Succeeding in the Performing Arts

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December 21, 2007


Hi Folks,

For the past few years, we've had discussions amongst the moderators and others about the idea of collecting our experiences in the performing arts (mostly live music) into some short essays that might help to disseminate the knowledge.

The time has come to begin this effort.

Each "lesson learned" will be a new thread, whose title will begin with "Succeeding in the Performing Arts" followed by a colon and few words about the topic.

We are completely comfortable, in fact we are hoping, that members of this community will start threads. If you do so, please use the format just given so that others will quickly know it is part of the series.

The threads are "open", meaning anyone from the community can reply and comment on the thread. We really encourage you to do this. This is an unbelievably strong community with an astonishing amount of experience in the performing arts. Let's put it to good use, okay?

Please try to stick the topic at hand. If you find yourself straying, perhaps that is an indication that you need to start another thread.

Eventually, we are hoping to copy the information over to the L1 Wiki.

We very much look forward to your participation.

Will you help us do this?

Ken Jacob
Director, Advanced Development
Bose Professional Systems

Acknowledging Your Cast and Crew

Artists are inherently thanked by the fact that they have an audience.

Sidemen and women and crew often aren't.

We encourage artists to acknowledge their support cast and crew whenever possible.

In the theater this is done through a program, often a good choice for this and other reasons for a musical or other performance.

We also feel that a good option is to take a moment to thank key people before the last planned song or performance segment. At this time we find that an audience is receptive to giving hearty and earned acknowledgment to support people. And we find that those support people are at a point when with most of the show behind them they can relax a little and enjoy the acknowledgment.

Discussion: Acknowledging Your Cast and Crew

Ambient Light & Sound

One of the best ways to improve a performance is by reducing unwanted ambient light and sound.

When someone walks through a door into a darkened performance space and light suddenly leaks through, the audience is distracted and it becomes harder to see the performance. The dynamic range of light is reduced.

Similarly when there's unwanted noise, from HVAC equipment, from extraneous noise sources -- whatever -- the performance suffers.

Of course it is not always possible to control these unwanted sources of light and sound, but often it is.

  • Can a light lock be rigged so that latecomers can enter without a big splash of light?
  • Could a few windows be taped with black duct tape?
  • Can a chiller or refrigerator be unplugged for a performance, giving sometimes a whopping 30 dB of additional dynamic range?

All of these small improvements can add up to a significantly better performance environment.

Discussion: Ambient Light & Sound

Are these threads Productive

From Tom Munch...

I thought Mike's post deserved to start a new thread.

For What It's Worth (not much really, but surely a great song!)...
I'm not sure what I think about this whole Performing Arts series of threads. Seems a little self-important, on the part of no one in particular. Pretty much a shame if it results in running off a person who seems like a very nice guy, by yet another good seeming guy. One man's humor is another man's insult? Too bad...
I'm always interested in what ST, Tom Munch and many others have to say, about any and every thing - I solicit their opinions often, so I'm certainly in favor of advice and assistance. I read this board several times a day, more than I should, for the comraderie as much as the info, because I enjoy it.
I really like the B.B. King line, and the cowboy boots. Everybody believes "the way they do it" is the Right Way, that's human nature. There's also plenty to learn from others, on the other side of the coin.
Still not sure this whole boulevard seems very productive, or positive, although I'm sure it's intent was. Kinda seems like picking up little hints and tips was a better deal when they just came along in normal discussions - this handbook on how to make music may be a bit of a drag. But then, I majored in Accounting, not Music... (pretty sure that doesn't mean anything either...)
ANY ways ... ... ...
Remember THE MUSIC, and as Ringo always says,
PEACE AND LOVE, brothers and sisters!
Mike, from Texas -- where we NEVER think WE'RE right! Right? :-)

Discussion: Are these threads Productive

Arriving Early

Only rock stars can afford to arrive just before the gig, and many rock stars still arrive early to the gig.

The more complex the gig, the earlier we think you should arrive.

Surprises are less likely to hijack the performance because there's time to deal with them.

There's time to relax and get your head in the game.

There's time to practice a few things.

In the professional theater, crew call is usually 120 minutes before show time and 90 minutes for artists.

We believe this is a good rule of thumb with obvious allowances for extra time if you are both crew and performing artist.

Discussion: Arriving Early

Beginning & End, Make them Obvious

We endorse the idea of employing a little theatricality into the beginning and end of a show.

Audiences appreciate a formal start and end to a performance and conversely are less receptive to sloppy bookends.

For every single Bob Dylan show we've seen, for example, (and there have been many spanning at least three decades), the show has always begun with the announcement "Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan!"

Careful use of lighting can also be effective in signaling the beginning and end of a performance.

At the end of a musical performance, use crisp body language to signal things are over. Lingering on stage attending to equipment can be confusing to the audience, or worse, appear gratuitous.

Discussion: Beginning & End, Make them Obvious

Being There — It's Showtime!


What do you do to prepare in that time brief time just before setting foot on stage? I am talking about

  • mentally
  • emotionally
  • physically
  • spiritually
  • musically

When I am disciplined about it I have a routine that I go through before the performance. It is basically about being deliberately, consciously, purposefully committed to the moment, the audience and the music. I used to have to do it out loud, but these days I am more likely to do it quietly. It generally works better for me to take a moment to be alone to do this. It used to involve a mental checklist but these days it is usually good enough to say to myself, "It's Showtime!".

If I am working with other players then depending on my relationship with them, I get them involved.

Some of the people I have played with seem to have a nonchalant, almost too casual approach. They hit the stage running while still fuming over the events of the day, or running late, or chewing a sandwich or finishing a sentence. It doesn't work for me. I need to pause for a moment to remember why I am there and direct my full attention to that.

There are so many things I cannot control it is a miracle when things work at all. But one thing I can usually control is my state of mind when it is time to perform.

How about you?

The discussion is ongoing in Succeeding in the Performing Arts: Being There -- It's Showtime!

Cell Phone (Leave it Offstage)

Unless you are planning to answer your phone during a performance we strongly suggest you not only turn it off but leave it offstage.

If you must know of an emergency or urgent situation (e.g. your wife is expecting a baby) leave your phone with a trusted companion during your performance.

Avoid leaving your cell phone -- or anything else unrelated to your performance -- hanging off of your belt or bulging out of our pocket. We in the audience may feel that you're more serious about something other than the performance if you do.

As to equipment related to your performance, such as a laptop, that can be distracting or visually obtrusive to the audience, you must decide if there is a location that works both for you that minimizes the negative impact on them.

Discussion: Cell Phone (Leave it Offstage)

Dress for Success

"100% agree with dressing the part. The trick is to not make it a costume. Still you, just "better."

If I don't, then everything seems off to me. The singing is okay, but not what it could be. I recognize it more in my movements, I suppose. I feel more forced in what I do. Not relaxed. I think I have only gone without a tie once, and realized very quickly not to do it again.

When I have sung with Drumr's - The Cubs, I have dressed comparably to them and what I thought was right for the type of music. One time - July 4th outside - I wore what I thought was appropriate for an outdoor summer gig. Boy was I wrong!! I wore shorts and a t-shirt and sandals. I guess I sounded okay, but man did I feel uncomfortable, especially with the sandals. I just was not myself. Way underdressed. I mean, I looked like everybody else in the park (the band looked better than I), but it just was so wrong for me. Lesson learned.

Clothes don't make the man. They do however seem to make you want to carry yourself a little differently (or a lot). I do like to dress up."

Dressing for success is exactly what it sounds like, to me. Business world, industrial trades, service sector, entertainment. I say above that I really must dress in order to be my personal best. I've thought before that I really had no routines, habits, rituals, etc., in getting ready for a performance, but this simply is not the case. Over the years I have developed more in this regard. But specifically about dressing...

Put yourself together very well. Take some pride in your appearance. Certainly the techniques and end results will be different. We're not all doing the same things, obviously. For what I do, the crisper and more polished, the better. A proper-fitting suit, a crisp point collar on a fitted shirt, suspenders (or braces, if you prefer), neck tie, pocket square (not too much flourish), tie tack (even though it's not seen), good socks, and a quick shine on the shoes.

We also have what we have come to call, "show hair." It goes along with the crisp appearance, and harkens to days gone by. Obviously, it goes well with the music I sing. And Carrie is a (can I say this?) freakin' knockout.

I tell ya, primping and preening heightens the senses.

I am thinking now of how this applies to the "polar opposite" style. "How long does it take you to get that just-out-of-bed look?" No joke. Don't people actually work at this? Pay a hairdresser to give them the messy look? If it's what you're going for, then do it up right!

Yes, just take pride in your appearance. Respect yourself, and your audience will in turn.

Discussion: Dress for Success

Eye Contact

Note: this does NOT apply to most examples of dialogue driven dramas, but rather to musical performances, lectures, and other "presentation" forms.

We in the audience want to believe that you are performing to US. That you notice us. That you care about us.

Conversely, when a performer never makes eye contact with his or her audience we wonder if he or she is only performing to him or herself.

By this we do not mean that we think these types of performers should ALWAY or MOSTLY make eye contact -- that would be distracting to many. (Eyes rolled up into the head during a particularly ecstatic solo is something we also enjoy.) We simply mean to encourage frequent eye contact.

Discussion: Eye Contact


We're amazed when we see a performer without a pocket flashlight. It's like a chef who forgets to bring a knife.

A good light is indispensable on any stage. Frankly, a good light is indispensable in life.

Although genuinely dorky looking, we cannot argue with the exceptional benefits of the new class of LED headlamps, marketed mainly to hikers and outdoors-people. Fundamentally, they do two things that a handheld light does not: 1) they free the hands and 2) they're easily aimed onto the work at hand. Some, delightfully, come with a red LED option, something that the truly professional stage professional knows is essential for working on the stage during a performance.

Discussion: Flashlights

Game Tapes

It is often horrible to listen to or watch a recording of one's performance.

And that is just the point. In the horror comes the insight on how to improve. As a result, we can not recommend this technique more strongly.

Why wait for a loved one or close friend to tell you what is so obvious to others? You unconsciously put "ums" in your speech when you're answering a question from the audience, for example, or have an annoying habit of flicking your hair or sniffing between songs.

Avoid conspicuous recording apparatuses. They can change audience reaction and obscure sight lines.

Discussion: Game Tapes

Glow Tape

We believe glow tape may be the greatest thing since pop-up Kleenex.

There's almost nothing scarier (or tackier) than seeing a performer grope and stumble around a stage because they can't see where they're going. For a performer, tip-toeing around a dangerous stage can produce unwanted anxiety just when it's time to concentrate on the performance.

Glow tape is a wonderful invention used extensively in the professional performing arts. It's used to mark steps, the edges of audience sight lines (so that performers waiting in the wings are not seen by the audience), as "spike marks" for set pieces, and more.

We believe that every performer's "stage kit" should include a small roll of glow tape and a small set of scissors so that in a pinch he or she can "mark their territory" when necessary.

Discussion: Glow Tape

Green Room


The Green Room; A green room is a room in a theater, studio, or other public venue for the accommodation of performers or speakers when not required on the stage. -- Wikipedia Green Room

Here's a link to the full Wikipedia entry for Green Room which contains a fascinating discussion of the mysterious roots of the term.

We think performing artists need and deserve "a place of their own". In many venues this place must be improvised but we feel it is essential nevertheless.

Many times, the venue operators will say "oh, we don't have a dressing room". But often times, if you quietly scope the venue you can find a quiet place not far from the stage that if you ask can be used as a private place.

Discussion: Green Room


The stage is a very de-hydrating environment.

We recommend that you keep hydrated all day before a performance.

Avoid sudden hydrating before the show unless you have breaks planned accordingly.

When we are dehydrated we are not at our best -- a fact proven in many studies. It is also not good for general heath.

If you must sip from plastic water bottles of water on stage do so discretely, for example during the initial applause after a song. Sipping from a bottle when the audience's full attention is on you -- for example when you are talking between tunes to them -- is often awkward for the audience.

Discussion: Hydration

Larger Than Life

Sometimes, when we see a performer backstage or in the wings, they look "larger than life" or even a little garish. The makeup may look overdone, or the clothing too, well, big.

But there's a long tradition in the performing arts of compensating for the emptiness of the stage and distance of the audience by exaggerating wardrobe, makeup, hair, etc.

We know a performer who has special shoes for playing. He's a frontman. And the shoes are BIG -- way too big for his feat. And yet, when you see him on stage, everything's in proportion. He takes the shoes off after the show and would never wear them to drinks or dinner. They'd stand out as odd.

Discussion: Larger Than Life

Less Is (often) More

We find it uncomfortable to keep audiences in their seats for more than about 45-60 minutes and we find performing artists often going over this limit.

Audiences need time to stretch their legs, get a drink, go to the restroom, and talk.

Artists too need the break.

We think intermissions should be brief and crisp. Audiences should know when the next set will start, either by a friendly flashing of the lights, or an announcement of some kind.

We are wary of the artist that has much more to say than the audience member can absorb.

We note certain infrequent exceptions: when the audience/artist is in rapture and you can hold them there, time does not matter.

Discussion: Less Is (often) More

Liquids on Stage: Ground Your Liquids

We cringe when we see performers and technicians place open containers of liquid above ground level when there are mission critical electronics below.

If you must have an open container with you, place it out of the way on the ground. Imagine what would happen if it were to spill and if you don't like the consequences, move it to a safer place.

Use a closed container whenever possible. However, if you are an entertainer, avoid "taking a swig" from a bottle with your face to the audience. It can appear uncouth to some. Turn your back, or keep your bottled refreshment upstage and out of the light. Cups are more dangerous in terms of spills but the body language of drinking is much more favorable.

Discussion: Ground Your Liquids

Making BIG Mistakes

Not unlike the "Game Tapes" Thread under this same topic, in order to be your best, you must always put it out there. Don't be timid. I believe that almost all of your success is dependent on confidence. From that stems "the rest".

This is especially true in rehearsal. Go for it! If you're not sure of a note, so what? Get it out there so you can actually hear it, then you can fix it. Maybe you don't know how. If nobody else can hear your mistake, then they can't help you either.

If you make a mistake during a gig, don't linger on it. GO ON! You'll screw up something else to be sure if you think about the last mistake. Of course, if you are confident in what you are doing, you'll no doubt sell it, and your audience won't know anything was wrong.

Get in the habit of making big mistakes. They'll be much more noticeable to you and more quickly fixed.

Discussion: Making BIG Mistakes

No One Loves You When You're Down and Out

We as audience members usually have a negative reaction when a performer apologizes for "having a cold" or "not feeling my best tonight" or whatnot.

We've come to the performance in the hopes of entering into the paradise of the transcendent experience of the great performance.

We do not want to feel that maybe this won't be that performance. Hearing about performer limitations does just that.

In the professional theater, the only announcement that's ever made on this subject is the rare case where an artist simply can not perform and an understudy is brought in with minimum fanfare.

It is natural at times to cough, or even sneeze, especially when one's got a bug. Do so discretely and call no additional attention to this normal human need.

Discussion: No One Loves You When You're Down and Out

Packing Your Own Parachute

We've learned that it's always worth the extra effort to quickly set up your rig before you leave for the gig, then pack it yourself so that you are almost guaranteed that you won't have left anything and that things will work on the gig end.

We call this "packing your own parachute" -- an old term from the military used in the literal sense. If your parachute doesn't open, whom do you have to blame?

Discussion: Packing Your Own Parachute

Put on a Happy Face

Chris & I were talking about this, & we decided that this topic needed to be discussed. The most difficult thing I have had to do as a musician is to perform when I've just had a big loss in my life like a death in the family. Or sometimes it's even difficult to perform when you're just having a bad week. Either way we don't always have the luxury of putting things behind us when we step up to the mic. The audience has come to hear us perform & perform we must. It is not healthy to have to push down the emotions & put on a stage persona, but we have to do it quite often.

The afternoon I had to perform after my dad's death earlier that morning was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. The emotions that were flowing through me had nothing to do with the show I was putting on.

The disconnect of putting your energy into a show when all you want to do is be quiet & lost in thought is very hard to describe. It really is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in life, & it happens more often as I get older.

What experiences have you had like this & how did you deal with them?


Discussion: Put on a Happy Face

Rest, Exercise, and Diet

Performers are not supermen and superwomen. They're human beings. But they do something very, very special that also happens to be extraordinarily demanding.

If ever there were a profession that deserves attention to a good night's rest, the well-placed nap, a healthy and diverse diet, and regular exercise, it is the performing arts.

On average, we've seen that the artist or technician living on a lack of sleep, no regular exercise, and a diet of junk food and other destructive substances, doesn't last as long, and does not perform as well.

Discussion: Rest, Exercise, and Diet

Scouting the Venue


Whenever possible, I try to scout a venue before the day of show. I've seen so many train wrecks because problems are discovered without enough time to deal with them.

A stressed out artist is unlikely to perform his or her best.

Scouting allows you to meet the people with whom you'll be working. It allows you to do obvious things like scope out the stage and the AC power. To look at the lighting.

And it allows you to get the gestalt of the place. As an artist, you can begin to think about what things you might do in the performance to take advantage of the venue.

If you can not scout the venue in person, scout it on the phone. If you're the organized type, use a list of questions to be sure you get as much valuable information as possible. If the venue has a website, scout that, but we feel this is not a substitute for a live conversation with someone who works at the venue.

If you know other artists that have played the venue, ask them about it.

Questions for the Venue

See: Scouting the Venue for a separate page suitable for printing or if you want to add to the questions that appear below.

Questions to Ask When Scouting the Venue

General Questions

Most of these have been incorporated into the Who, What, When... model below.

  • What volume is acceptable in this place?
  • What external noise factors are there?
  • Does the type of crowd change throughout the night? How quickly?
  • Are there sound issues you weren't aware of?
  • How far ahead of time can I set up? Is the stage area being used for something else before I play?
  • I have my own PA.
    • Am I allowed to use it, or
    • do you insist on my using the one you have set up?
    • Is there a house sound-man?
  • Which entrance do you prefer I bring my equipment through, and how far is it to the stage?
  • If you won't be at the venue when I'm playing, who is my contact person, for pay and instructions?
  • And of course:
    • How big is the stage?
    • IS there a stage?
    • Is it raised at all?
    • Do you have lighting of any kind?
    • How far away is the power?

Topical Break Down

You might use a different model based on a time line through the event, or centered around the physical layout. This is far from complete, but food for thought.

  • Who is in the audience?
    • Does the type of crowd change throughout the night? How quickly?
  • Who do we talk to if there are issues?
  • Who do we talk to to get paid?
  • Who is running the sound system?
  • Who else will need to access the stage?
    • Special events may have talkers, announcements, auctions, guest performers.
  • What volume is acceptable in this place?
  • What external noise factors are there?
  • What kind of music are you expecting?
  • What kind of sound system do you have?
  • What kind of music do you play in the background?
  • What kind of stage do you have?
    • How big is it?
    • Where is it?
    • Is it elevated?
  • What is the dress code?
  • What is your policy about food and drink for the performers?
  • What is your policy about having non-paid performers on the stage?
  • What is your policy about original music?
  • When can we gain access to the premises?
  • When can we access the stage area?
  • When will the audience arrive?

This can be important if this is a special event.

  • When do we start playing?
  • When do we take breaks?
  • When will the announcements, events or speeches happen? (Special Events)
  • When do we shut down?
    • Are encores okay?
  • Where do we park?
    • Is there a loading zone or loading bay?
  • Where do we load in?
  • Where do we store gear, bags, cases, anything that should not be visible on the stage?
  • Where do you want us to go during the breaks? (the bar, the lounge, a "band" table).
  • Where is the stage?
  • Where are the electrical outlets?
    • What else is on the same circuits?
    • Are there any outlets that we should not use?
  • Where does the sound have to be heard?
    • Is there any place where the sound will not be reachable from the stage? (outside, separate rooms, balconies)
  • Why does this venue have live music?
  • Why are the people in the audience there?
  • Why are you holding this event? (Wedding, Funeral, Concert, Party, ...)
    • Will there be photographers, video, recording?
  • How big is the room?
  • How big is the stage?
  • How do we get paid?
  • How do you want us to handle requests? (Happy Birthday?)
  • How is the stage lit?
  • How do you want us to access the stage?
    • Is there a set route through the venue.

Selling Merchandise

Selling unique merchandise before and after a performance can be an important source of income for a performing artist.

And it can be a wonderful and treasured memento for an audience member.

Generally speaking, it can compromise the integrity of a performance to "push" mechandise from the stage. In most cases, it cheapens the performance, can put the performers in an awkward place, and can make the audience feel uncomfortable ("Isn't what I spent on the ticket enough?")

Making a merchandise table or area obvious to audience members entering and leaving the performance space is sufficient in most cases to let them know that merchandise is available.

Second, it is a well-established fact that an artist who is gracious enough to sign autographs and say hello to audience members from the merchandise table will sell much more than those that don't. This is of course a personal choice: some artists need the time after a performance to unwind.

If you are able to greet your public, consider a modest change in appearance, from your "larger than life" stage look, to something a little more approachable. Garish makeup streaked with sweat and a soaked shirt may not be as attractive in the harsh light of after-performance meet-at-greet as it was as you split-jumped into that last power chord.

Discussion: Selling Merchandise

Setting the Stage

I am asking about anything that you do to prepare the audience for your show.

I am careful about the visual impression. In smaller places there can be artwork, kitschy decorations, light streaming through a door to a storage space, and the occasional mop handle intruding on the scene on stage. I try to clear all of that out of the way, or at least be aware of what might be peeking out from behind my head. I've played in front of some pretty strange artwork and the visual impression of some goth creature glaring down at me from behind was completely incongruous with the music.

Taking control of the aural experience (playing your tracks through the L1™ before you start) seems like a great idea. It certainly beats gesticulating wildly and mouthing a plea to turn down the stereo at someone behind the bar. But it also seems like a good way to set the tone of the room. It is so clearly different when the music is coming from one direction or another. Having the music come from your L1® just makes so much sense. So does choosing the music that you will follow.

In places with small stages, there may not be any controllable lighting. Do you bring any with you? I've noticed that LED lights looking relatively inexpensive, cool, and lightweight. Anybody using something like this?

Discussion: Setting the StageWhat you do to 'set the stage' for your performance?

Sight and Sound Lines

Often we find that a venue allows people to sit or stand where they have difficulty seeing or hearing, or both.

While we acknowledge that it is often impossible for the artist to change these situations, we also recognize that there are many occasions when changes can be made for the better.

If a curtain can be pulled back to reveal more of the stage for those seated off to the side, it should be done.

If moving the performer a few feet downstage to make it easier for those off to the side or high in the balcony to see and hear, it should be done.

If a loudspeaker can be chosen to cover those in distant or off-angle position, it should.

Whenever possible, position stage gear or props so that the performers are not blocked.

Discussion: Sight and Sound Lines


The performing arts is always a challenge of creating a compelling storyline for the audience.

One of the most damaging issues in maintaining a good story is the act of upstaging.

(Upstage as a place means the area at the back of the stage, furthest from the audience.)

Upstaging means drawing the attention of the audience away from where it should be. And it is disastrous to a performance.

Worst of all, because it is done "upstage" it is usually done without the knowledge of the artist who is being upstaged, who is usually downstage and so has his or her back turned to the upstager.

There are obvious examples, sadly rather common, such as a rhythm musician who is conversing while a singer pours his or her guts out during a ballad.

But there are more subtle examples that are also harmful. A supporting actor that is supposed to be still can move only a little and distract from the main performer. Or a musician who nervously fiddles with equipment when he or she should be directing attention to the main performer.

The main idea is to minimize or eliminate anything that can distract an audience from the story that is being told. Of course a prerequisite is that the artists KNOW what the storyline is.

Discussion: Upstaging

Voice: The only instrument you must learn formally

Some people can just play an instrument inherently and never go beyond a couple of basic lessons, if that. If, however, you sing, whether by necessity, because you're told you have the voice of an angel, be it you may be a natural, it doesn't matter. The voice is the only instrument that you MUST absolutely, positively learn how to use properly for sure. A simple statistic: About 90% of professional singers who do not take voice lessons eventually badly strain or damage their vocal chords to the point where they must stop singing, at least temporarily. About 99% of those who do take voice lessons do not. No matter how good you are, the right voice training will also improve your singing and allow you to really do it professionally. You'll be good for the long haul.

Discussion: Voice: The only instrument you must learn formally

Walk-In Lighting and Sound

When audience members first walk into a venue their senses are heightened. There's a great feeling of anticipation and wonder.

A little bit of care for how they're greeted with lighting and sound can go a long way towards making them feel welcome and creating a sense of excitement and anticipation.

Walk-in music should be played a level that does not interfere with conversation but covers the silence of a room that's still filling up. Moreover, instrumental music is recommended as vocal music is often impossible to appreciate given the level is at or near ambient level.

As the room fills, and the ambient noise level increases, the level of the instrumental background music can increase as well.

When it's time to introduce the first artist, a rather quick-count fade-out signals to the audience that the show is about to start. The announcer and the performer(s) must be ready to go when this happens so some coordination is essential.

Walk-in lighting should create a mood of anticipation. Bright lighting should be avoided but there must be enough light that folks can find their places without straining and can see the faces of their companions and fellow audience members without difficulty. Pools of light on the audience can help to create a beautiful scene.

Dimming house lights just before a performance begins is another telltale signal that the show is about to begin.

It does not hurt, often, to allow the audience to settle for a few seconds after lights have been dimmed and walk-in music taken down.

Some may be tempted to think that these guidelines only apply to well equipped performing arts theaters but in fact the opposite is in a sense true. Professional theaters already do this. It is the more informal setting where these guidelines are often forgotten and where their use can make the most difference.

Discussion: Walk-In Lighting and Sound