Stage Banter – How to Keep Your Audience Engaged

As an entertainer, you might often get stuck between songs and wonder what you should say to make your set flow smoother. This is absolutely normal, and it’s a process that all artists go through.

It gets much easier with experience, practice, and especially making use of this article that will guide you through the ins and outs of stage banter.

What is Stage Banter?

Stage banter is the spoken art of connecting songs within a set during a live performance. It happens in the form of thanking the audience, venue or staff members, comedy, advertising, and adding meaning to your music by sharing inspirational or background information.

Artists use this to connect with their audience on an emotional and intimate level and also to let the audience feels welcome and settled in.

It usually takes place in the form of natural speech.

Reassurance and Confidence

Feeling nervous about what to say between songs is normal and most artists experience this moment or feeling at least once in their careers. In fact, all musicians have had previous awkward experiences between songs as well.

Being a great frontman takes time and experience. You can only learn, grow and develop your skills through actively applying new knowledge and using the method of trial and error. It is valuable to have a skilful frontman in a band and it could even lead you to higher asking prices.

Perhaps confidence is something that you would like to work on. Don’t miss the blog I posted about How to Build Confidence as a Musician right here.

I also wrote one that can help your whole band as a unit called 13 Tips to Build Confidence for a Musical Performance. It guides you to feel ready to go and supports you through the preparation phase. Definitely worth scanning through.

Do I have to speak between each song?

Most definitely not.

Your main job as an entertainer is to entertain and let your audience relax and enjoy the show with you.

Each artist will have a different opinion as to when they feel the need to speak or not.

An extrovert frontman would feel the need to speak a little more often than an introvert that can bare longer breaks between songs without it feeling awkward to anyone.

My tip to prevent having to speak after each song is to practice instrumental connections between pairs of songs that go together so that the music flows from one song to the next naturally and smoothly.

Stage Banter Tips and Guidelines

These are especially helpful during the preparation phase of your performances.

1. Mix it up

Try to not be repetitive. If something is really important or the venue manager has asked you to repeat certain specials at the bar, that’s something different.

Instead of just saying thank you after each song, try to tell the audience the meaning or a background story behind the song.

I attended a concert 2 weeks ago, where the frontman kept saying “thank you” after each song before moving on to the next. He completed his whole set with a bunch of “thank you’s” and you could clearly see that people wanted to hear a little more.

2. Experiment

Keep reflecting and thinking of clever and funny things you can say between our songs.

Once you found something unique and original that will work for you, write it down and make a note of it, because it will become original to you.

Keep experimenting and don’t stop trying out new things. Sometimes you will need to make use of trial and error, and if it fails, we’ll all have a good laugh and grow from it. It will only make you better for the next show!

3. Prepare your set well

Along with your set list, make notes on what type of comments you can add during which parts of the set.

It is useful to add this to the set list of your bandmates so that they also know which songs will flow into the next and where you would like to speak about various topics.

Before this songAfter this song
Song 11. Welcoming the audience
2. Band name
“Thank you”
Song 21. Who we are
2. Comment about:
– Fill drinks
– Bar specials
Song 3x“Thank you”
Song 4Introduce song 4Thank the venue
Song 5Story about song 5x
Song 6xIntroduce band members
Song 7Upcoming shows“One more song”
Song 8Introduce song 6Encore song
A set list example for planning your stage banter for a 45-minute gig.

This is just a very general and basic example. Adapt it with your ideas to craft your sets more accurately.

By the way, if you are unsure about building set lists, I wrote an article about How to Make a Good Set List which can provide you with some food for thought.

4. Stay loyal to your image

Be yourself, and keep it real. Try not to force a joke when it’s not the time or place.

Image and who you are is part of your uniqueness and you are the product of your musical business. Therefore it’s crucial for you to have a unique image and stay true to who you are.

If your image is something that you are still discovering, then don’t miss the post I wrote about Your Image As an Artist that will add an interesting perspective to you on how to discover yours.

5. Be prepared for the unexpected

There’s always going to be something random happening. That is the fun of live performing!

It’s live performances and many things are unforeseen and out of your hands. The best we can do is to try and be prepared for any possible situation that can occur.

We’re talking about:

  • Technical difficulties
  • Random intoxicated guests making life hard
  • Label scouts wondering around
  • Famous celebrities entering
  • Starting a song out of tune
  • Instrument issues
  • Etc.

The list is unlimited and the best we can do is to think before we act.

I have a short routine for these things happening:

  1. Stay calm and breathe first
  2. Smile and be smooth
  3. Summarize the challenge in difficulty to repair or recover
  4. If, then…
    • If it’s an instrumental issue, how long would it take to repair? Then use the 5 minutes to either:
      • Tell an interesting story or the background of the previous song.
      • Play a song where that band member is not needed.
    • If it’s an intoxicated person crossing borders, then signal the security very subtly while the audience doesn’t notice.
  5. Show that you are calm and confident and carry on with your show

You have to be in these situations to reflect afterwards to think about what you could do better next time. Every situation is unique.

The best you can do is be friendly, kind and professional about your approach to a situation.

6. Be spontaneous

You will need to be attentive and read the audience at most of the time to stay applicable.

Don’t stay too fixed on what you’ve planned, and leave space for possible spontaneous changes.

Read the room.

This article was written and published by De Wet from on 11.06.2023. The content was stolen from me if this blog post is seen anywhere else than on my website.

Frontman being ready for action (Photo credit: Canva)

7. Keep doing research

  • Watch live concerts
  • Go to local shows
  • Watch shows on YouTube

While you watch, take a few notes and add them to your experimental list.

If the banter of other bands would work for you is a case of trial and error.

8. Have a list

I’ve been mentioning writing the banter down that works for you and continue to use them, but there’s also a go-to list which is like a wild card in your pocket.

That means you should have a few things that you can say at basically any time during your set:

  • How’s the crowd tonight? How’s the wine? Are you ready to rock?
  • Good to be back! or Great to be here for the first time!
  • Thank the bar staff
  • Thank the sound engineer
  • Introduce the band members
  • Make a joke
  • Introduce the next song
  • Talk about the previous song

Add anything to the list that will have your back at any time and during any difficult moment.

9. Know the venue

A great tip is to actually know a bit of the history of the building so that you can share it during the performance. This comes over pretty well with the venue management.

Perhaps they will be able to learn something from you and be impressed with your commitment and knowledge.

10. The Tip Jars

Both the band and the staff should have Tip Jars visible to customers who would like to contribute.

With the mic in hand, you will make many staff members happy if you can motivate people to contribute to filling up these jars.

  • Don’t be shy to show appreciation for the great service here!
  • Thanks for the love!
  • If you like what you hear and can help me with a gallon of gas, I would appreciate it!

Give credit to the people who contribute and point out those individuals as good examples.

Good Examples of Stage Banter

Here are a few things that generally always work in bars:

  • “The more you drink the better I sound!”
  • “Who’s celebrating something tonight?”
  • “Who’s here tonight for the first time?”

Don’ts of Stage Banter

  • Don’t get overconfident
    • I’ve played in a band where the other members got so overconfident that it turned into a comedy show rather than focusing on the music.
    • Perhaps you’ll make 10% of the audience chuckle, but that’s not an accurate reflection of your banter.
    • If other members of the band also speak, keep it short and meaningful
  • Don’t repeat the same saying too often
  • Don’t allow the crowd to notice on-stage challenges
    • It’s none of their business
    • They are there to relax and be entertained, not to be empathetic towards your stage issues.
  • Don’t ask the audience difficult questions
    • They react best to yes/no types of questions
    • Raising hands also works well
  • Avoid sexual comments
    • If it fails, you will feel seriously embarrassed

Please tell me your favourite joke on your banter list below in the comments!

If you are looking to grow your audience and fill your venues, check out this helpful article I wrote about How to Build a Following and Finally Fill Your Venues.

Until next time!

De Wet

The dream started during a school tour at the age of 15 years old. One that might take a long time to reach. De Wet was 16 years old when he got his first bass guitar as a gift from his dad. The guitar was found, hidden under boxes. As if it was waiting for its owner to come by and pick him up. He practiced every day to improve and to teach his fingers to dance to the music. After finishing high school, he played in various bands where he collected valuable experience, before being signed by a record label as an upcoming band. He reached success at age 22 when he released two albums with his band, which also included televised music videos for publicity. By age 24, he co-started management, artist promotion, and booking agency for successful and upcoming musical acts.

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