Live performance checklist for gigsHave you ever played a sold-out gig in which you didn’t sell as much merch as you would have expected?

Have you ever performed in front of a seemingly enthusiastic crowd, only to have very few of them sign up for your newsletter after the show?

We’ve all been there, and there are a variety of reasons why results can vary and even disappoint at times. However, a breakdown in communication is often at the root of the issue.

Where Is Your Communication Breaking Down?

Here are several common places where communication tends to break down:

You aren’t communicating effectively. From lack of enthusiasm to mumbling, it’s entirely possible that your message just isn’t getting across to your fans. If you suspect that this might be the case, “plant” a few of your friends in the audience (at different physical locations in the room) and have them listen and give you feedback on your stage banter later.

Nobody can hear what you’re saying. One of the advantages of a microphone is that it amplifies your voice. One of the disadvantages of a microphone is that it amplifies your voice. Your message isn’t going to connect unless people can actually hear what you’re saying. Make sure to articulate your words and speak clearly into the mic. If your sound is configured for vocal performance, consider creating another setting for speech. This is where having an experienced sound tech that actually understands your needs is going to pay off. By the way, even the pros make this mistake sometimes.

You forgot to mention your promotions. I have done this so many times that it’s not even funny. If you don’t tell anyone about your website, your newsletter, your merch or any of your promotions, no one is going to know about them! It’s one thing to botch your presentation, but if you’re not putting feelers out at all, it would explain why your concerts have the tendency to become “just another show.” If it’s a self-confidence issue, start small and build up to the point where you can comfortably interact with your audience more.

What To Do About It

Besides some of the practical tips I’ve already mentioned, I am a believer in creating a live performance checklist. This is a document that contains a list of everything you believe you should be promoting and doing at every show (I recommend creating a document in Google Drive). Incidentally, this document could be taped to the back of your guitar or the side of your snare drum.

My list would probably include the following items:

  • Mention my website at least twice on stage.
  • Take a picture of the audience (bring a camera or have a smartphone that’s ready and charged).
  • Mention any merch sales or promotions I have going on.
  • Give away one CD to an audience member that answers a trivia question correctly.
  • Talk about my latest release.
  • Mention my newsletter and give people an opportunity to sign up.
  • Let people know about my next show.

Another great thing about making a live performance checklist is that it can help you clarify your priorities. For example, you may not be particularly interested in promoting your newsletter or website. Maybe ‘likes’ on your Facebook page are more important to you than promoting merch specials.

Whatever the case, it’s worth taking the time to create your list, because you will have determined your expectations for each of your shows. If you can work towards fulfilling those expectations, you will be disappointed less.

How To Customize Your Checklist

I already hinted at the fact that your checklist would probably look different than mine. It all depends on what your priorities are.

For example, if you want to promote your Twitter profile, you might create business cards with your username and a strategic hashtag on them. In that instance, one of the points on your list might be “hand out Twitter cards after the first set.”

One way to approach this is to think about the things you are in the habit of forgetting. If you are aware that you’re forgetting them, then that means they’re significant to you! Put them on your list.

Additionally, different shows might call for different checklists. It’s okay to have a generic one that you use most of the time, but don’t shy away from re-configuring when you need to.

What Are The Benefits?

Performing live can be an exciting experience. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the exhilaration of performance and forget your cue or next line. A live performance checklist can help you to make productive use of that time in between songs. In addition:

  • Your checklist will enable you to communicate more clearly from stage.
  • Your checklist will help you to get clear on your priorities.
  • Your checklist will help you to remember to promote what’s important to you.
  • Your checklist will help you to conduct yourself more professionally.
  • Your checklist could help you make more connections and earn more money from your shows.


Gigs are supposed to lead to new opportunities. Are you getting the most out of your shows? Are they getting you the traction you want?

When your communication is clear and your message is connecting with your audience, you can be absolutely sure that you’ve done your part in leaving fewer opportunities on the table. You will also create a better live experience for your fans.

About The Author

David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, and music instruction. Today, he works as an online marketing strategist and consultant, helping companies create compelling content to develop relationships with their target market. His music marketing blog and podcast can be found at