live music performance

What to do when the song is over

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The moments after the song is over present a crucial opportunity to build momentum for your live music performance, and it’s one that many music performers tend to miss.

In “The power of a trash can ending,” I wrote about using the right endings for the songs in your live show, and the correct way to cut off a song to get the maximum response from your audience.

Well, the moments after the song is over present another crucial opportunity to build momentum for your live music performance, and it’s one that many music performers tend to miss.

Whether you’re on the stage alone or in a group, you need to learn how to put pressure on the audience and accept applause. This means that the ending should intentionally ask the audience to applaud – you’ll use “non-verbal cues”.

Let’s start with what you should not do. Don’t do the cutoff and then, as the audience starts to applaud, ignore your audience by immediately:

  • backing up,
  • turning your back on the audience,
  • going to adjust your gear,
  • start talking to each other,
  • or anything like that!

Another thing you shouldn’t do is to say “thank you” into the microphone as soon as the song ends and applause begins. You’ll kill your applause by doing that.

All of these things are cues that tell your audience you are either insecure, arrogant, or not interested in them.

Applause from an audience is a gift that needs to be received graciously. So let’s look at what you should do immediately after the cutoff:

  • Hold your ground onstage (at least): don’t back up!
  • If you want to be bold, take a couple steps forward.
  • Open yourself up to the audience. Pick a few people out in the audience and nod, smile, look at them, pump a fist at them (if it was a high energy song) – the point is, connect one on one with them.
  • Depending on the style of music, you can put your palms up and arms out to the sides, almost like receiving a gift from the audience. Everyone in the world knows what they are supposed to do if the artist does this.

A couple of notes on how to handle the mic right after the song:

  1. Singers should put the mic down to their side if they are holding it.
  2. If you’ve been standing behind a mic on a stand, step to the side. You don’t want the audience to think you’re going to talk.
  3. If there is no mic in front of your mouth, you can say “thank you, thank you” without it being prohibitive to the audience’s applause.

All of that happens right after the cutoff and as the applause increases and peaks. But you should also be aware that there is what I call an applause cycle, and your non-verbal and verbal cues during the entire applause cycle will help build momentum.

Here’s a little graphic I had made for my book that may help you understand what I mean:
live music performance

The next step in handling applause is this: You will listen for the applause to hit its peak, and when it is just starting to die down, make the next move. This is where you say “thank you!” into the mic. This is where the drummer starts the beat for the next song, or the guitarist starts the next intro, or… Basically, it’s where you lead the audience into the next song.

The idea is to be open and grateful for the audience’s applause. By putting pressure on them you are asking them to respond, and you’ll begin to lead your audience with confidence and authority. When done correctly, with the right ending on your songs, this will build momentum in the room.

Image by Nikola Spasenoski via ShutterStock.com.

Tom Jackson is a world renowned live music producer, author of the book Tom Jackson’s Live Music Method and the All Roads Lead to the Stage DVD series, and master at transforming an artist’s live show into a magical experience for the audience. Tom has worked with hundreds of artists in every genre, including major artists like Taylor Swift, The Band Perry, Jars of Clay, and more. He also shares his expertise as a speaker at colleges, conferences, and events worldwide. For more information, go to www.onstagesuccess.com.

Guide to Gigging

Read More
The power of a trash can ending
9 things you should never do on stage
Stage Banter and Your Live Show
Set list tips for your next live show
Ditch the pre-show performance jitters

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27 thoughts on “What to do when the song is over

  1. Some great advice that a lot of people don’t even think of. Getting the audience motivated in between songs is a crucial skill. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I like the Bruce Dickenson Iron Maiden approach: “SCREAM FOR ME LONG BEACH! WAVE YOUR FLIPPERS IN THE AIR!”

    Simply ask for the applause. Nice.

  3. Applause is a gift from the audience, you should be open and grateful to receive it – good advice once again from Tom Jackson! We all need to pay more attention to how we respond and interact with the audience in between the songs. Performance is not only about the music, it is about using the music to communicate and connect with people.

  4. hi after reading the article and the commits seams that everyone agrees that you should wait for the applause peaks before saying thank you than move on to your next set however it’s cool to ask the crowd how there doing who’s here to see KENNY C. Many throw some guitar picks a fist pump you should deffintly interact with the crowd if there is no applause that means that you suck lol that was about the funniest post I read ha ha anyhow here’s my advice
    Listen for a reaction if it’s good feed off of it make it grow by pointing at a few people and a fist pump throw some personalized guitar picks people love that shit that have your band start the next tune while you are still interacting with your fans Jump back on the mike and smile like you just got laid . Sincerely KENNY C NOMINATED FOR COUNTRY ARTIST OF THE YEAR BY LA MUSIC AWARDS ALSO VIDEO OF THE YEAR WHICH WILL BE PREMEIRING AT THE WORLD FAMOUS WISKEY A GO GO. COME SEE MY BAND ON STAGE AT 9:00 June 18th 2015 SEE YOU ALL THERE

    1. Well Kenny C, thanks for the words of encouragment from a true star and professional! I have heard the haters come out regarding this article but it’s spot on! I was a local bandsman/lead guitarist back east where I grew up and now out west for 15 years. I tried to suggest some of these things in my last band but it fell on deaf ears due to a narcissistic front man. I have since became a solo artist and it feels great to have control of the stage and the audience but a little overwhelming at first since if your solo you need to command a certain presence on stage and be dynamic enough to captivate the audience for an extended period of time. I have always let eh audience have their say in where and how the show goes. I have always waited for the applause to die down and then thank my audience after. This was always instinctual for me but as I have seen over the years, many performers on the local level (and even above) need to put these simple tips into action. People subconsciously need to feel like they are a part of your show and the small things add up! Love the suggesstion about the personalized guitar licks! Keep on rockin’ brotha!

  5. This is a great post. I really hadn’t thought about how saying thank you too soon can kill the audience’s response. I am going to be more aware of the space between the songs as a result of your article.

    Thanks,
    Vi

  6. Great article
    I’ve been in the business for over 50 years as a performer and now I’m teaching voice and this issue of how to “perform” which what you have addressed after ending a song is crucial and sometimes one of the most difficult skills to learn and employ. Especially for the young and rising talent.
    Thanks

  7. “By putting pressure on them you are asking them to respond, and you’ll begin to lead your audience with confidence and authority.”

    If you have to “put pressure” and “lead” the audience to get them to applaud, you must not be doing a very good job as a performer… I’ve been to plenty a show where the singer says “thank you” IMMEDIATELY as the song cuts off, and is met with roaring applause. Don’t say a word? Step forward? Stare the crowd into clapping? This article makes for a pretty douchey and ungrateful sounding frontman if you ask me…

    1. The use of the word “pressure” is misfortunate because it has a negative impression for most people.
      It is not pressure so much as “guiding the audience”
      And that that is exactly what the best performers do.

      <Don’t say a word?
      He didn't say that – he said don't step on the audience response —
      give them a chance to show you their appreciation.

      <Step forward?
      With an accepting manner with you arms held out in friendship and thankfulness.
      He didn't said lurch forward with an axe.

      <Stare the crowd into clapping?
      No, make eye contact. many performers don't because of nerves or insecurity.

      These techniques may take time to become smooth but the man knows what he is talking about.

      1. All I know is, at the better of shows that I’ve been to, the crowds erupt into roaring applause the moment the song ends, whether the frontman says “thank you” immediately after or not, and with no impression of having to *guide* them to a response.

        There’s certainly something to be said for stage presence and confidence, but–call me crazy–I just feel that if you put on a good enough performance, the audience shouldn’t be able to contain their applause when the final note sounds. Maybe that’s just more to do with the types of shows I go to or something…

  8. One of the comments earlier missed an important point. Yes, you DO say Thank You to the audience, but you DELAY it, based on the applause cycle. Totally jives with my experience, and what I do. Wonderful article, that I’ve just shared with a colleague.

  9. I don’t get it…DON’T say “thank you” as the audience is applauding? DO “pump your fist” at and point to random audience members? Look man, you can do what you want, but if there’s an art to post-song-landings, I don’t think his article is the reference manual.

    1. <DON’T say “thank you” as the audience is applauding?

      The article said not to KILL the applause by saying thank you too soon. You say Thank You when the applause has reached a peak and it dying down.

      <DO “pump your fist” at and point to random audience members?

      Yes, it works. Dynamic teachers use these type of techniques every day with their classes.

      <Look man, you can do what you want, but if there’s an art to post-song-landings, I don’t think his article is the reference manual.

      Well, that's because you do not understand the concept of "group dynamics." Look up "group dynamics" on the web. This article is right on because the author understands how a band can use group dynamics to generate a positive response from an audience.

  10. I believe in feeling out your crowd and set an expectation for the audience at the beginning instead of just filling their eyes with possibly unwanted noise. Know your venue and know your selections for the environment. I learned something from the information and will implement those techniques into my shows. But to marry the perfect songs with the yearning crowd then you won’t have to work so hard for the applause at the end. Example A wedding song at a wedding like “Finger For This Ring” . How could you lose. P.s. Thank you for your time.

  11. I don’t know if any of the advice provided on the article has any value, but I do know one this: Too many performers use “thank you” as a prompt for audiences to applaud (people are trained to do this and usually simply out of politeness). The worst is when no one applauds at all and they still say “thank you”. I saw this happen once in a bar in San Francisco. It was a week night and everyone in the place was there to chat, and not to listen to the band. In fact most patrons would have probably wanted the band to stop playing. After a song ended on a power chord, all you could hear was the sound of people in the middle of their respective conversations. No one applauded or acknowledged the band in any way. So what did the singer do? Embarassingly he said ” thank you”. I wondered if he was thanking everyone for ignoring them.

    1. Randy, I don’t know about you… but I was laughing about 10 minutes after reading this article and the ensuing comments, which were more humorous for me than the actual article. With all due respects to the author, I think too much thought was put into the ideas stated by the author. As a performer myself, I feel it is best to just play a song… stop a second and smile, then go on to the next song. All these picky-little thoughts are too much and seriously crack me up.

    2. Is this the famous Randy Hansen/Jimi/Wild Blue Angel?? My fellow Jimi Hendrix fan?! I’m from Tri Cities, WA , you showed me a “very special” wah pedal!! At Roxy Wine Bar in Kennewick! If it’s not, then…..nevermind…

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