Engaging with an online audience

[This article was written by guest contributor James Wasem from Gigee.me]

A common complaint I hear about personal interaction in the online world is that there just isn’t enough genuine connection. It’s easy to get lost in a world of one-liners, clever quips, and snarky banter. And if we’re not careful, this behavior makes its way into our lives in the real world. Then there are those moments of true compassion and honest personal connection that restore your faith in humanity. So, how can you create more of those moments for you and your fans in a digital world?


The art of engaging an audience from the virtual stage

It’s an easy enough thing to do, but the simple act of engaging with your audience can be very empowering – for you and for them. I recall attending a Decemberists outdoor concert where, towards the end of the show, they brought up a few folks from the crowd and had them playing instruments along side the band. By the end of the song, I think the only original band member still playing was the drummer – all the other band members had relinquished their instruments, stepped into the crowd, and were participating as fans. Watching this somehow made me feel more connected with my fellow fans and the band.  It was a unique experience, and fun.

“But,” you say, “that’s what can happen in live concerts where we are all in the same room together.  What about the online world?  How am I supposed to make that happen here?!”  It’s easier than you think.

Here are some simple ideas that can really make your online gig a genuine and engaging event:

1. Talk to your audience as if they were there. Because they are. Nobody likes to feel like they are just an inconsequential part of your gig. Look into the camera from time to time and try to engage with what is happening on the other end of the live feed.

2. Have someone monitor the instant chat feed or Twitter traffic for your event and relay messages to you so that you can respond to certain comments or questions while you are live, on camera.

3. Tell a story about the song you just wrote, or share an experience from the last recording session or tour you were on. Personal stories can really help invite the audience in to share the performance experience with you. If you’re not good at telling stories, then a few simple words are often all it takes to break that invisible barrier between the audience and “the stage.”  In the case of online performances, you’re creating a unique and exclusive experience for your audience, wherever they are. That’s pretty cool.

4. Take questions from your fans. Maybe you’ll even want to host a dedicated question and answer session after your show. This is something that is much easier done with a live online event than in a raucous live room. And from the fan’s perspective, there’s such a great feeling of anticipation and then satisfaction when someone on the other side of the live feed acknowledges your question or comment. I’ll be honest, I’ve watched an entire event just for that moment!

5. Showcase your space. Pan the camera around the room and take your fans on a tour of your venue. Maybe it’s your living room, back yard, or one of your favorite live stages. Let your audience in on how your performance space looks and feels. You might even take the camera backstage or into the green room if you can. Most of us enjoy that “behind the scenes” context, and it can add depth to the online concert experience.

6. Ask for song requests or setlist suggestions. You can do this before the show or even do a live request-only session. Most fans like to feel like they contributed to your works of art.

7. Invite a guest singer, musician, band, dancer, or visual artist to perform with you. Not only does this expand the audience potential, but it allows some additional synergy to take place on stage. You probably have felt this work at other shows – same applies to online gigs. I always enjoy “discovering” new music and art in association with the artists I already like.

8. Use an online event as a fundraising opportunity. By now, I’m sure we’re all familiar with crowdfunding opportunities and services like IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, and PledgeMusic. There is huge potential in exchanging the value of what you create for your audience’s participation and support. You might even consider doing a live online preview of your upcoming album in exchange for the financing you need to complete it. Another cool idea I heard recently was to have a live session where the audience helps decide the artwork that will be on the next album cover, poster, or t-shirt design.

All of these things are helpful in cultivating a genuine connection between you and your audience, despite the obvious fact that there may not be a room full of people in front of you. But, hey, that can be liberating too!  If you’re prone to getting nervous before stepping in front of a crowd, doing an online gig might just help bring out those more expressive qualities that are subdued in the anxiety and competition of a loud room.

Back for more

The things that make a great live show and a great live online gig are quite similar. Create that unique, fun, and engaging experience during your shows (online and offline), and your fans will want more of what you’ve got. You may even find that you need to do a regular schedule of online concerts just to have that experience you can only find with your fans in your own virtual venue.

Cheers to your real success in a virtual world!

PS. Curious about more online gig ideas and potential?  Check out these previous DIY posts.

James Wasem is an audio/video engineer and drummer, as well as a co-founder and technical director at Gigee.me.  Gigee provides an easy-to-use online platform where artists can broadcast their own live ticketed events, and make 80% of all ticket sales.  Learn more at www.Gigee.ME

[hana-code-insert name=’newsletter-free-updates’ /]