAS to learn what people like Tom has to teach. He is successful because he has researched this information, taught it, and gets results. Results IS success. What Tom teaches is by no means new. Musicians and singers have always hired choreographers and writers to get them to the next level of great stage performances.

    When Berry Gordy started making hits at Motown, EVERY artist under contract including Stevie Wonder and the Jacksons had to be taught how to perform on stage. He hired people just like Tom to come in and work with the artists until they got control of their stage presence. Where do you think Michael and his brothers learned how perform on stages and TV shows, on their own? Not true.
    Lasting fans come from great stage performances. Besides being outstanding vocalists, Al Green and Johnny Mathis are still masters of the stage and sell out wherever they go. It’s like you said, their whole show is all great moments. That’s when you’re a master.

  • Sonhen,

    The level of artistry yes, not showmanship.

    Al Green, Johnny Mathis? People go to see them because they produced timeless music, not for the stage show. They may go back because of the stage show but, that first outting, is all for the music.

    People go to see the old guard because of nostalgia. They want to experience what they’ve been told the act was like. Sadly, the show today bares little resemblence to those halcion days.

    My point is, remember context. Tom’s ideas won’t work in a small intimate venue. The stage isn’t big enough, the audience isn’t big enough and more often than not, the band or act cannot even be seen by anyone but those up front.

    Large venues with a proper large stage, sure.

  • Only just listened to this episode and found it very interesting. I was going to make a point and saw that Robert had adressed it in his last post -small venues.

    However, I don’t agree that his ideas won’t work in a smaller venue; they just need adapting. We have seven people in our band and that usually means we can’t use Tom’s idea about standing in different parts of the stage for different songs – there’s just no room, you stand in front of your amp and stay there because there’s a trumpet player to your left and a bassist to your right.

    But, we still try to make a visual impact on stage. Admittedly that bit’s easy for us because we play Mexican-influenced Spaghetti Western music and all wear sombreros but everyone can at least think about image and what they might wear on stage. Also, you could use props on a small stage; lamps, banners etc. Sometimes the smallest thing can totally change the atmosphere on stage.