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What Makes A Good Entertainer?


Unless you are performing in one of your regular venues, the question that is inevitably asked – either implied or directly – of any entertainer is “Are you any good?” So… what makes a good entertainer?

Indeed it’s a well-known fact within this industry that to enjoy success as an artist you need a wide range of skills you can draw upon on any given night.

Fortunately for those of us who have combined our natural abilities with the time, effort and – let’s face it – money required to perfect our craft and business, we as musicians and entertainers exist within an industry where the acquisition of such attributes is generally apparent from the first verse of the first song that we play on the first night.

So without further ado, let me impart some knowledge I have attained through more than 1000 shows! I’ll try to briefly summarise what you should expect of myself or anyone else, for that matter, who wishes to be truly regarded as a ‘professional entertainer’.

This has also been written with the intention of being a bit of a guide to those who are starting out in the industry, so I would like to apologise in advance if at times it seems a bit slanted in that direction.

RULE NUMBER 1 – BE PROFESSIONAL

Turning up and starting on time does not make a professional musician. A professional musician ensures venues are supplied with posters and supporting material well in advance. A professional promptly returns calls, and keeps appointments.

In short, present yourself as a professional if you want be treated as one.

This does not just mean your clothing and appearance – it extends to your business presentation (websites, business cards, posters, demo CD’s, DVD’s, etc etc). Along with your mannerisms and your respect for those venues and individuals who are willing to put their trust in you as an entertainer to help support their business and/or function.

RULE NUMBER 2 – YOUR SOUND IS EVERYTHING

This may come as a surprise to many people, but getting a good ‘sound’ is not as simple as buying a $2000.00 PA system, plugging it in and switching it on.

What effects/EQ are you using? What type of guitar/microphone/amplifier are you using? Are your speakers of a high quality? Are you using any type of sound ‘enhancers’?

In short, if there is ANYTHING within your budget that will make you sound better, BUY IT!

By gradually adding better and better pieces of audio equipment, it is possible to obtain your own unique sound that will be far superior to what you started out with.

RULE NUMBER 3 – KNOW YOUR STUFF, AND MATCH IT TO YOUR AUDIENCE!

This might sound simple enough, but what is your ‘stuff’?

Are you performing to a group of 50 patrons in a restaurant? A bowling club? Or are you doing a 9pm gig at a ski resort bar filled with 20 – 30 year old die-hard party-goers?

Simply put, a good entertainer needs to be flexible enough to be able to vary a show at the drop of a hat.

If you are performing to a mixed crowd in, say, a local RSL club, they are going to want some nice toe-tapping music while they are eating. This will build to a couple of rock and roll/classic dance numbers to get them on the floor. And then be followed by perhaps some originals and story telling. And then perhaps some good old fashioned ‘pub rock’ numbers towards the last set of the night.

Variety is the key, and an ability to immediately vary your show if necessary should be the ABSOLUTE golden rule of any seasoned entertainer.

I can choose from over 300 songs that I can perform on any given night – from Elvis, Kenny Rogers and Jimmy Buffet through to Matchbox 20, Greenday and Robbie Williams – with everything in between.

It is absolutely critical that your audience feels comfortable, relaxed and in ‘safe hands’.

Which brings me to one more ‘golden rule’…

VOLUME!

If there is one thing that will upset both patrons and managers alike quicker than anything else it is music that is TOO LOUD.

You could sing like Pavarotti, play guitar like Clapton and dance like Ricky Martin but if the very people you are trying to entertain have to try and shout above 150 decibels of noise (which unfortunately by now your performance has become) just to order a drink…

Well… I am afraid that as an ‘entertainer’ you will now have:

a) no one in the first 10 rows of your audience;
b) been asked to turn it down anyway by management and finally;
c) had your lovely aforementioned promotional package thrown in the bin by said management first thing in the morning.

In this business, RETURN BUSINESS is everything.

You only have so many venues available in an area! And you only get one shot at each one to show them what you can do.

My philosophy on volume is – match it to the crowd, the venue, and the purpose.

Certain rooms are very acoustically ‘alive’, and require very little amplification. Others (particularly small pubs) can become extremely noisy just through patrons drinking and talking. They will require a bit more amplification just to cut through this din.

Am I there to provide some nice background music (eg dining during a wedding)?

Or to get the party rolling? (eg later in the night at said wedding, or in most pubs and clubs from roughly 9.30pm onwards)?

The bottom line is, both the audience and the venue’s management should be comfortable with the volume level and all the factors mentioned above.

OH YEAH – ONE MORE THING – TALENT!

You should find that most good musicians basically live for their music.

They’ll have a guitar in their hand each day or are singing their lines each day.

There is basically not a moment goes by where I am not thinking about my shows, planning my next musical venture, or preparing for the next night’s performance.

A good entertainer should firstly, in the case of a vocalist, have an excellent voice.

Their instrument should support their voice and their backing tracks (or backing band) seamlessly. They should be able to develop a comfortable rapport with any audience on any night.

The reality is, like most jobs, this generally only comes with experience. I know, even after over two decades of performing, I am constantly seeking to improve every aspect of my show! Trying to match both current musical trends and my own personal musical goals.

If you got this far, and you are a manager, firstly thank you for taking the time. I would hope by now you feel comfortable that I do know what I am doing and have the experience to deliver a good night, every night.

If you are starting out as an entertainer, good luck!

Make sure before you approach venues that you are confident of delivering a top class performance to a wide range of audiences.

Once you can do that, the demand for your business will practically take care of itself!



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