Stage Presence for Musicians: How to Be Electric on Stage - Careers in Music
Start Here:

What are you most interested in? arrow pointing down

Get Started
songwriter playing a songmusic producer at work stationrock star performing on stagetour manager making phone callmusic teacher with studentmusic therapy session
songwriter playing a songmusic producer at work stationrock star performing on stagetour manager making phone callmusic teacher with studentmusic therapy session

Stage presence is a tough one. What should you avoid? How do you do it right? Is there even a right way to do it?

Many artists who want to perform find it difficult to deliver compelling performances. So in this article, I’ll cover several stage presence tips I’ve learned since I started playing music over a decade ago.

To improve your stage presence:

  • Break the sugar bowl
  • Look interesting
  • Be energetic
  • Involve the crowd
  • Watch other great performers
  • Watch yourself perform
  • Don’t be a jerk
  • Stop caring what people think
  • Have fun

What Stage Presence Is and Why It's Important

Ever seen a performer who was so thoroughly engrossing, so present in the moment that you couldn’t take your eyes off of them? They’re singing their heart out, cracking jokes, running across stage, and doing crazy dance moves. That performer had stage presence.

Stage presence, simply put, means you’re present on stage. You’re there, not wishing you were somewhere else. People showed up to your concert and probably paid to be there. So you should show up and perform for them.

Strong stage presence can make the difference between a boring, forgettable show and a fun show people will tell their friends about. It could help turn a casual fan into a super fan, or a super fan into a business partner.

So here are a handful of things I’ve learned about stage presence — from my experiences on stage and from watching other artists perform.

Break the Sugar Bowl

Silence is one of the main things that reveals if an artist is an amateur or not. The more silence in between songs, the more it becomes clear an artist is new to this.

Awkward silence sucks the energy out of a room. You shouldn’t give the audience a break. Say whatever comes to your head (as long as it’s appropriate for the setting and not mean).

If you’re not going to say anything in between songs, quickly move onto the next song. Start playing before the crowd’s clapping dies down.

But if you do want to say stuff in between, plan it out beforehand. During your rehearsal, write down what you want to say and when. If you have a setlist on stage, include a note about your in-between-songs dialogue on there.

Just be sure you break the sugar bowl on stage.

Slide Do You *Really Have What it Takes? Do You *Really
Have What it Takes?
Let's See Let's See

Look Interesting

You are the performer: naturally, people will be looking at you. So give them something interesting to look at.

It doesn’t have to be a crazy outfit, like KISS or Prince or Sia. But wear something interesting, good-looking, or even funny — just as long as the clothes fit your persona and have been washed recently.

Your outfit should match your style of music and energy on stage.

Violinist and singer-songwriter Andrew Bird usually wears a suit and tie. Kanye wears his own line of clothing on stage. Rock bands like Switchfoot wear branded T-shirts, high-quality jeans, and sweatbands on their arms.

Also, shoes. Wear nice shoes that fit your outfit. When you’re on stage, they are much more noticeable than in everyday life. If you have to, go out and buy a new pair just for your performances.

Be Energetic

One of the most entertaining bands I’ve seen live is The Avett Brothers. It’s because they were energetic, like little kids who ate chocolate and drank Mountain Dews in the green room before the show.

If they weren’t having fun on stage, they were really good Actors. They used up the entire stage, running back and forth to engage different parts of the crowd and mingle and laugh with their fellow bandmates. They switched instruments. They jumped up and down. They were crazy.

The energy was infectious.

Involve the Crowd

Another thing The Avett Brothers did well was involve the crowd. They had us singing different parts of different songs. Sometimes we’d sing entire verses for them. They also looked right at us instead of over our heads like some introspective singer-songwriters tend to do. (I’m guilty of this).

Another person who has mastered the art and joy of engaging the audience is Grammy-winning artist Jacob Collier. Watch any video of him performing live and it’s almost guaranteed he’ll get the people singing together.

Here’s an example of this.

Watch Other Great Performers

I was able to share the above examples with you because I go to concerts (or watch clips of concerts online). If I hadn’t watched those performers perform, I wouldn’t have learned those lessons.

My point is, watch other great performers. You can learn a lot. Steal things you see other artists doing on stage and incorporate them into your performances.

You don’t have to learn stage presence on your own. Learning from those who have gone before you is a wise thing to do.

Watch Yourself Perform

You know how collegiate and professional athletes watch film of their own games? They do this to know how they can play better next time. They can see things from a more objective viewpoint and make adjustments for future games.

I think performing artists should adopt this method.

Have a friend (or your mom) film your next concert. It doesn’t even have to be the whole concert, it could just be a handful of songs. That way, you can watch the video later and learn a few things, like:

  • How the music and your voice sounded on stage.
  • What your energy level was like.
  • If you engaged with the audience and how you engaged them.

Basically, were you entertained watching yourself?

My guess is that you’ll easily be able to nitpick every little thing you didn’t like about your performance — most artists are their own biggest critic. Then you can take those nitpickings and improve your stage presence for future gigs.

Don’t Be a Jerk

Okay, so you’re dressed in a cool outfit, you’re up on stage where everyone is looking at you, and you’re the one playing and singing the songs. It can be easy to slip into an “I’m better than you” mentality.

But please don’t make fun of your fans at your shows. And look at people in the audience. Thank them for coming. Smile.

Just don’t be a jerk.

Also, make sure you talk to as many attendees as you can after the show. This can make a huge difference as it helps people get to know you more as a person. The more a person feels like they know you, the more likely they are to resonate with your music.

Stop Caring What People Think

I once was at an open mic where an old man taught me some things about great stage presence.

He got up there and said he’d be reading some of his lyrics because he forgot to bring his keyboard. He looked at his notebook through his thick glasses and started reading lyrics. Then he’d flip the page and read some more.

But then, out of nowhere, he told us he’d be showing off some of his dance moves. So he had the Sound Person flip on some old R&B music and the old man’s short, roundish body started moving and grooving. He was shaking his hips, waving his arms in the air, and even lip-syncing.

And it was the best performance of the night.

Why? Because he didn’t give a rodent’s backside about what people thought of him. He was just out there to have fun and entertain.

As an entertainer, the vibe you give off on stage is contagious, whether it’s energetic joy or lethargic boredom. Take note.

Have Fun

The main reason you should be on stage is to have fun. I know — for many artists, it’s their main source of income. But if you have to do a job, might as well make it fun, right?

Plus, if you’re having fun, the audience will have fun too. And that’s what everyone is there for — to have a good time. You set the stage for the night (pardon the pun).

Your stage presence can make or break the night. So, goshdarnit, just go out there and have some fun.

FAQ

Why is stage presence important?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

Stage presence equals star power. Artists with strong stage presence charm the crowd, connect with fans, and leave audiences with an unforgettable experience. You can have killer tunes but if you’re boring to watch, there’s no guarantee audiences will keep returning.

It’s not just important for keeping fans entertained, either; if you want your band to have a shot at the big time, your management team and label reps will want a frontperson that the public will easily remember due to their charisma and bigger-than-life on-stage persona.

Who has the best stage presence?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

The answer to this question will depend on your personal tastes but some artists with inarguable stage presence include Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Karen O, Jack White, Morrissey, Beyonce, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, and Kendrick Lamar.

What is stage presence in singing?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

Singers with strong stage presence are energetic, emotive, and raw on stage. They dance, strut, body surf, jump into the crowd, swing from the rafters, and reach out their hands to fans. They put on a show.

Basically, stage presence for singers means the same as it does for other band members with one exception: the singer controls the mic in between songs. This means they get to crack jokes, banter with the crowd, and connect on a more personal level.

Site Search
We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. This includes personalizing content and advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.