10 Biggest Mistakes Musicians Make on Stage

Smashing GuitarThe only way to build a name for yourself and your music is to play shows, and lots of them.  Performing is an art in itself, and that leaves a lot of room for variation.  However, many musicians and bands succumb to the following mistakes that could make or break your relationship with potential new fans.


1. You take too long between songs.

Whether you’re chatting up the audience, retuning your guitar, or introducing the next
song, it’s important to keep gaps in music brief during your set.  Extensive lag time between songs is the easiest way to lose an audience member’s attention.  They’re there for the music, not to hear you dedicate a sentimental ballad to your first girlfriend.


2. You tune while your amp is live.

No one, anywhere, at any show–EVER–wants to hear you tune your instrument.  TuningBuy a pedal tuner and use it.  If you invest in a quality pedal tuner, you can adjust your tuning on stage quickly and discreetly, and it should last for years to come.


3. You don’t respect the other gear on stage.

Another band’s backlined amp is not your personal table, so don’t put your beer (or anything else) on it.  Don’t throw your sweaty shirt on the club’s monitors.  Don’t climb the PA speakers, don’t swing microphones by their cables, don’t kick mic stands, and don’t spill your drink on anything you don’t own.  Use common sense and be respectful of other people’s investments.


4. You start late or play over your allotted set time.

Starting your set late gives the audience a longer opportunity to decide that they don’t want to watch your band.  It’s also rude to the sound engineer, the club, and the other bands on the bill.  The same goes for playing longer than you’re supposed to–you’re taking time away from the other acts and throwing off the schedule for the whole night.  Time your sets and know when to get on and off stage.


Insult 25. You complain to the audience.

It may seem like partying and being broke are part of the rock-star-in-training lifestyle, but your audience doesn’t want to know that you’re drunk, poor, or sick.  They’re there to have a good time, not act as your therapist.  Never tell the crowd that you’re under the weather, intoxicated, or hard up for cash.  It comes off as desperate and can do irreparable damage to your image.


6. You ask the audience how it sounds… but not the sound guy.soundguy

Your crowd doesn’t mix live music for a living, but your sound engineer does.  Let him do his job and trust him to get the mix for the room right.  Otherwise, the sound guy will be annoyed at best, and resentful at worst–which can negatively affect your show.


7. You insult the club, the city, the other bands, or anyone else.Insult 1

You are a guest in this venue that has graciously offered you the opportunity to perform for its patrons, so act with courtesy and remember that there are ears everywhere.  Even if you thought the bartender was a jerk or think the neighborhood you’re playing in is run down, don’t risk hurting someone’s feelings and losing a potential fan or friend.


8. You let band drama out over the microphone.

Band fight 2Maybe your drummer made out with your girlfriend, maybe your guitarist crashed the van, maybe your singer didn’t help load in the gear.  It doesn’t matter.  These are issues that can be discussed with one another in a private setting.  Don’t let interpersonal disagreements ruin the show you put on for the audience–they don’t care.  They want to hear music.


9. You don’t thank the club, the crowd, or the other acts.booing1

Be grateful for the opportunity to play at this venue, to the other bands for bringing their friends and fans, and to the crowd for spending their valuable time watching your set.  And then let them know you’re grateful.  They will appreciate it.  Manners go a long way in this industry.


10. You’re too drunk to play.

DRUNK man with guitarThere’s nothing wrong with partying at your shows, but save it for after the set.  You’re there to do a job–to entertain the audience–and you can’t do that when you’re hammered.  You wouldn’t show up to work half in the bag, so why would you act any differently when you’re showcasing the music you’ve worked so hard on?


By Darko Zoric

Singer/Performer & Principal of JumboNote Music School


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