Know Thyself!That’s an ancient saying, but it is so applicable in the career of Gospel Jazz Music Artists. No one (other than God) knows you like you. If you don’t know yourself, how are you going to get others to know you? The music is a great vehicle for building relationships. You still have to know yourself and your performance capabilities in order to connect with audiences.
In my experience, I have found that there are basically two kinds of performers:
1) “Concert” performers – those who do well in front of a sit-down audience
2) “Club” performers – those who do well in a noisy atmosphere
You should know the kind of performer you are. This can help you decide which kinds of gigs to play. You will perform better if you are comfortable, so take some time to think about what’s the best environment for you.
Know Your Atmosphere and Choose Music Wisely
Even if it is easy for you to be both a “concert” and “club” performer, you should still take time to consider your atmosphere before doing the gig.
Along with the atmosphere, you should consider what you will be performing. It is always best to try and match your song repertoire with the atmosphere.
Here are some important questions to ask:
Will you perform your own original songs?
Will you perform cover songs?
Will you perform both original music and cover music?
As a Gospel Jazz Music Artist, I have played concerts, clubs and a host of other venues. No matter where I decide to play, I have to make sure that I choose music that fits the atmosphere. I choose the songs to perform based on my audience as well.
If I know my audience is mostly church-going people, I make sure to do some cover songs that they will know and get into. I "sprinkle in" my original music between the well-known covers because they may not be familiar with my originals. So, I use the covers to warm the crowd up to my style of playing and move them into my originals.
If I know my audience is mostly non-church-goers, I focus on my original music. I “sprinkle in” some gospel cover songs after I’ve warmed the crowd to my style. No matter the venue, you must always monitor your audience and be flexible enough to give the people what they want within your capability.
Tips for Choosing Cover Songs
Here are some tips for choosing cover songs:
1) Make sure the song really moves you. You should really like the song you are going to cover. Focus on what moves you about the song and perform the cover song with this in mind.
2) Make the song your own. You are unique and your audience is hearing you. Don’t be afraid to make the cover song your song! Don’t feel like you have to duplicate the original song’s performance. Show your creativity. If people wanted to hear the original artist, they probably would have gone to see him or her.
3) Use the song! Cover songs are great ice-breakers. Choose to do cover songs from artists who are similar to your style in some way. Use the cover song to help an audience relate to you and get an idea of where you're coming from as an artist. This also helps the audience relate more to your originals, too!
Be Prepared to Sell Yourself!
Promotion is vital for any artist! I would say that it is even more vital for Gospel Jazz Music Artists because of the relative newness of the genre and the message of the music. You must be prepared to sell yourself to your audiences. Here are some tips:
1) Get your Bio / Demo ready for the Concert Promoters & Club Owners.
All you really need is a single sheet of paper that concisely states the type of artist you are, what kind of songs you play, how you interact with an audience and where you've played and/or are playing. You should also put together a CD with either three or four whole songs or six to eight songs that each fade after a minute.
Club managers don’t want lengthy books on artists, and they don’t really care much about how elaborate your artwork is. A picture of you is nice, but your music is the main attraction.
Be sure to call the club owner/manager and introduce yourself. Let them know you want to perform at the club/venue and that you have some information you want to give them. Arrange to get them your bio/demo and then follow up with a phone call or two. Always be congenial!
2) Get your Merchandise ready for the Audience.
If you are in a venue where you can sell your own merchandise, do it! Make sure you check with the manager of the venue first before you break out the CDs, t-shirts and bumper stickers.
First off, you should have some merchandise to sell. CDs of your music are obvious products to have on hand at all times. Don’t forget about hats, t-shirts, coffee mugs, stickers, posters and tons of other promo items. If you don’t have any of this stuff, get some made. It’s not as expensive as you might think.
Make sure you tell the audience about the merchandise you have available during the performance. Tell them what you have and where they can go to get it. This is a great time to plug your website, too. (What?! You don’t have a website???)
It’s natural to be nervous before a performance, regardless of the venue. Some artists suffer from severe performance anxiety before show time. While most performers overcome this problem in a short period of time, others have a harder time getting rid of the “jitters.”
I've found that just getting up on stage and doing “my thing” has helped me tremendously. The more often I perform the more natural it becomes. Also, I rely on other band members to help me through pre-show jitters and I try and help them, too.
Here are some additional tips to help you:
1) Know your songs and performances like you know your name! Memorization is key here, but that only comes with much practice. You must prepare for your performances and know the songs, the moves, the transitions, everything like you know your own name. Know your craft enough to where you can do it with your eyes closed! Band members, you should know your individual parts without having to hear the other members playing with you. Even if something happens to go wrong, you won’t be completely thrown and should be able to recover quickly without the audience even noticing.
2) Know your strengths. Create your set list with your strongest song first. This will help you sing or play through the jitters and warm you up to the crowd. This goes back to knowing yourself and your music. Start out with your strengths first.
3) Remember This... You are a Gospel Music Artist. Yes, you perform Jazz music and you are an artist. But remember the Gospel message is what distinguishes you. The Gospel message is filled with promises of help when you need it most. Call on Christ through prayer to help you, to calm you, to guide you. You will find that trusting Him at His word, while doing work for Him, makes for your best performances.