If you haven’t read the first part of this two-part article, please do so by clicking HERE.

Now it is time to get into what happened the night of the show…both the great and the not-so-great.

I was driving to the venue in Ohio and had just pulled off an exit when it began snowing…HARD. I immediately began worrying about the weather impacting attendance but held out hope knowing that the band had played the venue two times previously and had packed in a large crowd both times.

And then it started snowing even harder. Fortunately I pulled into the venue’s parking lot and saw quite a few vehicles there. It wasn’t as many as I hoped to see but at least it wasn’t a ghost town and we still had about an hour to go before the band would take the stage.


This is something that warrants a bit of discussion. I have a very low tolerance when it comes to how some music artists dress and present themselves during shows. I’ve had to lay into several clients over the years because of the lack of effort put into looking great on stage.

And, yes, it is a discussion I had with Amanda at one point after watching videos of some of their performances before I was brought in to help with their shows. They didn’t look BAD in those previous shows…they simply looked too casual. I always tell artists that there is a visual expectation that most fans carry into a show (whether they are conscious of it or not).

So it goes without saying that I was extremely excited when I walked into the room where the band was preparing and saw everybody was dressed to kill and the ladies’ hair and make-up were totally on point. They looked fantastic, the best I had ever seen from them…and I made it a point to yell as such upon seeing them.


You never know who is watching you perform at any given time and what it might do for you down the road (as you will see was the case for the band at the end of this article).


The band took the stage at 9:00 pm and the plan was to do the three-song FB Live broadcast at the tail end of the first set, which was expected to be around 10:00 pm.

The band hired a professional AV company to come in and set up a rear projection video screen on which we could show the FB Live broadcast to the crowd in the venue. That was set up to the side of the stage because the layout of the venue did not allow us to place the screen over the stage (which would have been optimal for what we were doing).

People were continuing to trickle in and the crowd was growing but it still wasn’t where we were all hoping it would be at the start of the first set. Making matters even more difficult was that a lot of the audience members who were there seemed a bit allergic to the dance floor and the area directly in front of the stage. And all of that seemed to be sapping some of the band’s energy as well. I had dinner with Amanda and Michael a week or two after the show and Michael admitted that the unexpectedly lower attendance was deflating when they first walked out on stage.

But they did exactly what they needed to do: they continued to perform with energy…something that would pay off as we got further into the night.

This is when things became interesting.

I was sitting with Alyce (the young lady tasked with operating the camera during the broadcast) and we were keeping an eye on where the band was in the set list. It wasn’t long before I realized we were running behind schedule. Even though the band promoted the FB Live broadcast would start around ten, it looked more like that spot in the set list wouldn’t come up until closer to 10:30.

They realized the time issue as well because there was a sudden jump in the set list and the band skipped several songs to get us closer to where we needed to be prior to the start of the broadcast.

Which created another problem that required quick thinking.

As you will see from the broadcast video below, the FB Live broadcast started with Jones Family Reunion, a song that kicks off with a female audience member being brought up on stage to take part in a fake marriage proposal from Nathan. When the band skipped several songs, they went straight to the song in the set list that was directly before the start of the broadcast. And one of the songs that was skipped was an acoustic piece that allowed Nathan to leave the stage long enough to find an audience member for the proposal at the beginning of Jones Family Reunion.

That is when Alyce said “uh-oh” and asked me what we should do. My response: We grab the first female who walks by our table to ask her to help out.

That is exactly what we did. We had to work quickly because not only did we have to get a fan on board with going up on stage in front of everybody, we needed to hurry and have her sign release forms due to the fact that the images and video of her on stage would be used for the broadcast and various marketing for the band.

So I had to ask the young lady to help out, explain to her what we needed her to do on stage, talk her through everything on the release form, have her sign it, flag down Nathan while he was performing and point to the volunteer so he knew he didn’t have to worry about finding somebody, signal to him that I was taking her back stage, and then rush her to the back stage area all in the time that the band performed that three-and- a-half minute song.

And then we ran into another hiccup. As the last song before the broadcast was wrapping up, I was standing back stage with the volunteer and Alyce, who was suddenly having a difficult time maintaining a strong Internet signal on the phone that would be used for the FB Live broadcast.

Where the venue was located, 4G access was spotty due to it being in a rural area. The venue did have open wi-fi, which had sufficient strength earlier in the evening, but the signal strength began going up and down as we were getting ready for the show to begin. The phone we were using belonged to Brittany (Amanda’s sister and the band’s keyboard player) so I made the decision to attempt the broadcast using 3G and instructed Alyce to run up on stage to have Brittany make a few adjustments on the phone.

Here is something you need to keep in mind when attempting any FB Live broadcast from a venue. A lot of artists don’t have unlimited data and FB Live broadcasts are demanding since you are live streaming both video and audio. So those artists have a tendency to use the venue’s open wi-fi. In many situations that isn’t a bad approach but you have to take into consideration that a large crowd also attempting to access that open wi-fi at the time you are doing your broadcast can slow down the signal and it could potentially impact the quality of your broadcast. Even worse, you might find yourself being booted from the signal in the middle of it.

The problem can become even more severe if patrons of neighboring businesses are also attempting to access the venue’s wi-fi, something that is quite common. I remember staying in a hotel room in Nashville for CMA Fest and the hotel’s wi-fi signal was horrible on our side of the building so I had to utilize the wi-fi from the Taco Bell location next door for the entirety of my stay. Sometimes you just have to plan for the data usage that comes with a big FB Live broadcast and suck it up.

Back to the show.

Amanda instructed the audience prior to the start of the broadcast while Alyce set up the phone with Brittany and we shuffled the volunteer on stage. As soon as we went live on FB, the folks from the AV company projected the broadcast onto the big screen set up next to the stage and we were good to go.


For as much energy as the band showed despite a lower than expected turnout, the start of the FB Live broadcast was like a switched had been flipped. Their energy instantly went to another level. People in the crowd who had been sitting down looking at their phones began looking up at the stage. They became more vocal over the course of those three songs and they slowly began making their way to the dance floor. Additionally, all of that momentum carried over into the last two hours of the show and totally changed the dynamics of the audience’s engagement with the band.

One of my favorite things about the broadcast came in the form of a comment a fan left on the Facebook Live feed, when she proclaimed the show the best she had ever seen at that venue. People had their phones out taking pics and video of the show and posting them on social media. They were doing exactly what we wanted them to do.

Here is the entire video of the FB Live feed…

In addition to the Facebook Live video, I also shot video of the performance from in front of the stage. I missed the first minute of the first song because I had to escort the volunteer for the proposal from the back stage area and, for some reason, my phone cut off at the tail end of the final song but much of this video will be repurposed for the band to use in a sizzle reel when attempting to get booked for other shows.

For any of you who are interested, the Facebook Live broadcast was captured on Brittany’s
phone, which was an iPhone 6. The video I shot from the front of the stage was done on my
phone, which is a Samsung Galaxy S5.

And for those of you who remember the picture of Amanda on Nathan’s shoulders during
rehearsal (it was included in Part 1 of this case study), here is the same shot during the actual show.


One of the first things you will probably notice is that we did NOT throw the beer mug through the section of the drum shield in front of Frank’s kit. Michael contacted a company in California that manufactures the stunt glass that we wanted to use but it was going to take too long to ship it to Ohio and still have time for the glass to be cut down to the size we needed. So while we had to shelve that specific moment in the show for the FB Live broadcast, it is something we will look to implement in a show later this year. It is too good of a card to have up our sleeves to go unused.

There are some things I would like to see us do a bit differently next time. For the next
broadcast, I would like to see us utilize a three-axis stabilizer for the phone and camera. If you don’t know what that is, it is a device that holds the phone in a manner that completely
eliminates any bouncing. The user holds onto a handle bar and can move their arm all over the place and device revolves around the phone keeping it in one spot. You can get them on
Amazon with some of the better quality ones costing between $100 and $200. There are some cheaper alternatives but many of them don’t use multiple axis points for keeping the phone
steady. I’ve heard many people say that using them efficiently requires a little bit of practice so don’t chance busting it out of the box ten minutes before a show and trying to use it if that broadcast is an important one.

Another slight change I would make when doing something like this again is make sure we hold the camera on each musician for just a bit longer before moving to the next person. Alyce did a fantastic job operating the camera, mostly considering it was her first time doing it and we had limited time to rehearse it.

The engagement between the band and the camera went much better than even I anticipated. It totally changes the dynamic of doing a FB Live broadcast from a live show. Viewers are no
longer observing from a vantage point off to the side. With this approach they feel much more wrapped up and invested in the performance.

While the band struggled to get people out on the dance floor during the early part of their first one-hour set, doing the broadcast from the stage caused a radical shift in the crowd that carried on through the entire show that night. And the band even got caught up in it all, with Michael at one point getting down on his knees and playing guitar while people in the crowd threw popcorn up so he could catch it in his mouth. Below is a pic the band took during a guy/girl sing off…

And when I left the venue not long after the broadcast, I snapped this picture of the crowd


Remember earlier in this piece when I said you never know who might be watching your show and to what it could lead? Prior to this show, Michael had spent the last two or three years
attempting to get booked for two big shows that he had been targeting. One was at an important venue at Geneva On The Lake (a tourist hot spot on Lake Erie) and the other at a major festival near Mentor, Ohio. He couldn’t even get them to return his calls.

The night we did this show, an individual with ties to both the aforementioned venue and festival was in attendance. He was blown away by what he saw. Within 24 hours of this show taking place, both the venue and the festival had contacted the band. One of them booked them immediately and the other is working with the band to find an agreeable date for them to perform there. Two to three years of frustration trying to get on those people’s radars was erased just like that.

This was within 24 hours of the show!

Now the band is working to take the video we captured from both the broadcast and from what I shot in front of the stage to create a short sizzle reel. That will be used when they attend trade shows attempting to get booked at festivals and college campuses. The video WILL get them a lot of shows. We also plan to add that video to the band’s website and electronic press kit and find ways to use it on social media. Keep in mind that while the audio in the videos isn’t the greatest quality, the live audio will NOT appear in the sizzle reel as it will be replaced with one of their songs playing in the background.

Compared to the number of views many of the band’s previous Facebook Live videos generated, the broadcast of the three-song set had nearly 300% more views! BOOM!

We have several big shows to prepare for that will be coming up over the next few months and we have to keep the live show fresh with new elements. The first big show is scheduled for May and that will be the band’s first experience with including pyrotechnics as part of the show. I’ve also told Amanda to prepare for the intensity of the shows to become far more physically
demanding. We are even making plans for her to perform on top of a large truss 40 feet in the air. We are also working on a bunch of ways to implement video into the show.

All of this came from a simple 12-minute, three song set created specifically for a Facebook Live broadcast. We went outside the box in what we wanted to present, did something a bit different from the normal, planned it out and rehearsed it, and then executed it in spectacular fashion.

The band has even captured the attention of an independent label based in Nashville, one that is made up of an incredible team of people with considerable experience in both the music and radio industries. The label even invited them to do an acoustic showcase during Country Radio Seminar in Nashville (that performance is taking place the same night I am writing this).

For Amanda Jones & The Family Band, 2017 is going to be an extremely pivotal year

I’m going to say something that is going to upset a lot of musicians.

I totally understand why you feel the way you do when you complain about fans at shows constantly having their phones out and taking pictures or videos of the performance instead of just watching it without using mobile devices.

But with cell phones, cameras, and social media all playing such a major role in society and the way we communicate, we have to understand that they are not going away any time soon.

So we can either keep bitching about them….or we can find a way to make them work to our own advantage.

This was the internal dialogue I was having in my own mind a few months ago while driving to Austintown, Ohio to work with the lead vocalist of one of my client-bands, Amanda Jones & the Family Band.

And it was during that 30-minute commute on Interstate 80 that I started kicking around an idea; one that I knew Amanda and her band would be the perfect band to experiment with.

This article, the first of two parts, is a detailed look at that idea, how we implemented and rehearsed it, and some of the important decisions that had to be made going into it. The second part, which I’ll release in the next week or two, will delve into what happened the night of the show, problems that arose and how we dealt with them, and will include video of the entire Facebook Live broadcast as well as video shot from the floor of the venue.

But I’m also going to talk about the things that could have gone better than they did as well as what I think we should do differently the next time we attempt something like this. Even the most planned out shows can have things go wrong or pop up forcing musicians to think on their feet and adapt. Like boxing legend Mike Tyson used to say…everybody has a plan until they get punched.


It would be a good idea to introduce you to the folks involved and why all of this went down in the manner that it did.

For those of you reading this not already familiar with me, I’m Wade Sutton from Rocket to the Stars – Artist Development and Music PR. I work with bands all over the world (thanks to Skype) and provide to them an array of PR-related services like bio and press release writing (I have an extensive journalism background), website and press kit creation, and more.

I also help artists hone their live performance skills and assist in the production of their live shows. I previously founded and directed one of the largest singing competitions on the US East Coast, one that saw the live attendance at the show’s annual finals surpassing an estimated 27,000 people.

The band involved in this little experiment is from an area just outside of Youngstown, Ohio, which is about half way between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. They have been clients of mine for about one year and we were just recently beginning to really dig into their live show.

The lead singer, Amanda, has been singing for several years but didn’t truly throw everything she had into music until after graduating from Mt Union University in Ohio. The band, Amanda Jones & The Family Band, is just that: a family band. Amanda’s father, Michael, is the acoustic guitar player. Her sister, Brittany, is the keyboard player. Brittany’s husband, Nathan, is on bass. The drummer, Frank, and electric guitarist, David, are not relatives but have been with the band for some time now.

When they first started performing, they were a Sugarland tribute band. It isn’t difficult to figure out why because Amanda at times sounds strikingly similar to Jennifer Nettles. But wanting to be something more than a tribute band, they began putting more time and energy into writing original music. The current set list is made of up a healthy combination of originals and covers. And while their music would most certainly fall under the country genre, their original music, individual style, personal likeability, and energy gives them an incredible amount of crossover appeal.

They also don’t burn out their local audience, instead making it a point to book dates outside the Youngstown area, including shows in Cleveland, the Pittsburgh market, and even down into West Virginia.

The band has also received its fair share of media coverage as well. They have performed live (more than once) on the television morning news program on Cleveland’s FOX TV affiliate in addition to making multiple appearances on Froggy radio in Pittsburgh.

So this is a group that has worked hard to grow beyond being a local band and, while they aren’t famous or well-known, they are performing and operating on a regional level.


Back to the day I was driving to work with Amanda.

This idea of artists blasting audiences for using their phones at shows was weighing on me and I kept coming back to one question: If fans at a live show will have their phones out, what can we do that will get them to use those phones in a manner that benefits the bands.

I knew a couple of things going into this. I wanted it to be something that involved Facebook Live and I wanted it to be something much different than what people typically see of a FB Live broadcast.

I began formulating an idea that was born from two immensely popular performances I had seen over the past few years.

The first source of inspiration for the idea was a U2 performance I saw a couple of years ago in which the band invited a member of the audience to join them on stage. The woman they selected was given a cell phone tied to the band’s Periscope account. For one song, the fan was given free reign to walk around the stage showing what ever she wanted on camera and it was all broadcast live on Periscope. If I remember correctly, this all happened in that time period between when Twitter really started pushing Periscope (in direct competition with Meerkat) but before FB announced that it was working on the now popular Facebook Live feature.

The second source of inspiration for the idea was when Bruce Springsteen performed during the Super Bowl halftime show several years ago. The thing about that particular show that I always carried with me after watching it wasn’t how much energy Springsteen had on stage but was how he interacted with the cameras in addition to playing to the live audience. It created a sense of breaking the fourth wall and made for a television broadcast that was much more engaging for those watching on TV.

So taking those two performances as sources of inspiration, I knew we wanted to do something that was extremely engaging for both the audience attending the show live as well as the folks watching on Facebook AND we wanted to create something that would encourage people to share the video AND we wanted to walk away from it with incredible footage that the band could then repurpose and use for marketing materials, including a sizzle reel that could be shown at trade conventions or to send to colleges at which the band is hoping to be booked.

There is an inherent problem with the vast majority of Facebook Live broadcasts done by music artists wanting to air portions of their live show. More often than not, the artist places their phone on a tripod (or has somebody else hold it) and the phone is situated off to the side of the stage. The artist then performs for their audience and totally ignores the camera. So it leaves the viewer watching online feeling like they are a fly on the wall…a passive observer.

It results in a very strong feeling of detachment for the viewer, something that is in direct opposition of the engaging experience artists should be trying to create for fans.

When I arrived for my appointment with Amanda, the idea was pretty much fleshed out and we immediately began planning it. We were going to take a three song portion of an upcoming live show, put together a high-energy performance for those three songs, and broadcast it live on Facebook Live…and we were going to have the camera operator moving around on the stage with the band. This meant making sure the camera operator knew everything that was going on performance-wise so she would have the camera on the appropriate band member at any given time and so we could capture specific angles at specific times. And, most importantly, the band was going to be performing to the camera as much as the audience at the venue.

We were essentially creating a live mini-television production for FB Live.

We then decided to add an additional layer by erecting a video screen at the venue on which the broadcast would be shown as it was happening live. The reason we did that was because we wanted to encourage fans at the show to break out their phones, share the broadcast with their own Facebook friends, and leave comments so they could see their own names and comments pop up on the screen next to the stage…all things that would make Facebook detect the video as “interesting content” and hopefully push it into more people’s news feeds.


In planning out this three song broadcast, we had to make some pretty important decisions. The two things that jumped out immediately were figuring out what three songs would be performed during that broadcast and during what live show would the broadcast take place.

As far as what three songs we would use, we took a look at all of the band’s options. As I said previously, their set list includes a combination of originals and covers. I suggested to Amanda that we stick to using only originals for the broadcast. As many musicians know, Universal Music Group has been on a tear pulling down covers of their songs done by music artists and posted on Facebook. Even though we could have used covers owned by other publishing companies, I felt the broadcast and video content was too important for the band to risk butting heads with any publishing companies. And it wasn’t like they were lacking quality originals that could be used for the broadcast.

I also wanted them to use originals that were upbeat because the performances during that broadcast were going to utilize an extensive amount of movement. I wanted the entire broadcast to be full of energy so anything remotely close to a ballad was tossed from the start. We eventually whittled it down to three songs: Jones Family Reunion, Ready to Fall, and Wine, Whiskey, and Beer.

Jones Family Reunion was the perfect song to start the broadcast with for several reasons. Not only is it a very fun and upbeat song, it also does an incredible job reinforcing one of the most interesting aspects of the band’s branding in that most of the members are family. That was extremely important because it is one of the things about the band that a lot of fans remember when they are first exposed to them. So starting the broadcast with that song allowed us to introduce people watching it to one of the things about them that is different from most other bands out there and it was done in a very high-energy manner.

Ready to Fall was a natural fit for the second slot. It gave us an opportunity to do a song that was about falling in love but wasn’t a weepy, slow song. And while it was upbeat, it was one we could bring down the visual energy (for the first half) by having Amanda sing at the mic stand and putting more attention on the lyrics for a period of time. We did this on purpose because we wanted to come out of this song and ramp up the visual energy for the end of the broadcast but we needed the audience to SEE the energy increasing over that time period. Doing so keeps the show visually interesting for both the audience at the venue and watching on Facebook Live.

Wine, Whiskey, and Beer was the finale for the three song broadcast. The song is a fan favorite and includes a call-and- response. It was also a very appropriate song to continue increasing the visual energy coming out of Ready to Fall enabling us to keep a very natural flow to the show and the Facebook Live broadcast. It also gave us an opportunity to show that even though the band’s performances are branded as something that families can take their kids to, the band can still let loose in a manner that parents would be okay with having their children at the show. It is a party…but it is a controlled party.

So all three of the songs were selected because not only were they catchy and energetic, they all had their own way of reinforcing the band’s brand and image. This is an area in which I’ve always felt too few bands are giving their attention and it is holding them back in a big way.

The next thing on our plate was figuring out at which show this Facebook Live performance was going to take place. We had several options available to us but there were two that stood out: the band’s appearance at WinterFest in downtown Cleveland or at their show at a venue called Bootlegger’s near Yankee Lake, Ohio.

WinterFest was a great opportunity for them. It was a performance that was tied directly to a much bigger event (so they weren’t solely responsible for bringing in the crowd) and it was one at which a lot of people were expected to turn out. But there were some cons to trying to do the broadcast there. Because the show was going to be outdoors on a November Cleveland day, I was concerned the wind would nix any plans to erect the video screen on which the FB Live broadcast would be shown. One strong gust and that thing would have been sailing into the air and out over Lake Erie. And even though we knew attendance for the festival was expected to be pretty high, we knew attendees would have a lot of things to do and look at and we didn’t know to what extent that would suck people away from the stage to do other things. Lastly, WinterFest was right around the corner from when we started fleshing out this idea and we wouldn’t have very much time to rehearse for it.

Bootlegger’s was the other attractive option. The band had performed there on two other occasions and, both times, had big turnouts. The venue is pretty much in the band’s backyard and, like I said earlier, they make it a point to not over-saturate the local market by doing too many shows locally. The show was booked for late January and gave us more time to prepare. And, most importantly, we discovered that the venue had just spent major cash on a new lighting and effects system that would blow people’s socks off. Having decided that we wanted to take video from this performance to use for marketing purposes, this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

We circled the Bootlegger’s date as the show during which the Facebook Live broadcast would take place.


We set aside two Sunday afternoons to work on the production of the broadcast, with each session lasting two hours,

In helping the band with this, I had to focus on two things: Making sure their performances were planned out with a lot of energy and I had to work with the camera operator on walk her through everything we would need her to do. Remember that she needed to know everything that was going on during the performance, where on stage it was happening, and where she was going to have to be to get the best angle. A friend of the band, Alyce, volunteered to be the camera operator so I asked that she be present at both rehearsals.

We addressed the performances first. Fortunately, the band brings a lot of experience to the stage as well as a willingness to try new things, is fantastic at accepting coaching (a rarity in this business, believe it or not), and already came in with a greater than average level of energy and enthusiasm. So it wasn’t difficult to get them to ratchet the energy up a few more levels. We then focused on creating visuals that would stick out to people watching the show. This included sections in the broadcast in which Amanda was on her knees with Michael and Nathan on either side of her, Amanda tossing beach balls out into the crowd, and Amanda actually singing while riding on Nate’s shoulders while he walked around playing bass during the finale of the broadcast.

It was all stuff that would look great performance-wise even without the impressive lighting at the venue. Since we had only a couple of hours to sort everything out, we took a “broad strokes” approach creating and working on these very cool visuals in cleaning up any major problems that popped up.

While we were hammering down all the movements that would take place during the broadcast, we also had to hash out things like when Amanda and members of the band would be performing to the camera operated by Alyce vs when they were performing to the crowd attending the show at Bootlegger’s. Proving that they were in fact the perfect band to run this little experiment with, the band had no problem hamming it up for the camera during rehearsal.

Once all of that was done, we had to address the final layer: Alyce’s presence on the stage during the show. I wanted to make this as easy as possible for her so grabbed Brittany’s iPhone (the same one we would be using for the Facebook Live broadcast) and I had the band run through each of the three songs while I recorded the video as if we were doing the FB Live broadcast. We then sent the video file to Alyce so she could study before the second two-hour session. It basically provided her with a video walk-through of where she had to be and where the camera had to be pointed at any given time.

The second two-hour session was spent doing repeated run throughs of the three song set. We also worked on Amanda’s delivery during the transitions when she would direct the crowd to sign-up for the band’s e-mail list, give them the rundown on the merchandise giveaway that was being run through sharing the FB Live video, and directing the audience on the call-and- response going into the last song. And this gave Alyce several opportunities to operate the camera through the entire set while we made adjustments to the performances and added more movements to the show.

We wrapped up that second rehearsal with a ten-minute FB Live broadcast during which the band and I discussed the work that went into it.

So now you know about everything leading into the show and the Facebook Live broadcast. In Part 2, you will get a very detailed look at everything that took place during the show, problems that popped up, things that went exactly the way we were hoping as well as aspects of the show that could have gone better, and you will get to see the actual Facebook Live broadcast in its entirety as well as video of the performance shot from the floor.

Additionally, if you haven’t already grabbed yourself a free copy of my music business book, The $150,000 Music Degree, you can do so by jumping over to www.GiftFromWade.com.

Finding a comfort zone while speaking to audiences between songs is something that has been problematic for MANY singers and musicians and one of the big reasons many clients have approached me for performance training and production of their live shows.

Unfortunately a lot of artists don’t see how negatively this sort of thing can impact their performances. Nevermind for a moment that not being able to speak well can make a show feel less polished and professional in the eyes of your fans.

It can also result in you making LESS MONEY and getting LESS E-MAIL SIGN-UPS…both of which are the life blood of today’s independent artists.

So I spent a large portion of time over the past year-and-a-half exploring this very issue and looking for ways artists can improve at this extremely important, yet often neglected, skill. Asking questions, experimenting, testing some of the ideas on my own clients.

And it was amazing because it brought to the surface several things that nobody in the music industry was really talking about. That resulted in me putting together a series of three videos exploring speaking skills during live shows. Each video, around 15-minutes in length, tackles key points ranging from the way artists rehearse their shows to the manner in which they structure their sentences when pitching e-mail sign-ups.

The first video was posted nearly a month ago and the responses I received via e-mail and social media were fantastic! One of my favorite comments came from an e-mail subscriber who applied some of the concepts to her own performances and said, “what had seemed awkward and slightly terrifying in the past was actually fun and fluid.”

Set aside 45-minutes of your time and…watch…these…videos. They WILL help you!

Video 1:

Video 2:

Video 3:


Wade Sutton has dedicated his life to helping artists ditch their day jobs in favor of careers in music.

Serving as a live music producer and performance coach, Wade teaches singers and musicians how to turn their live shows into a kick-ass experience resulting in fans buying more merchandise and increasing e-mail sign-ups.

He also puts to use nearly twenty years of professional journalism experience by creating biographies and electronic press kits for singers and musicians while advising them on matters related to the media, public relations, and obtaining sponsorships.

You can receive a free digital copy of Wade’s book by clicking HERE.

I spent my weekend at the Songwriting and Music Business Conference in Nashville and had a wonderful opportunity to lead a break-out session on live performance training.  What was supposed to be a 60-minute presentation turned into a 90-workshop (thanks to Todd for allowing us to go longer) that included a question-and-answer session with attendees.

But even with the extra 30-minutes, I still walked out not having enough time to cover an extremely important facet of what we do at Rocket to the Stars:  Helping artists construct the perfect set list.  I felt it was so important to their careers, I gave everybody in the session my personal e-mail address and instructed them to contact me so I could send them a template for a nine-song set list I use with some of the artists I work with.

And now I am passing that template on to all of you.

Understand for whom this article is written…

If you are the type of singer-songwriter who just wants to get up on stage and sing your songs hoping the crowd will love you for said songs, you might as well stop reading now because this isn’t for you.  This breakdown of a set list is for artists looking for ways to make their live shows more exciting and more energetic.  It is for people looking for ways to bring in more money, increase attendance at live shows, move more merchandise, and collect more e-mails.

I am clarifying this now because I know my inbox will fill up with hate mail from people spewing venom like “Artists shouldn’t have to resort to your theatrics, jumping around, and bubble gum pop gimmicks to get fans to appreciate them.  The quality of the songs should speak for itself at the show”.

Artists attempting to make a legitimate career in music are in a dog fight right now competing for the population’s limited entertainment dollars.  When you are planning to do a show on a given Friday night, you are competing against every other singer and musician performing that night as well as the latest blockbuster movie to hit the big screen, every high school football or basketball game scheduled to take place, every musical in every local theater, every amusement park that is open, every video game begging to be bought and played, and every other form of entertainment that is available that night.

If you want people to spend their money on YOU instead of something else, you better give them a damn good reason to do it AND you better end the night with them feeling like they made the right decision.  Thanks to the speed in which we are able to communicate via social media and texting, the world will know your live show sucks before you even have time to tear down all of your equipment after the show…and your music career will be going in the wrong direction.

What you have to do first…

Grab a piece of paper and something to write with because I want you to actually do this while you are reading.

Make a list of nine songs that you do at your live shows.  Write them all down.  Do that now.


Okay, now I want you to “rate” each of your songs based upon tempo.  You are going to rate them “1” to “5” with a “5” being an extremely energetic song that gets people dancing and jumping while a “1” is an emotional ballad that leaves the room in silence.  Obviously a “3” would fall in the middle.  Understand that this is not an exact science so don’t sweat over whether a song should be a “2” or a “3”.  You can even use decimals if you feel you must.  Just rate them before reading further.

Got it?

Look at your list of songs and how you rated them.  Are most or all of them rated at “2” or “3”?  If they are, you just found your first major problem; your songs sound too much alike and it is sucking needed variety from your live shows.  Most artists sitting down and rating their songs in this manner find that a good a vast majority of their songs are “3”s.  Many of them are doing that because they have settled into a comfort zone in their songwriting that they need to break out of.

Now that you have listed and rated all your songs, we can take a look at the actual set list.

The word of the day is “moments”…

Live music producer Tom Jackson (who conceived much of the set list below) coined the term “moments” when talking about putting together a live show.  What are moments?  Moments are things that happen during various points in your show that fans remember after leaving the venue.  When I was speaking in Nashville over the weekend, I talked about seeing Garth Brooks for the first time in the late 90s when he was doing several shows at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh.  Anybody lucky enough to see Brooks perform live will tell you that his show was full of moments, whether it be Brooks swinging on a rope over the crowd while singing or the manner in which everybody in the crowd slow dances while he is performing “The Dance”.  Moments are when you see The Who’s Pete Townshend’s “windmill” while playing guitar.  Moments can be musical in nature, like a mind-blowing solo by a musician.

Moments are vital to creating a live show and a set list that people will remember and talk about and, ultimately, return for more the next time you are performing.  Think about how many times YOU have been at a live show and witnessed something on stage that made you FEEL something, whether it be excitement, love, longing, happiness, reflection, or any other emotion that you carried with you and remembered well after the night of the show.

Now ask yourself why YOU aren’t doing that for YOUR fans?  And be honest with yourselves when thinking about that question.

Picking the right order for the songs…

You have your songs rated by tempo.  You know what moments are and why they are crucial to the creation of your set list.  This is where your made-over live show is going to come to fruition.  We are going to use the set list and moments to control the emotions of the audience in the same manner in which authors and screenwriters control emotions in novels and movies.  We are going to do all of this with two goals in mind:  Getting fans to spend more money…and getting them to sign up for your e-mail lists.

1st Song:  Look over your list and find a song that is rated a “3”.  This is the song you are going to open your show with.  You are looking for a song that isn’t very long.  Maybe 3:00 to 3:30 in length.  Be sure you get into your lyrics quickly.  No extended solos.  From a relationship perspective (and you ARE trying to start a relationship with the people there to see you), this is your way of saying, “Hello.  It is nice to meet you”.  Think of this song as an icebreaker of sorts.  Also, you need to end the song with a trash can ending.  If you don’t know what that is, a trash can ending is when you end a song with flair and all members stopping at the same time.  Members of the band should be watching for visual cues from the lead singer so they know when to end.

After you wrap up this song, do a quick introduction, thank everybody for coming out to the venue, and thank the venue for having you there.  Three words:  Keep.  It.  Short.  You want to get into your next song without delay.

2nd Song:  Look over the eight remaining songs on your list and pick out something that is rated at a “4”.  Again, no extended solos.  You are continuing to break the ice but you are picking up the tempo a little bit.  As far as your performance goes and what people see visually, it is vitally important that this song doesn’t look like your first song.  If it does, people will begin looking at their phones or paying attention to other things going on around them and you will be downgraded to “background noise”, which is the kiss of death for live shows.   Like the first song, the second song should have a trash can ending as well.

3rd Song:  No talking between the second song and this one.  Just a brief pause before jumping right into it but do so knowing this is where you will create your first moment.  Look for something rated at a “3” but you want this song to be VERY catchy.  Something people in the audience will immediately get into.  This is actually a great spot in the show to do a cover of an immensely popular song.  It draws more people into the show and gets them to pay even more attention to you which is extremely important because as soon as this song ends you are going to…

Thank everybody and point out that you have your merchandise table set up and are selling a lot of really cool shit that they are going to want.  This is also where you are going to point out that you are offering a lot of great EXCLUSIVE content to fans for free and that, if they go to the back of the room and write down their e-mail address, you will be able to deliver said EXCLUSIVE content.  This is perfect for artists offering free downloads of music for fans signing up for e-mail lists.  Pro tip:  Watch how you word this offer.  You want to come across to fans as a giver and not a taker.  Don’t say “If you go back and sign up for my e-mail list I will send you some free downloads of my music and other content”.  Word it like this:  “I am actually giving away some of my music free and I would love to get it out to each and every one of you here.  For me to do that, I need you to go to the merch table and write down your e-mail address so I have a way to get that music to you.”  Human psychology has proven time and time again that people are more receptive to offers like this when you present yourself as a giver instead of a taker.

4th Song:  All movies and books that are full of excitement and adrenaline have parts where things slow down for a little while to allow readers and viewers to catch their breath.  That is what the fourth song is.  It is our “change of pace” song.  So you are going to look for something rated at a “2”.  This is where you ease off a little bit before making another run at bringing the energy.

5th Song:  Now you are starting to increase the energy and excitement levels.  This song should be something you rated at “3” or “3.5”.  You are looking for one of your stronger songs that will allow for you to include an instrumental solo so that you can create a musical moment.  Embellish and have fun with it.  If it is a guitar solo, get the musician right up to the front of the stage so that the crowd instinctively looks at him or her.

6th Song:  With this song you are going to bring the heat even more, this time with a song you rated at “4” or “4.5”.  But now you are looking for a song that you can include the audience in.  This has to be a moment in the show that is very FUN.  So it can be them singing along.  It can include some sort of call-and-response.  What matters is that the fans are having fun and they are included.  Those two things are essential to this particular song because that means fans will be more receptive to you finishing the song and…

Thanking them and calling their attention to the merch table and what ever you are offering them to get them to sign up for your e-mail list.  So now twice during this show we have strategically set up the audience with an emotional high just before encouraging them to spend money and surrender their e-mails.  Be sure to introduce yourselves again because you will have had new people enter the venue since introducing yourselves after the first song.  This is also a good time to introduce the individual members of the band.

7th Song:  Not only is it time to slow things down, it is also time to approach it from a different perspective musically.  Find a song you rated at a “2” or lower.  Something that you can strip down and do from a stool acoustically.  This is one of your show’s moments that are very touching and intimate. When it comes to lighting for this song, less is definitely more.  You want to use this song to make the audience feel touched emotionally.  I can think of few better examples than THIS.

8th Song:  This song marks the final run-up to your show’s finale and bridges the tempo gap that will exist between the previous song and the next.  Try to find something that includes a strong lyrical message that is important to you and something that your audience will be able to relate to easily.

When you finish that song, you will want to thank the audience for coming out and thank the venue for having you.  This is VERY important:  Do NOT tell the audience that your next song is the final song of the set.  When people know a show is about to end, many people check out mentally.  They begin looking for their phones, their purses, their friends that might be standing in other areas of the venue, and their keys.  Some will even leave at that point hoping to beat the traffic in the parking lot.  You do NOT want people leaving right when you are about to unleash the best part of your show.

9th Song:  This is when you break out your “5” song.  You must end the show with a bang.  Excitement.  Adrenaline.  Dancing.  Jumping around.  Singing along.  Cheering.  If you are not exhausted at the end of this song, you did not give your audience enough.  This is when the lights are flashing and the show ends with you accepting your fans’ applause properly (we will discuss that in the next article) so that when they walk out the door, they are thinking to themselves, “Shit….I didn’t want that to end!”.  When you make them feel THAT, they will come to your next show and they will drag their friends with them.  They will stop at your merchandise table and buy your stuff.  They will sign up for your e-mail list.

That’s it.  BOOM!  That is how you create a killer set list for a 35-45 minute show.  Props to Tom for cracking the code.  Keep in mind that, for all of this to work, you also have to know a lot of things like staging, angles, and how you interact with the crowd during a show…and you need to actually utilize those techniques.  I can’t tell you how many people learn about this stuff and then never use it.  Don’t expect the set list itself to be some sort of voodoo magic that is suddenly going to make your lives as artists so much easier.  It is just one piece of a very complicated puzzle.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to download a FREE copy of “The $150,000 Music Degree” (Get it HERE), the music business book I wrote with former Taylor Swift manager Rick Barker of Music Industry Blueprint and John Dwinell of Daredevil Production, LLC.  And remember that Rocket to the Stars offers live performance training and live show production as one of our MANY services for artists all over the world.  You can inquire about those services, as well as our music PR offerings, by calling (724) 714 – 9010 or e-mailing me at WadeSutton@RockettotheStars.com.

But what if I told you that there is a good possibility that you are making the problem even worse due to your diet?  In our “what is good for you today will be bad for you tomorrow” world, dairy products have had their fair share of criticism, including some that have been launched from within the music industry.  So, in true Rocket to the Stars fashion, I went looking for answers…

…Meet Renee Grant-Williams…

A native of Johnstown, Pennsylvania now living in Nashville, celebrity voice instructor Renee Grant-Williams has a list of clients that reads like a “Who’s Who” of the current music industry.  She has worked with some of the biggest names in the business, including Miley Cyrus, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Christina Aguilera, Keith Urban, and Huey Lewis.  She has been quoted or reviewed by major publications such as the New York Times and Cosmopolitan and has made television appearances on all four major US networks, as well as CNN, BBC, and MTV.  She is also the author of Voice Power.

…What is casein…

Casein has become the source of quite a bit of controversy over the past few years. Grant-Williams described it as a protein found in dairy products that contributes to the creation and formation of mucus that can find its way to a singer’s vocal chords. Casein, which has a molecular structure similar to that of gluten, is also used independently as a binding agent in a number of processed foods and is sold in various protein powder forms used by many fitness enthusiasts. Some people are allergic to casein. Others, while not allergic, are still sensitive to the effects of casein and don’t even know it.

“Casein amplifies the thickening of the mucus on the chords,” she explains. “A lot of people are allergic to casein but most of those people don’t realize it because they don’t notice the symptoms on a daily basis.”

And for those of you living in or near cities infamous for environmental allergies (looking at YOU Austin, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee), casein can become even more of an issue. According to Grant-Williams, a diet high in fatty dairy products can double the severity of your allergy symptoms, including the accumulation of the mucus on the vocal chords, making singing properly extremely difficult and/or uncomfortable.

The controversial protein has drawn criticism from more than just vocal instructors and singers. Some studies have attempted to link casein proteins to the development of cancer cells. In fact a well-known book, “The China Study” by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, argues that casein promotes the growth of cancer cells in all stages of cancer development. The findings in Campbell’s book were based loosely on the China-Cornell-Oxford Project, a 20-year study for which Campbell served as a director.

…Trying to avoid the mucus build-up…

Avoiding consumption of casein is extremely difficult for some people. Research shows that casein makes up approximately 80% of the proteins found in cow milk, which is then used in the creation of several other dairy-based products. The protein is found in higher quantities in dairy products with greater amounts of fat.

“Sour cream in high in fat,” explained Grant-Williams. “The same goes for ice cream. Pizza is something singers should stay away from because it typically has heavy, fatty cheese in addition to toppings that are usually high in salt.”

Grant-Williams also mentioned that casein is less prevalent in yogurt and low-fat milk because both products have lower fat contents, but she did emphasize that the protein is still present in those products. There are some alternatives to which vocalists can turn, including the common choices of both soy- and almond-based milks, which are absent of both casein and lactose.

“I also tell my students to drink water in abundance,” says Grant-Williams. “I also recommend they drink fruit juice.”

If you find it too difficult to give up dairy products entirely, Grant-Williams suggests not consuming them for an entire day leading up to a performance. She feels that allows enough time for them to disappear from the body.

…A vocal exercise to combat the mucus…

Nearly every vocalist has experienced the feeling in the throat that comes with a heavy build-up of mucus on the vocal chords. Most voice instructors tell their students to try to avoid clearing their throats with the common “AHEM” because it can actually make the problem even worse. So what do you do if you are getting ready to perform and you can feel the mucus build-up at a higher than normal level? Renee Grant-Williams has a technique she refers to as “Three Stutters, Three Swirls” which she demonstrates in this special video she made for Rocket to the Stars (CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO).

While more and more singers are starting to catch on to the idea of reducing or eliminating fatty dairy products from their daily diets, it is important to remember that casein is also used in a lot of processed foods. So, even if you do cut back on dairy products in an effort to combat that music build-up affecting your voice, the problem will still be present if your diet continues to include those processed foods (which also tend to have a high fat content).

One quick thing in closing: You can get a FREE copy of my new music business book that I co-authored with former Taylor Swift manager Rick Barker of Music Industry Blueprint and John Dwinell of Daredevil Production in Nashville. It is called “The $150,000 Music Degree” and covers everything from when artists should hire a manager to how to get sponsorships for your shows to how artists can better communicate with the media. Before you do anything else, go get the book by clicking HERE. And you can find a complete list of my services for artists HERE.