How to Nail Your Performances Every Time: A Musician's Guide

Production & Music Industry
Updated on
April 14, 2024
Written by
Sydney Evans
5 mins
Get top tips and tricks to help you deliver a first-class live music performance every time.

As most seasoned musicians will tell you, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve got your first gig coming up or you’ve played hundreds of shows, every live performance comes with the challenge of getting it just right. 

Considering that 70 – 95% of musicians’ revenues come from live performances rather than album sales or streaming, perfecting your live shows is vitally important. That’s why we’ve compiled the following tips and tricks to help you nail your performance every time.

1. Choose the Venue Carefully

Put thought into the venues you choose to play at. Not all venues were created equal, and some are better suited to live music performances than others. You can take this further and say that some live music venues are better suited to your style than other venues.

Take time to consider the size, acoustics, stage setup, and layout of different venues. It’s important to understand that you have a sense of how your music will resonate in those spaces and that you’re familiar with the location of the equipment as well as the dimensions of the stage. 

Last but not least, make sure you’re aware of the type of crowd the venue usually attracts, what their marketing material promises, the music the venue usually plays, and the food and drink offerings (and whether your fans will appreciate them).

2. Plan your Setlist

Put time and effort into planning the setlist. Whether you’re a solo performer performing original songs or a cover band, don’t leave your live gigs to chance. Include the songs you want to perform in order and write down when you want to speak to the audience. You can always edit the setlist after a practice run.

Use these tips to guide you in crafting the perfect setlist:

  • Start with two to three upbeat songs
  • Avoid playing more than three of the same type of song in a row
  • Play something different or quieter after the first two or three songs
  • Vary the tempo, mood, or theme after every two to three songs
  • End the show with a strong song, preferably one your fans know and love

3. Practice, Practice, Practice

Set aside time to practice regularly. If you’re in a band, practice together at least once a week and practice individually in your own time. While regular practice is important for all musicians, it’s especially important if you have recording sessions or live performances coming up.

If you’re going to be performing in front of an audience, practice in front of a mirror, paying attention to what you look like when playing or singing. 

Ensure you practice appropriately: if you have an intimate coffee shop gig coming up, practice for that, not as though you’ll be playing in front of 10,000 people at a stadium.

4. Get Your Gear Ready

Prepare your gear the day before your performance. Double-check everything, from your instrument(s) to your mics, cables, and other equipment. If you need new strings or a new cable, get them sorted long before you set foot on the stage.

Pack a gig bag with healthy snacks, bottled water, paper and pens, a roll of duct tape, and a few small spares that might come in handy, such as extra guitar picks or strings.

5. Prepare Your Body and Mind

Prepare your body and mind for your performances. Make sure you get a good night’s rest before the day of the performance, eat a light but healthy and nutritious meal two to three hours before your gig, and spend some time doing something relaxing to help calm your nerves and focus your mind. 

While there’s nothing wrong with having a beer before a gig, ensure you don’t get tipsy or drunk. Respect yourself, your fellow bandmates, the venue manager and staff, and your audience by staying within your limits before live music performances. 

6. Be Punctual

Be punctual and ensure that you get to the venue with enough time to settle in, set up your equipment, go through soundcheck, and start your gig at the advertised time. 

Punctuality is a sign of being a professional musician, and it lets the venue owner/manager and staff, your bandmates, and your audience know that you respect them.

7. Take Advantage of the Soundcheck

Make the most of soundcheck, as it offers you a valuable opportunity for a last, quick rehearsal and to ensure that everyone’s on the same page for the live performance that’s about to take place. Greet the sound person, learn their name, be nice to them, and let them know your sound preferences, including desired effects, levels, and the monitor mix.

Test all your equipment, go over the setlist again, and pay attention to any last issues, such as cues, technical details, and transitions. Ensuring everything is in working order, and everyone knows what they’re supposed to do will set you up for a great performance and help reduce your stress levels.

8. Promote Yourself

Yes, the venue you’re playing at should promote your gig, but you need to promote your music, too. You can promote yourself on social media, on online forums, and in real life too. Post the details of your gig well in advance and let people know where they can listen to your music, too. 

By drumming up interest and doing a bit of self-promotion, you can ensure you don't end up playing to an empty room and that you attract a crowd that motivates you to give your best. 

9. Talk to Your Audience

Talk to your audience at various points in the show. Greet them and introduce yourself and your fellow band members after the first couple of songs. Share anecdotes or personal stories about some of the songs to add more depth and meaning for the audience. Don’t be afraid to make a few jokes, either. Just don’t offend your audience or get yourself canceled.  

It’s also important to listen to your audience, to pay attention to their energy, and to respond accordingly to help establish a sense of connection between them and what’s happening on stage.

Nailing your live performances requires putting time and effort into preparing for every single one of them. Use these tips to wow yourself, your bandmates, and your audience every time.




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