Giving an audience of industry folks a snapshot of who we are as artists is a daunting task. However I challenge you to do the hard work of distilling your world down to a short set of 5 or 6 songs. Its a very useful exercise that will teach us a whole lot about what we have to offer our audiences.
Don't worry about getting it right the first time. The "perfect" showcase set is a rubicks cube that will take time and lots of trial and error to figure out!
WHAT KIND OF PARTY IS THIS?
Some practicals: start with the most important songs, the top and bottom of your set. Once you know how you are starting and ending it will help you choose /build the rest of the songs in your set.
Opening number. Yes It says "welcome to my party" but it also has to tell us what kind of party we are arriving at!
Your opening song wants to give us a sense of where we might be going for the next 20 minutes to half an hour.
It should announce the style of music to follow, but also your identity or personality as clearly as possible.
2ND TUNE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE 1ST!
Your second tune is more important than you think. It must deepen the story. Unless you give us a new angle or a new level of who you are as an artist we will be bored. Industry audiences like to feel like they've seen it all whether they admit that or not. Its a LOT easier for them to be unimpressed than to be excited about a new artist.
If they think they have "gotten" who you are they will start shmoozing for sure. Once we have a sense of what landscape an artist is going to inhabit we either stay and hang out there or we move on and start "working the room".
VERY few artists can hold an industry showcase past the first song unless what they do next is surprising, interesting,
So make sure your second song deepens the story in some way and doesn't just continue along the same road as your opening number.
GIVE THEM SOMETHING THEY RECOGNIZE
You want a cover tune in your set. Meet your audience half way with something we know. Most of us do not want to "waste time" with a cover song in our showcase set. Trust me on this one, you want cover song in your set.
We may not ALL be as in love with your songs as you are SO if you impress us with how you handle a familiar piece of material it will go a long way towards winning us over.
BUT if you do a cover, take time to make sure it's a GREAT fit for your style and really make your version fresh and your own. You may have to experiment with many many songs before finding the right fit. It will be worth it in the long run!
Where should the cover song sit in your set? Not at the top of bottom, (unless you do something spectacular with the material). Third song may not be a bad place for it. By then the audience may be getting tired of hearing new material and want something familiar.
YOU ARE ALMOST BACK IN THE GREEN ROOM!
The last few songs in your set will want to be the strongest you have. Choose the songs your audiences ask you to perform every show, the songs you know have a little magic in them. If your industry crowd is still listening to you by the last few songs they will want to hear your "big numbers" and will be waiting for them.
Ending tune is going to be the one you want them to walk away singing. No rules about it being fast or slow etc here. If your fans are telling you about their favourite song.. listen to them and try that song as your ending tune, see how it works in that place.
Encore. Yes you will need an encore. The chances of an industry crowd giving you an encore are very small but if you are killing it and they are rousing for one more, it's your chance for the winners lap! Give them something really fun, or deep, or powerful that you know will have them celebrating you as their new discovery!
More things to keep in mind and practical tips coming !
Micah Barnes is a voice, performance and career coach whose Singers Playground workshops and private sessions have helped supported thousands of up and coming artists. For more information please have a look at Singers Playground or e mail Micah Barnes!