I had a great show today with my brother and singer/keyboardist Christian Barfield at a college in Illinois. We had a blast playing as a duo, and the show reminded me about a lot of simple yet important aspects of keeping an audience engaged. Here's 5 quick ways to keep your audience entertained and listening to you:
1. Be Personal
In between songs, talk to the audience like you do your friends. Don't ever speak formally like you would if you were giving a speech on the debate team- just keep it light and conversational. Most importantly, keep it interesting. Talk about things that would hold
2. Use Dynamics
Get the audience's attention by dramatically changing the dynamics of your song. Nothing gets people back to being engaged in your music like a quick, artistically placed drop or rise in volume.
3. Change Instruments
Christian and I stuck with two keyboards today, and we really kicked ourselves for not pulling out a guitar or my concertina for a song or two. Variety of instrumentation can almost always give you an extra boost of interest to people, and you get big kudos for being able to play more than one instrument.
4. Background Vocals
Two words: have them. On every song. Every time. People love vocals, so why not have as many as possible in your music?
5. Talk to People
After the show, make yourself available to talk to people. Actively engage them in conversation. Thank them for coming, tell them you were glad they were here today. This will help people feel like they made a difference by listening to you. Also, you'll get a better understanding of what they like and didn't like about your set, and possibly win a fan for future shows.