Encore: When Bands and Artists Return On Stage

Posted on September 9, 2022

If you’ve ever attended a concert, you’ve very likely encountered an encore. An encore is for many the highlight of a concert and an important part of a good show. Let’s see what an encore is, where the practice comes from and when bands and artists do or do not give an encore.

What is an encore in music?

An encore is a performance by a band or an artist at the end of a concert where the players come back on stage at the audience’s request. The audience’s clapping, chanting, or shouting are ways to let the performers know they’re wanted back on stage to play more.

Encores are often planned beforehand by the band and in some cases, the band may return to play more than just a single encore. Some bands, such as The Cure, have taken this to the extreme, sometimes playing up to five encores at the end of a show. Nowadays, an encore by the concert’s headliner is expected and most bands and artists save some of their biggest hits or fan favorites to be played during an encore.

The origin of the word encore is in French where it means “again” or “more”. However, the French don’t use the word encore the same way in concerts as people do in many other countries.

What is the purpose of an encore?

Encores used to be spontaneous and not usually planned beforehand by the performers. Instead, the band would return on stage to honor the audience’s request and reward them with a song or more. However, nowadays most concert-goers know that the band is going to return at least once more.

So why are encores still a thing?

Simply, they’ve become a part of a concert’s script, a thing the performers are expected to do. Because most encores are no longer spontaneous and genuine, some performers have voiced their disliking of them. Some who have grown disillusioned with the current practice of encores have argued that they’re nowadays a way to feed the performers’ egos.

However, encores are also a way for the band to have a break and catch their breath before the show’s conclusion. If the encore is an authentic one, which can happen at smaller shows, the band may play a song again if they noticed that the crowd enjoyed it the first time around.

When do bands and artists not give an encore?

There are instances when the performers don’t perform an encore, even if the band and the audience would want one.

  • Time limitations. When playing at a festival, the schedule is often tightly booked and there is no room for additional songs to be played at the end of a set.
  • Headliners and supporting acts. Similarly, there may not be enough time to play an encore if the band is supporting another band and playing before them. On top of that, the headlining band should be the highlight of the show so having the supporting band play an encore could be seen as stealing the spotlight from the main act.
  • No demand from the audience. This is the least likely reason for no encores, but the band won’t come back on stage if the audience does not ask them to. After all, in order for there to be an encore, the audience has to be the one demanding the band back on stage.

The lack of an encore has led to one of music history’s most iconic quotes. Elvis Presley famously never played an encore. This was intended as a tactic to leave the audience wanting more once the show had ended. Instead of an encore, an announcement would play stating “Elvis has left the building”.

Learn about encores and other music terminology

Like the word encore, the names of many other musical terms come from a language other than English. To read more about encores and other musical concepts, visit Yousician’s Musician’s Glossary. There we have listed more useful musical terms every aspiring musician should know.

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