1. We’re Having Technical Difficulties
Even if your guitar just caught fire. Well actually, that would be hilarious if you said it then. But when bands sheepishly admit it into the mic, it’s uncomfortable and kills the vibe. Technical difficulties are your fault. Even when they’re not. It’s your stage. It’s your show.
You should know your gear inside and out. If something is cutting out or screeching or feeding back, you should either know immediately what it is and be able to remedy it in 13 seconds or know how to quickly figure out what it is.
It’s your job, as the performer, to command the attention of everyone in the room from start to finish.
2. I Forgot The Lyrics
The worst is when singer/songwriters sing a line like “I forgot this next line la la la.” That is so annoying. Not funny. If you can’t memorize your lyrics then bring a lyrics sheet on stage as reference. Or make shit up on the spot.
The only thing worse than shitty lyrics is forgotten lyrics.
3. I Want To Thank My Girlfriend
It’s like having a one on one conversation with someone in the audience off the mic. Uncomfortable for everyone else in the house.
Leave her out of it. It makes you look whipped. If she did something truly awesome, then you can say something like “we’d like to thank our friend Sarah for getting this song into the hands of the music supervisor at Parenthood.”
If your girlfriend needs to be publicly thanked for her support then you have bigger issues you have to work out.
4. I’m Sorry
Don’t ever apologize on stage. It makes you look weak. I don’t care if you just dropped a baby. Don’t apologize.
Making excuses for your shittyness makes everyone in the house uncomfortable and feel bad for you. I hear it all the time: “I forgot the rest of the song. Sorry.” “I’m sorry if this song sucks, we just wrote it.” “I’m sorry there aren’t more people here.” “We haven’t rehearsed this much, it might suck.”
Own the stage. Own the room. Own your set. Or don’t show up.
5. Your City Sucks
Should be a no brainer, but I can’t tell you how many touring bands I’ve seen make fun of the city they are in – ON STAGE. It may be fun to joke about in the van, but your audience takes pride in their city. No matter if you think their city is cool or not.
Never say anything negative about the town you are in while on stage unless you want a beer bottle thrown at you.
6. This Song Is About My Grandma Who Died Of Cancer. Love You Nana.
Don’t depress your audience. You can play a song about your dead grandma, but you don’t need to tell the audience that’s what it’s about.
People don’t pay money to come to shows to be sad. They come to be happy. To have fun. To be enlightened. To be inspired.
If you can’t communicate the power of your song by just playing it, then maybe the song isn’t really that good.
7. I’m Broke
Don’t make your audience feel bad for you. It removes the mystique and coolness factor. You can say “help us get to the next city and pick up a T-shirt.” That offers an emotional appeal in a positive light.
But saying “we’re broke, so buy a t-shirt,” just turns your audience off.
Guilting your fans into buying your merch never works.
8. You Guys Suck
Even if 95 out of the 100 people are screaming above your acoustic set while smashing glasses and vomiting in the corner, 5 people are engulfed in your set. Never insult your audience. They always have one ear to you – even if you are just background music.
You may think no one is listening, but you’ll be surprised at how many compliments you get and how much merch you sell once you hop off stage.
9. Any Requests
You’re never going to get the songs that you actually have prepared and there will always be that one asshole who yells “Free Bird” as if he just came up with the joke.
Play your set as is. If someone drove 300 miles to hear one song, she’ll yell it out whether you ask for it or not.
10. How Does It Sound
This is a slap in the face to the sound guy. Never ask the crowd that. It should sound amazing. If it doesn’t, then it’s either your fault or the sound guy’s fault. Either way, you just pissed off the one person not in your band who can actually make you sound WORSE.
Photo by meddygarnet on Flickr used with the Creative Commons License
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter who has played over 550 shows and the creator of Ari’s Take. Listen to his new album, Brave Enough, on Spotify. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake