Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros

October 19, 2009

The Mike Doughty Guide to Interactive Live Shows

I was all set to enjoy a mellow Sunday night at home, when Pooki got a call last night. It was her son, Matt, letting her know that Mike Doughty was about to play at the Duck Room.

Doughty was the creative force behind the band Soul Coughing (signed to Warner Bros) in the 1990s. In 2004, he became a touring solo act and soon started releasing albums on Dave Matthews' ATO label.

We've become big fans of his gravelly, low-pitched, half-sung, half-spoken vocal style -- therefore, the mellow Sunday night plans quickly went out the window. And I'm glad they did.

It was an intimate show with perhaps a couple hundred people comfortably squeezed into the Duck Room basement bar. Doughty and his long-time touring partner Andrew Livingston put on a good, stripped-down show.

But here's the thing I really thought was cool -- something I've never seen a performing musician do before ...

Mike Doughty is a smart guy with quick wit who knows how to banter with a crowd. But instead of simply winging it or relying on well-worn stories, he asks for questions from the audience.

But most of these questions aren't shouted out. He asks people to write them down on slips of paper he provides and to throw them into a jar on the stage. Every two or three songs, Doughty and Livingston take turns reading a short stack of questions and answering them rapid fire.

The Q&A segments were very insighful and entertaining -- and made for a lot of funny moments. What a great way to personalize each live show (and he has a lot of them on this current tour with nearly one every night in a different city).

Dozens of questions were read and answered last night. How to you think the fans who submitted them felt about playing a small part in the show? You can bet they told their friends about it and are now more likely to spread Doughty's music to even more people.

Another smart thing he does is record each live show and make it available that night on CDs for anyone who wants to go home with it.

That's how you involve your fans and make music personal -- as it should be!


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posted by Bob Baker @ 6:39 PM   5 comments


At Oct 19, 2009, 11:53:00 PM, Blogger Jamaica Bob said...

Great post! I've been looking for some inspiration on how to do the calypsonian tradition of "ex tempore" (spontaneously creating lyrics for a song with a familiar lyrics). This would be a perfect way to do and I'll be using it.

I'm also looking into venues where the seating can be arranged differently to create a "surround sound" feeling for the audience.

Thanks again Bob!

At Oct 20, 2009, 5:41:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I love to hear this. I am a solo singer/songwriter often performing on college campus coffeehouses and other intimate venues...what's worked for me is creating a cheesy joke challenge contest among audience members.

The rules are that in between songs audience members are asked to tell a cheesy joke to the rest of the audience from the stage...the cheesier the joke the better...I keep recapping each joke that has been told throughout the night, which becomes tough to remember, but funny in itself...then by the end of the night the audience applauds for which joke they like best and the winner gets a free CD or t-shirt, etc.

It tends to work well, especially at colleges I play...the interacts and is part of the show, and because I created a contest more of the audience is interested to stay until the end, if for no other reason than to find out who won the contest...usually they enjoy the music too.

Anything positive that gets the audience involved will certainly be memorable.

Thanks Bob.

At Oct 20, 2009, 7:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anne Roos said...

I love these ideas! Thank you, Bob!

Before I play a show, I send emails to the people who have bought tickets and ask them to send me their music requests and dedications. I play them on stage, mention the person's name and the dedication, and it personalizes the show. (I also hand out index cards to people during intermission and may play their requests during the second half).

At Oct 21, 2009, 3:33:00 AM, Anonymous Ian - Make It In Music said...

That's a great idea. Exactly the kind of thing that aspiring artists can take from and make their own.

I was having a lengthy advice session with a singer / songwriter that I'm helping out yesterday and we talked about a very similar idea for his live shows.

Keep them coming Bob.

At Oct 21, 2009, 8:38:00 AM, Anonymous Lyricology Camp said...

Making a live show interactive is very important. One way I've seen, is that the performer invites 2-4 fans onstage each performing a part of one of the performer's popular songs. After the fans renditions, the best is selected based on crowd reaction, and rewarded with CD's or tickets/VIP passes to the next show


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