Making and performing music seriously is something bound to leave a person with some sort of emotional baggage at some point. The frequency and severity of disappointments an average musician routinely faces on the path towards making something meaningful happen with their music is so significant that it causes most songwriters to throw in the towel eventually, even if they’re capable of making great music. But letting go of emotional pain and learning how to not take your frustrations out on your audiences is paramount in helping you to become a successful musician, and the idea of giving your audience a clean slate during live performances is especially crucial. Here’s why:
Frustration isn’t entertaining
If you’re trying to make and perform meaningful music in 2018, you most likely have a lot to be frustrated about. There’s been some notable bright spots in the music industry over the last few years, but between more people making more music than ever before and listeners shifting towards music streaming over buying albums, small artists continue to struggle. And even without concerns over how to make a living or just break even making music, songwriting and performing can be hugely difficult.
But rather than showing your frustration, if you’ve got a respectful audience listening to you play, what you should be doing is reflecting your gratitude. Sure, you might have a few people at your shows who know and intimately care for you (parents, spouses, kids, etc.), but most members of your audience just want to see and hear great music being performed. You might have every reason to bring frustration and hurt into your performances, but those sort of raw feelings don’t make for better shows. Making music and practicing are for you, but live performances are for your audience, so don’t take out any hurt feelings or frustrations you might have on them.
The songs you’re sick of playing are new to listeners who’ve never heard of you before
For touring bands especially, playing the same music night after night makes it difficult to view every show as a clean slate, but that’s exactly what you’ll need to do if you want to get the most out of your performances. Rather than giving in to the tedium and predictability of playing the same material over and over again, try having empathy for your audience. Put yourself in their shows and play your music in a way that imagines what it would be like to hear your songs for the very first time. If you’ve been performing the same set for a while, you’ll probably feel jaded, tired, and over it, but if you’ve got an audience willing to listen to you, then you owe them your very best.
You never know who’s watching
You should approach each of your performances with passion and curiosity because you never know who’ll be in the audience. Give your audience a mediocre performance, and you run the risk of blowing it in front of someone capable of helping to further your career in music. But even for shows that are filled with regular old concert-goers, making every performance a clean slate is vital in honoring the people who take the time to listen to you. Every one of your listeners should be important to you whether they’re from a thriving record label or if they’re a family friend. Learn to have respect for your audiences, and you’ll have a much easier time approaching each show with enthusiasm and seriousness.
Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.