Live Lesson: Keep It Short


If your band is new and you are playing shows where the majority of the crowd doesn’t know your songs yet – it is a fine line to walk on how to make a great impression. Odds are you are probably an opening act at this stage which make your job of winning a crowd over even more difficult since the audience is there for a purpose that is not to hear you. When this is the case there is a simple thing you can do to leave your audience with a much better impression of your band. Respect them!

As fun as it is to play live and as much as we all want the rush we get from it to never end it does have to end and the sooner the better. If the crowd doesn’t know your songs no matter how good you are live there comes a point that enough is enough. If the crowd is enjoying you there is a threshold for how much time it starts to get boring for everyone hearing songs they don’t know. By choosing to fall on the side of too short you leave the crowd wanting more. By going too long you start to go from “That was the best set ever” to “That was the best set I have ever seen except they played too long.” The longer you play the more points you potentially lose. Figuring out an optimal set time is one of the most important things you can do and learning how to cram all your tricks into a short set can really help your live show matter more.

So what is the optimal time? Playing a 20-25 minute is usually the optimal time for a set when you are in this position, however if a promoter requires you to play more just make sure you get as close to the amount of time you are supposed to play and nothing more. I find myself and everyone else I go to shows with feeling jaded towards any band after about that much time. At the same time playing under 20 minutes a crowd that came there to see you feels ripped off and cheated for their ticket price. Though bands like The Dwarves and The Replacements had rabid followings for playing sets under 20 minutes on a regular basis that were just so amazing that no one cared they were so short. Experimenting and figuring out this timing is crucial to making fans with your live show, since if you start to feel painful to the audience it can be discouraging for them to want to her your music recorded.

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.