After writing about stage presence and music lessons in a post earlier this week, I started thinking about how clothing affects audiences’ reactions to musicians.

Musicians must be comfortable on stage, but they also must look the part. Audiences expect a symphony orchestra to be dressed formally, a country act to have a few musicians wearing cowboy hats, and a rap group to wear baggy pants and bling.

keith_urban_brad_paisley          Rap-concert        Zubin Mehta

Imagine any of these ensembles dressing like one another and then giving their usual performance! The public wouldn’t know what to make of it.

The clothes musicians wear are a big part of the concert experience.  The day after a performance, audience members tell their friends they saw a concert, not that they heard it. This is profound.  Seeing, rather than hearing, a musical performance is built into our very language.

For many musicians, what they wear on stage is an afterthought.  These musicians don’t consider the importance of how they look on stage.

In some genres, this is fine.  Certain indie rock bands and some jazz groups dress on stage exactly like they do at home.  Their not having a “stage version” of themselves is part of what their audiences appreciate about them.  They are authentic and are just being themselves during concerts.

Other artists take the opposite approach.  For these musicians, their stage look is an enormously important part of their performance.  While we often associate this attitude with pop artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna, or Lady Gaga, classical artists like Anne Sophie Mutter and Renee Fleming place just as much emphasis on their clothes when they perform.

anne_sophie_mutter1       michael_jackson_live        renee_fleming_in_concert

How do you dress when you play in public?  Perhaps your concert clothes have been part of a well-thought-out strategy to give your performances a certain luster.  Or, maybe you’ve not really thought about it.

Either way, I guarantee that your audiences are reacting to how you look on stage.  Whether or not it’s true that “clothes make the man” or that you can truly “dress for success,” you can definitely improve your stage presence by carefully choosing your performance attire.

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