The Golden Rule: Always Give A Little More Than You Promise



If there is but one rule to follow in the performing arts, this should be it. From individual artists and musicians, to small groups, to large performing arts organizations, this rule provides insight into how just a little more effort could leave our audiences not just satisfied, but thrilled.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am a professional musician and I know how much work goes into preparing even the most basic of performances. That’s why the first step to giving a little more is to stand back and take a look at all the positive and/or creative work you have done so far. Give yourself a pat on the back– because you deserve it. When you look at all the effort you’ve put forth to make great performances so far, you’ll be motivated to raise the bar and keep your momentum rolling.

A good thing about a “little extra effort” is that it truly can be just a little, and luckily for us, a little does go a long way. Here are some examples of small changes that can make a big difference. My examples include different scenarios with variable stakeholders, but the sky is the limit to how much more you can do…

For the individual musician to try:

At your next recital, plan to perform a simple, but joyful piece as an encore to your performance. After you have concluded your programmed repertoire, surprise your audience by thanking them directly for coming and dedicating the surprise encore to them. Why does it work? The audience doesn’t expect the unplanned piece. It wasn’t on the program notes. If you say something like “Thank you all so much for spending this evening with me. I can feel your warm appreciation, and to repay you, I will perform (work title). It’s my gift to you. Thank you again, and I do hope you enjoy it”, you deepen your connection to the audience and you show your own humility. The audience will leave feeling appreciated.

For the small ensemble to try:

Divide and conquer. Take the total amount of people on your group’s mailing list and divide it equally amongst your members. Each of you will then send a personal thank you note on the behalf of the group to your portion of the list. If there four of you in the group, repeat this 4 times a year. What’s the benefit? You audience members will receive 4 handwritten notes in a year’s time thanking them for their support. They will connect on an individual level with each group member, and because of that connection, they will be more likely to build a long-lasting relationship with your ensemble. Divide the work load, put forth the effort, reap the reward together.

For large organizations:

It is true that in a large organization, a little becomes a lot very quickly. A single thank you note to each patron quickly can become a thousand, and an extra encore piece can potentially cost and orchestra thousands of dollars in overtime. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to put forth a little more effort in the interest of your audience. For example, ask your key organizational members, both artists and administrators to participate in a post concert meet and greet with audience members while serving coffee and tea. Beforehand, have an orientation with those organizational members who will participate to prep them for the event. Coach them to use some key catch phrases like “Thank you so much for coming out to spend the evening with us!”, “What was your favorite part of the concert/ballet/opera? What made that moment special to you?”, “I’m so looking forward to performing (insert work) on our (series name) this season. What are you looking forward to experiencing with us?”

By asking these genuine and open-ended questions, you simultaneously establish memorable moments with audience members while gaining valuable insight as to how they experience your concerts. You also fortify your audience base because the concert no longer becomes an anonymous event for them.
As you can see, there so many directions to take your audience’s experience to the next level. Remember, a little can truly go a long way.

Stay tuned,


P.S. Special thanks to David Wallace for inspiring this post from his great work with audience engagement and always knowing how to give a little bit more than expected. Check out David’s book Reaching Out: A Musician’s Guide to Interactive Performance by clicking here. 

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