Making great music often requires uninhibited self expression. As musicians, we create some of our best work by removing filters on our thoughts and actions. If we come up with ideas that don’t fit the larger context of our work, we easily discard them later. But when it comes to the things we talk about on stage, that same unchecked expressiveness many of us use to write, record, and produce music could end up alienating our audiences and potentially damaging our careers in more serious ways. If you’re new to performing live, here are a few things you should avoid talking about when you’re up on stage:
Mistakes are inevitable when it comes to live musical performances, but drawing unneeded attention to your on-stage mishaps is completely avoidable. When you’ve finished performing a song that, in your mind, went horribly, the last thing the audience wants to hear is your excuses and apologies. The average concert-goer doesn’t have the musical training to recognize musical mistakes, especially if your music isn’t widely known. If you or your band makes the glaring sort of mistake that stops a song in its tracks, under certain circumstances it might be in your best interest to briefly explain what happened to the crowd to ease tensions, but then you should move forward with your set as quickly and unapologetically as possible. Listeners want to hear you make great music, not explain yourself when you falter.
Badmouthing the crowd or venue
Negativity is unbecoming of a band, especially when they’re playing on stage. You might have completely legitimate gripes against the audience, venue, or even your bandmates in some cases, but taking time out of your set to bring up your complaints to the audience won’t bode well for you as a musician. When you talk badly about a venue, for example, they’ll be much less likely to have you back in the future, and they could even tell other venues not to work with your band. And bad mouthing the crowd is always a terrible idea. There’s no situation where insulting or criticizing the people you’re trying to connect with through music will work out well for you and your career. Every time you perform publicly, you run the risk of putting work out there that people don’t like. Lashing out at the crowd will only make things worse if your show already isn’t going well. If, for some reason, the crowd you’re playing for is so disrespectful that it’s not worth it to play, you’re better off wrapping up your set early instead of calling out the audience.
Playing the victim
Another bad topic of on-stage discussion is sharing thoughts with the audience that are centered around your band being a victim in some way. That huge record deal that fell through, why you’re being unfairly overlooked by blogs, playlists, and radio, etc. This and many other subjects seem to be focused inward, which doesn’t benefit the audience. Make your listeners your complete focus during your performances, and avoiding these topics while playing live will come naturally.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.