How to connect with your audience and sell merch from stagePerforming Songwriter Master Class: Shannon Curtis

[This article is written by guest contributor and music producer Jamie Hill.]

Ever since we put out our house concert book, Shannon and I have developed a wonderful ongoing conversation with the singer-songwriter community. People reach out to us pretty much every day now, with thoughts and questions and ideas about how to further their careers on an independent basis. (And we love this. You can reach us here and here.)

People tend to reach out to me regarding song refinement and making recordings – producer-y stuff – sensible. And people tend to reach out to Shannon about house concerts, and performing in general, which is why I’m writing today.

Shannon and I recorded a live album this last summer on her massive house concert tour. We do live recordings every summer, and usually we do the standard thing where you record a bunch of shows and piece together the best songs from each show.

But this summer was different, in that we happened to capture a single show that was absolutely fantastic in every regard. Performance, audience reaction, live sound, voice quality, recording quality, room sound, everything. It was just a magical moment in time, and we were lucky enough to be recording when it happened.

As I was mixing this recording, it struck me that because it’s a document of an entire show, it might be extraordinarily useful for CD Baby’s community of performing songwriters, in that it’s more or less a master class.

Every single thing you should be doing as a performer, Shannon is doing in this show, masterfully:

* Commanding your audience’s complete attention from the first note

* Putting on a show, not just playing songs

* Storytelling

* Tension and release

* Pacing; controlling your show’s energetic and emotional ebb and flow

* Developing and sustaining thematic and narrative arcs

* Giving a vulnerable performance

* Giving a selfless performance

* Engaging your crowd and leading them through the show

* Selling your merch from the stage, in a fun and engaging way

* Making the case for joining your email list (and, more importantly, for joining your community)

If you want to reference them specifically, the main merch talk is at 1:02:39, and the email list talk is at 1:07:08. That said, calls to action from the stage seem to work best if you’re developing and returning to them over the course of your set, which you’ll pick up on as you listen to the concert in its entirety.

If you have questions, email us! We hope you enjoy the show, and take away from it something of lasting value for your career.

Author Bio: Jamie Hill is an independent record producer, music engineer, and author. He was nominated for Best Producer in the 2014 Independent Music Awards. Hill works across a variety of genres, mostly in the independent and alternative music spaces, with bands such as ArnoCorps, Shannon Curtis, and many more. He has had chart success internationally with Swedish indie-pop favorite Jens Lekman, whose record An Argument With Myself debuted in the Billboard Heatseekers Top 10 in multiple countries.

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