The one thing that we seek to contain as human beings is what will both liberate us from our head games during live performance and move the audience to identify and feel our music the deepest is MESSY, UGLY, RAW EMOTION!!! :) 

BUT Getting OUT OF OUR HEAD and down into THE MESSY CHAOTIC INTENSE PASSIONATE place is really hard for most of us!  Its not how we humans are programmed or how we like to act. 

IN fact we tend to try to act like everything is fine-everything is working-everything is going to be cool! 

When that is the complete opposite of what we want to be experiencing onstage in performance! 

In performance we want to be feeling emotions that are… 





That way the audience has no choice but to be swept up in our emotional truth.. 

(“Ive always felt that way but no one has ever sung about my feelings onstage like that!!”) 

..and they start to bond on an unconscious level with us-




(photo courtesy Rose Theatre)

SO as you prepare to the take the stage deep dive into your material and find where the messy chaotic parts of yourself are ignited by the song you are singing! 


...and watch how your audience starts to attract, identify and attach to your work!! 

Its simple all we have to do is LOSE CONTROL! (LOL easier said than done to be sure!)

Message me at to chat about MASTER CLASS & PRIVATE SESSIONS in Preparing For Stage!




The Singers Craft: The Art of Letting Go  


All creative people seek a way to control the process of making art. Just like a sculptor approaching the clay, we singers  are in the habit of shaping, molding or creating a performance.  We believe thats how we can make the music strongest and express who we are to the larger world. To some extent this is true. But this belief (which most of us hold on an unconscious level) is also a way to allow our perfectionist full reign! 

Art built from fear is never as strong as art built from trust- courage- faith. 

By faith I do not mean a religious practice but a habit of letting go and surrendering our "need to be good"  to the universe so that the music can move through us unimpeded. 

However when coming into the presence of a true master singer one notices a peacefulness that seems to exude from them. A stillness that seems almost spiritual in nature. That is because the truly wise among us understand that seeking to control the process is a worthless cause. The truly wise among us are looking for ways to surrender our control when we are singing. We've all heard of the account of the sculptor Michelangelo feeling his way to what is waiting inside the clay to be revealed. 

The actual goal of the master artist is to let go and allow the music to happen with as little "getting in the way" as possible. 

I'm not suggesting we stay so passive that we don't know the words and music properly. In fact the better we have gained an understanding of what we are communicating the better we can let go and deeper the communication! 

Once we have "done the work" then letting go and allowing the music to happen is all we need to do in the moment. 

That's a scary prospect for most of us. Letting Go means having "no control" and that means anything can happen. 

We might sing out of tune, or not come in at the right time. We might end up looking or sounding bad! Sure all of those things might happen, if we are underrehearsed or under prepared. 

However by seeking control we are tightening our reins on the machinery and often creating a “tense and forced” physical approach to making the sound. That means our voices are hostage to our fear and there is no room for the music to happen. 

“Surrender” becomes the key action for us "control freak" artists who seek perfection!

Why Hasn't It Happened Yet? 


A few words about “Timing”. 

Nothing happens until we are ready! We are constantly pushing for our dreams to come true faster and impatient that we are having to wait, when in truth reaching our goals is a slow step by step process, and every step is built on the one before. You don’t get to the top of mountain without climbing every step

Our creative ego’s want everything right now. A manager, a record deal, a world wide tour etc. All of this is good to desire, to be working towards as our vision but meanwhile there is a step by step process by which a career progresses. Knowing where you are in the process and accepting what steps you still need to take is how the winners get to the top of the mountain in this business.

It all starts with the music..... then building a community of support (fans) around that music.

Thats how we find out who the audience for our music is. Thats the first step of developing your brand identity and knowing who you are marketing too.

The first steps of being able to attract an audience to our music is also what industry folks are watching for. 

1000 fans can be turned into a million, but having only 100 fans signals that there is a problem/challenge.

Your job is to figure out whats stopping your momentum! 

If you’re smart about it you’ll adjust either the product (better production, songs, live show, etc) by digging in and making it better OR adjust the way you are telling your story through social media. Usually forward motion will happen because of a combination of both approaches. 

HOWEVER Taking responsibility for whats missing or needs improvement in our work is probably the single most challenging thing to do for artists. Its so easy to get frustrated and blame others for our lack of forward motion.

Asking people we trust what we could improve on and following through to improve our work takes courage, but that is in fact what the winners do. 

Do you know what needs improvement in your work? Lets talk about what YOUR next steps should be!

      Micah Barnes Career Strategy Coaching e mail




 "Why wont they call me back?  How come no one is coming out to the shows? Why am I not further than this by now in my career? "

These are the burning questions most artists will ask themselves...obsess over, stay up nights worrying about..

...when we need to be asking ourselves WHAT CAN I IMPROVE IN THE PRODUCT I AM CREATING?

We are asking ourselves the wrong questions!!

The simple fact is that the deeper we dig in and upgrade our skill sets the more "power and reach" we are creating in our career!   


Having spent the better part of 10 years seeking to empower artists in all kinds of ways I can safely say the most important step first step is for us to take responsibility for where our career is at!

 HOWEVER the simple fact matter who we have working with us as a manager or agent, producer or industry professional ultimately the actual "manager" of our careers and of our destiny is ourselves. As artists we are the owner of the company, the producer of the product and the person responsible for the major decisions in our career. The people we work with on our team only advise and support our movement. 

 So, that means if we don't have our business skills or social media skills or our songwriting skills or our performance skills or our vocal chops together then it's up to us to figure out how to gain or improve on the existing skill set.  


Growth is challenging in a number of ways. 1 ) we are never guaranteed of the outcome so it's not a "for sure" thing when we embark on the journey. This is where most of us fall down. 1) Being patient is not a trait that most artists possess 2) being bad at something is uncomfortable for us, so we avoid the experience with all kinds of road blocks and excuses. 3) taking responsibility for growth means we have to accept blame when stuff doesn't work out. Yuck. 

 The good news is that no one is growing unless they are failing sometimes, learning from their mistakes but making mistakes so they can learn! The bad news is that most artists don't focus on a step by step approach but get overwhelmed with the big picture and stand immobilized while their dreams pass them by.  


When I am working with clients on Career Strategy Issues I ask them THREE SIMPLE QUESTIONS!

 1) Are you willing to take responsibility for where your career is at?  

2)  Are you willing to be honest with yourself about your challenges and be open to receiving new ideas and support in dealing with them...?

3)  Are you willing to experience the DISCOMFORT that growth and gaining new skill sets is all about?

 I'm always happy to work with new clients to help them  become effective in their own careers.

Message me at and let me know what your challenges are! Lets talk! 

Social Media 101 

A Few Words On Social Media 

I deal with a lot of artists who are resistant to using social media- (which is always indicative of something larger in terms of their arguing for comfort and safety and not being willing to experiment!) 

Social media platforms are a way for us to tell our story, build a community around our music and be engaged with the world. But they do ask us to clarify who we are, what we stand for and what we want in our careers! 

Curated with our own sensibilities our social media leads the consumer to recognize and buy into (or reject) our brand. 

SO that means knowing ourselves and our brand -it ALSO means our getting clear about our desire to communicate…. and build a community around our work. 

Thats a tall order for artists just starting out, but if we get it right…it gives us freedom to market ourselves and our work to our audience without a huge expense or a middle man! 

Thin of it as your own storefront on a crowded shopping street! 

Your own TV/Talk show -Your own Art Gallery- Your own Radio Station where you control the content and decide what you are going to program! 


Its hell for perfectionists to start doing something imperfectly in public BUT there is no way to learn unless you get started IMPERFECTLY!!  :) 

Lets agree you are not going to get it right the first week.. or even the first month of experimenting with social media platforms! I know thats hell for most artists BUT thats the simple fact of experimentation and a strong social media profile NEVER happens without risk and play involved!! 



Social Media platforms all have their own unique flavour and ask for different approaches! 

My best advice is give yourself a month to experiment with one specific platform. 

I would suggest following artists who are similar to your style of music and watch what they are posting and how they are using that particular platform! 

Your first goal would not be to gain followers but to find your voice on the platform! 

(Give yourself permission to be “bad” for a week or two while you try different approaches. 

-You an always go back and delete what you decide isn’t working!!) 

Your first steps might be very awkward, but getting used to posting things that aren’t “perfect” is part of that risk muscle you need to get our of your comfort zone and start being messy in the world! 


THEN once you start to feel like your personality is starting to be clear and seems to look and feel something like your “brand” its time to reach out to find followers! Best advice there is to start following a whole bunch of people who have similar interests as you do (using hash tags like #IndieArtist etc to find like minded communities!) Usually people will check out who is following them and potentially follow you if they like what they see. 

Don’t sweat it if your numbers don’t grow overnight. The slow and steady growth is just as important and in some ways can net larger results than quick growth in the long run. 




Your next goal will want to be engagement!  Comment, like, repost etc on other peoples feeds and watch how they start to engage with your posts.  Gradually you will find yourself with a sense of an engaged community. 

Numbers are only important if you are trying to prove you are popular to someone in the industry. My advice is wait to focus on numbers before approaching a label, a PR firm, a manager etc. At that point a smartly planned paid campaign can help bolster your already existing fan base, but you shouldn’t be thinking about that until you have an already clear brand, an already engaged community and a pressing need to prove you have impressive numbers! 

Please note: Buying followers rarely works out in the long run and can make your feed messy and feel fake to even the casual observer! 

KEEP IN MIND Social media numbers and engagement do not necessarily translate to tickets sold for shows, increased downloads or streams right away, it may take years of constant work before you see that kind of result… 

However having an engaged active community gathered around your music online means that when venues, media and industry folks are looking at your platforms they will see who you are, what you are about and that you have a fan base …and thats worth gold …because it means YOU'VE gotten behind your music and your brand and have created momentum in your career! And thats exactly what the industry looks for before working with new talent!

Let me know if this blog has been helpful or if you need more support on your social media adventures! I coach career strategy stuff like this everyday! Just message me at and its talk!


Micah Barnes

Building A Showcase Set: Practical Tips Part 2!  


 What Kind Of A Ride Are You Taking Us On? 

Once you have created a basic sketch of your showcase set sit back and take the time to ask yourself some important questions. 

*What kind of a ride are you taking the audience on? 

*What emotional experiences are you asking them to join you on? 

*What do these songs tell the audience about who you are and your identity? 

IF it becomes clear that the songs are all similar in tempo you will want to consider switching some of the songs in order to build momentum as things progress through your set. If the subject matter of your songs in very similar this might be the time to consider a well placed cover song to help open up the emotional landscape a little! 

You may need to go back and retool your set thinking of the audience and their experience as your focus. Remember the showcase set isn't about YOUR feeling good it's about THEM feeling good! 

As uncomfortable as this process might be, you want to include the imagined "industry professional" (who has seen and heard it all) in your thinking! 

But I Don't Know What To Say! 

What about talking between songs during a showcase set? 

YES we need to get to know who you are, what you are like, whether you take yourself too seriously, whether you are able to be relaxed about the whole thing etc. 

Be very clear on what you want to cover subject wise, ……..rehearse the "patter"as much as the songs! 

Know where you are going in your intro's, otherwise the possibility of talking too long, or not being able to talk at all because of nerves can happen to the best of us! 

My advice for any artist who is coming up to an important showcase would be to play a dozen shows (open mic, opening the show for pals etc) with your stage patter as your biggest focus! 

The audience will forgive you a lot if your killing it musically but there's no guarantee thats going to happen so I recommend plotting your words as carefully as you do your songs! 

Preparation is Everything! Don't Fake This One! 

Start your preparations early enough so there is no last minute frenzy to memorize, finalize or reorganize your set. 

You want your showcase set built and ready to be rehearsed everyday weeks and weeks in advance of your show. 

Practical Tip 1: Don't practice by yourself and think that between you and the mirror you have the whole thing figured out. Take to the open mics, local stages and coffeehouses etc. Use your closest friends and family and perform your showcase set for them and ask for honest feedback. You may not take all the advice but you will certainly have more knowledge about what is working and what isn't. 

Practical Tip 2: I recommend folks start technical warm ups for your showcase show starting a month in advance. 

Do the daily practical work of a physical and vocal warm up over and over so that on show day you already have a ritual that works for you. The idea that on show day you will simply do your warm up and that will be enough is ludicrous and dangerous thinking. Make it a habit and your voice will be a well oiled machine by the time you slide into show day! 

Everyone Gets Nervous: It's How You Handle It That Counts! 

You should know the songs in your set so well that you could perform them upside down in a snow storm and still come off like a powerful relaxed performer. Industry folks know what nerves look like and might be in a forgiving mood but it's the winners in the business that practice like crazy and handle their nerves in a way that allows them to stay present and engaged in communicating their material. 

 A Final Word 

You can't be anyplace you are not, so don't fret about not being as fully developed as you would like to be as an artist at the time of your showcase. Your job right now is to make sure you are creating the best possible representation of where you are at at this present moment. 

AND no fear your showcase will keep changing so it's not frozen once you've built it. You will be working on it for the rest of your career! Good Luck!! 

More things to keep in mind and practical tips coming ! 

Micah Barnes is a voice, performance and career coach whose Singers Playground workshops and private sessions have helped supported thousands of up and coming artists. For more information please have a peek at Singers Playground

Building A Showcase Set: Some Practical Tips (Part 1)  


Giving an audience of industry folks a snapshot of who we are as artists is a daunting task.  However I challenge you to do the hard work of distilling your world down to a short set of 5 or 6 songs. Its a very useful exercise that will teach us a whole lot about what we have to offer our audiences. 

Don't worry about getting it right the first time. The "perfect" showcase set is a rubicks cube that will take time and lots of trial and error to figure out! 


Some practicals: start with the most important songs, the top and bottom of your set. Once you know how you are starting and ending it will help you choose /build the rest of the songs in your set. 

Opening number. Yes It says "welcome to my party" but it also has to tell us what kind of party we are arriving at! 

Your opening song wants to give us a sense of  where we might be going for the next 20 minutes to half an hour. 

It should announce the style of music to follow, but also your identity or personality as clearly as possible. 


Your second tune is more important than you think. It must deepen the story. Unless you give us a new angle or a new level of who you are as an artist we will be bored. Industry audiences like to feel like they've seen it all whether they admit that or not. Its a LOT easier for them to be unimpressed than to be excited about a new artist. 

If they think they have "gotten" who you are they will start shmoozing for sure. Once we have a sense of what landscape an artist is going to inhabit we either stay and hang out there or we move on and start "working the room". 

VERY few artists can hold an industry showcase past the first song unless what they do next is surprising, interesting, 

So make sure your second song deepens the story in some way and doesn't just continue along the same road as your opening number. 


You want a cover tune in your set.  Meet your audience half way with something we know.  Most of us do not want to "waste time" with a cover song in our showcase set. Trust me on this one, you want  cover song in your set. 

We may not ALL be as in love with your songs as you are SO if you impress us with how you handle a familiar piece of material it will go a long way towards winning us over. 

BUT if you do a cover, take time to make sure it's a GREAT fit for your style and really make your version fresh and your own. You may have to experiment with many many songs before finding the right fit. It will be worth it in the long run! 

Where should the cover song sit in your set? Not at the top of bottom, (unless you do something spectacular with the material). Third song may not be a bad place for it. By then the audience may be getting tired of hearing new material and want something familiar. 


The last few songs in your set will want to be the strongest you have. Choose the songs your audiences ask you to perform every show, the songs you know have a little magic in them. If your industry crowd is still listening to you by the last few songs they will want to hear your "big numbers" and will be waiting for them. 

Ending tune is going to be the one you want them to walk away singing. No rules about it being fast or slow etc here. If your fans are telling you about their favourite song.. listen to them and try that song as your ending tune, see how it works in that place. 

Encore. Yes you will need an encore. The chances of an industry crowd giving you an encore are very small but if you are killing it and they are rousing for one more, it's your chance for the winners lap! Give them something really fun, or deep, or powerful that you know will have them celebrating you as their new discovery! 

More things to keep in mind and practical tips coming ! 

Micah Barnes is a voice, performance and career coach whose Singers Playground workshops and private sessions have helped supported thousands of up and coming artists. For more information please have a peek here: Singers Playground

Talking On Stage or "Help! I Don't Know What To Say"!  

Talking On Stage or "Help! I Don't Know What To Say"! 

After all the practice we do to prepare the music most of us are caught in a terrible bind when we hit stage and suddenly have to talk to the audience between songs. As good as our musical performance may be, if our stage craft doesn't include preparation for the conversation with the audience we have left a huge part of our performance up to chance. And that usually leads to feeling awkward, saying stupid stuff we didn't mean, long wandering intro's that kill the vibe etc. The worst is "this next song is called blankety blank, I hope you like it". Although thats where most of us go, it's so cliche and in no way allows the audience feeling engaged or interested. 

My first piece of advice is don't leave the stage patter to chance. 

 You Are The Party Host! 

This is your opportunity to tell your story, let us into your world and who you are as a person and as an artist. 

If you think of yourself as hosting your show the way you might host a party, it will help you make some decisions around what you choose to talk about.  Imagine yourself hosting an informal evening at your residence, greeting your guests at the door. What you say and your manner of speaking lets them know what to expect for the evening. If you give them a little guided tour, taking their coats and asking what they would like to drink you are preparing them for a very different experience than if you tell them to throw their coats on the bed, grab a drink in the kitchen and enjoy themselves. 

Your stage patter is going to let the audience know what kind of a party to expect. 

Bring Them Into Your World! 

Every thing you say reveals more about who you are. Thats why we go to see our heroes in concert. We are eager to know more about who they are and what makes them tick. 

 So it's good to give the audience a window into your world. 

YES They will want to know about your day. What your reality has been about before stepping on the stage. It will reveal more about who you are and why they might want to listen to your material. 

YES They will want to know how you came to write a song.  What you are trying to express and communicate in that piece of music. You are handing them a key to unlock the material when you explain your process. 

Most importantly be yourself. Who you really are is always going to be the most interesting to the world. 

Not your idea of what might be entertaining or engaging. 

Your honesty and integrity about who you are is the biggest gift you can give your audience. 

My Stage Fright Shuts Me Up! 

Most of us find that our nerves are most evident when we have to speak on stage.  The best advice I can give is to make sure you PLAN out what you want to say so you have a basic road map of where you are going. Writing it out and rehearsing it through in advance will give you confidence and provide a place of safety when your mind goes blank. 

If writing out what you are going to say feels too scripted for you at least plan what you want to cover in your intro's, otherwise the possibility of talking too long, or not being able to talk at all because of nerves can happen to the best of us! 

Do I Need to Be Funny? 

No you do not need to be funny. BUT a lot of us use humour to diffuse our nerves and that can end up to be both entertaining for the audience and a release of the pressure valve for us. IF humour works for you when you are nervous on a first date or at a party then it can work on stage too. 

Being awkward and shy, or goofy and ridiculous are all human and can work to our advantage when we aren't feeling confident. The idea is to be as real as possible with your audience within the context of performing for them. They will always be attracted to the truth more than your pretending not to be nervous or scared. 

Keep Solving The Problem! 

So, there are some ideas about how to approach talking on stage. Learning to be relaxed and confident as we talk to the audience is a process and we don't get good at it all at once. There is no right way to prepare for this, no hard and fast rules about how to prepare. 

I suggest you see performers in concert as much as possible for a period of time while you are working out your stage patter. That will give you a lot of ideas about what works and what doesn't and suggest new ways of communicating that you might not have thought have. 

As you try different approaches take note of what seems to work and listen to the feedback you get from the audiences. They will tell you whats working simply by their level of attention and engagement IF you are listening and paying attention to them! 

And isn't that what communication is all about? 

Micah Barnes coaches private and group workshops in Voice and Performance in Canada and the USA. 

For further information please log onto Singers Playground or click here to CONTACT MICAH BARNES

Top 5 Tips for Singers from Vocal Coach Micah Barnes 

Top 5 Tips for Singers from Vocal Coach Micah Barnes 

 Tip #1   The most important secret to being a  good singer is in working your breathing.  If you can breath without tension then there will be no "difficult" note or challenging song that will be outside of your ability to sing it.  Breath is always the answer. 

 Tip #2   Your job as a singer isn't to impress anybody with your voice but instead to make a powerful relationship with your audience. We're not interested in high notes or lung power, we want to get to know the singer as a person. If you are really and truly communicating with your audience they will be yours for the rest of your career. 

Tip #3  Know your material well enough that you can really inhabit it onstage or in the studio. 

Don't just memorize the lyrics, really take the time to understand where the song lives in your own emotional experience. If you are living the song while you are singing then I guarantee your audience will come along for the ride. 

Tip #4  Be smart about what you choose sing! Take the time to figure out what key to sing a song in and which material suits your voice best ...and stick with whats most comfortable for you when the pressure is on.  If you aren't sure what you sound best singing ask your closest friends for their input. Certain voices lend themselves better to certain songs and styles and if you are armed with that knowledge you can put your best foot forward when "important folks" are listening. 

Tip #5 Don't be afraid to ask questions and take advice career wise.  It takes a village of support to make any real success story, so don't get stuck because you're not sure how to go about the next steps. Ask everyone you can and be willing to reach outside of your comfort zones to get the results you are looking for. 

Being willing to take risks is a singers greatest asset… 

Ask about Micah's private coaching and upcoming workshops at Singers Playground!

Developing Our Own Material: (Being Willing To Suck!)  

Developing Our Own Material: (Being Willing To Suck!) 

We're not all composers. But we all know a good song when we hear one. Maybe thats what stops us from taking those first awkward steps towards developing ourselves as songwriters? The first couple of songs we write can feel tentative, unformed and generally leave us feeling like we'll never become songwriters, with our first attempts unfinished and unheard.  Thats normal and a natural part of learning a new skill set, it's really challenging to compare our first attempts with our favourite songs. We're bound to come up short. However there are some ways that we can deepen our craft and get better at it, if we are willing to suck for a while. 

                    No One Gets There Overnight! 

The key is to know your emotional life well enough to be able to boil our feeling in a given situation down to a few simple lines.  Many a great song has been born when a singer trusts their collaborators enough to bring a few snatches of lyric to a musical composer, a producer, a band mate etc and allowed them to help finish it into an actual song. 

Sometimes we can stay in the process and help steer and shape the outcome, sometimes it's best if we get out of the way and let the more experienced "professional" finish the job. That doesn't matter, what matters is that the final product will have some of our emotional life in it's DNA. That will make the song feel closer to our emotional centre and much easier to perform! 

               We Deepen Our Skill Set Over Time! 

However if we are going to become composers there will be a drive to do better, to learn the craft, to co-write with more experienced composers, to learn the tricks etc. 

Practical Coaching Advice: Breaking the Negatives 

Because we haven't "finished" songs that we feel proud of it stops us from investing in the journey. 
BUT in truth the only way we ever get there is to BEGIN! Those few tentative steps we take are the most important ones!  Here are a few suggestions to get you moving!! 

*Keep a "lyric" journal by your bed. Fill it with your dreams and unfigured out feelings..grab a hold of any pieces of lyric that float in for you first thing in the morning. Write and DO NOT worry about how it might become useful as a song. 

*Read poetry to discover the power of language separated out from music. Dive into the world of the word and discover your affinity to expressing through language. 

*Learn to play some simple songs on the piano or guitar and get used to singing to an instrument that you are playing. That will go a long way towards allowing your first tentative composing efforts! 

*If you can't seem to finish songs bring them to a more experienced collaborator and pay attention to the way that they help build the final song from simple building blocks! 

Songwriting looks hard.. but is in fact very simple. Its ALL about trusting your instincts and following you heart. Of course the more experience you have at "problem solving" during the process the easier it gets! But you will never get to your destination unless you START YOUR JOURNEY!