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6 Ways To Act Like A D*ck At A Singer/Songwriter Show

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I’m a singer/songwriter. And a music lover. I’ve played shows in venues from living rooms to arenas. I play with a band sometimes, but mostly I play intimate shows, by myself, in seated venues and theaters. These are some things that irk me and my fellow songwriting gang of acoustic troubadours when we play acoustic shows intended for a listening audience. So, please, for our sake (and the audiences’), refrain from the following when you find yourself at a singer/songwriter’s concert.

1) Be On Your Phone

There is nothing more annoying than looking out and seeing your face illuminated by your phone. Am I boring you? Please leave. There are other people who paid good money to be here who would like not to be distracted by your texting, tweeting or whatever the hell is obviously more important than this song I am currently pouring my heart into. When you go to an intimate concert, put your phone on vibrate or turn it off completely (gasp!) and keep it in your pocket. If you want to take it out for a few seconds to snap a couple Instagram photos or take a video of a song, fine. Post that to social media and help spread the word. But let that be a very isolated, quick moment. And for god’s sake turn the flash (and sound) off. Every time you take your phone out you leave the moment that I’ve worked so hard to create – and you bring others with you.

2) Talking

I can hear you. Even if you’re in the back by the bar. Notice that no one else in the place is talking. Most of the time everyone is respectful, listening and silent. But occasionally, you get that oblivious group of d-bags who stumble in, say “what the hell” to the $12 cover, order a round of shots and disrupt the show for the entire room. Whispering a few statements to your friends at your table about the song or story I just told is totally fine. Starting a therapy session with your BFF about how you, like, just don’t understand what your boyfriend is thinking, is not.

3) Heckling

We tell jokes. We talk quite a bit in between songs. We ‘work the crowd’ if you will. But, like a comedian, it’s a one way show. Discussing things happening in the room is not an invitation for you to begin a public conversation with the guy on stage.  If you must get your thoughts out publicly, use Twitter (quickly). I don’t want to have to make my show about you. But I will if you make me. And you won’t like it.

4) Requesting A Cover

We’re singer/songwriters. Please note the second word in our title. Don’t come to our shows and expect cover songs. I usually fit in a cover song or two per show for fun. But by requesting cover songs says to me “I don’t like your originals, I’d much rather hear my favorite songs.” If you don’t like my originals, why are you here? The only exception, is if I’ve made a cover song my own and perform it regularly, then, maybe, if you’re a die hard, requesting this song is ok. But even then, it’s safer to just pick your favorite original. If I play that cover, well, then, it’s a happy surprise.

5) Leaving In The Middle Of The Show

If you’re in the back of a dark theater, don’t worry about it. I can’t see you. But most venues I can see most of the audience. If you get up and leave, even for a piss break, I’m going to see and most likely (jokingly of course) call you out on it. You’re now a part of the show! So be prepared. I don’t play for a very long time. There’s plenty of time before my set to pee. I get it, sometimes you have to wake up early, but come on, most singer/songwriter shows don’t go that late. You can suck it up this one time, on this one night.  If you leave, I’ll think you hate the show. It will rattle me. And once you leave, I’ll most likely make the rest of the set about you and your weird button up.

6) Getting Drunk

Sure have some drinks. That’s wonderful. Support the venue. I’ll have some with you after my set. But know your limit. A singer/songwriter show is not a rock concert. There’s no mosh pit. For some reason, the ones who tend to get drunk at concerts are the obnoxious drunks. They get loud. They start to heckle. They yell to their friends right next to them. And they get a little too close to the stage. Dude, it’s a seated show. But props on making it all the way down here. That took quite a few steps in one direction!

Photo is by Gadi Rouache and used with permission.

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

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Comments (35)
  1. Anonymous

    You call out audience members for using the bathroom? At least now I know not to come to your shows.


    Reply
    1. The Ghost+Of+Jerry+Garcia

      LOL ! :-)


      Reply
    2. GGG

      I got called out for walking out of a show one time because the guy was shitty. Then he was dropped from his label about 3 months later. So guess I was right.


      Reply
    3. Willis

      Solution – drop trou at your seat and take care of business in the direction of the stage.


      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Just cause you are up on a stage in a spotlight doesn’t mean you are the center of attention.

    This the big stage here boy!

    If I show up to your show you must understand, I’m starring in my own movie, you’re just background noise at best these days! Be happy at the exposure you’ll get and deal with whatever shit gets tossed your way, it’s entertainment at the end of the day.

    All these arteests want me to come out of my pocket to satiate their ego and then supply me with all these rules of what I can and can’t do?

    You an indie muso, the fans pay your rent and food, it’s about them, it ain’t about you!

    You can hear someone talking? Oh dear God no, not everyone in the room is idolized by you, enamored with your guitar strumming. Sorry to not be treating you like Jesus himself, or Michelangelo chipping some gorgeous statue, sitting in silent awe struck amazement, too busy to talk because their minds are contemplating whether or not you are the resurrection of Jesus right in front of their eyes, oh god forbid. Try some drums! Maybe you need some gear with more headroom so you can turn it up!

    If I’m in the front row and want to leave, I’ll make sure to walk up on stage, announce to the audience, shake your hand and saunter out the door.

    That being said I wouldn’t do most of the stuff cause I’m a man of respect, it’s just the level of self importance and entitlement some of these arteests have is sickening.

    ;)


    Reply
    1. Nicholas Shattuck

      “Just because you are up on the stage in a spotlight doesn’t mean you’re the center of attention”

      False, that’s EXACTLY what it means.


      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        hahahahahahaha

        Hey if that’s what you think, then more power to ya.

        lol

        Funniest thing I’ve heard all day.

        Anyways, Keep on believing!


        Reply
        1. GGG

          I mean… I get what you’re trying to say I guess, but yea…if a bunch of people convene in a venue for the sole purpose of watching/listening to a person sing songs on a stage, then yes, they are the center of attention. That might be the stupidest thing I’ve seen you say.


          Reply
          1. Anonymous

            All depends on how you look at it.

            Really it’s just a wee tiny little stage on the real big stage we all act on.

            I’m glad people feel that way though, let them take the heat!


            Reply
            1. Nicholas Shattuck

              Wait was this article entitled “6 ways to act like a dick in LIFE” or ” 6 ways to act like a dick at a singer/songwriter SHOW?”


              Reply
        2. Willis

          It’s true, or at least it should be. I don’t go to shows to hear the people next to me talking about their day.


          Reply
  3. Amy K

    7) Singing along – loudly and drunkenly. I don’t go to these shows to hear the audience singing.


    Reply
  4. Paul Resnikoff

    Are phones in the air a big problem at singer/songwriter shows? Seems like mobile etiquette might be higher among that crowd.


    Reply
    1. GGG

      From my experience, 99% of those crowds are respectful, but then even if you have 1-5 people talking, it just makes them even more noticeable because everyone else is dead silent. It’s almost better to have a constant club white noise going on. Almost.


      Reply
  5. Frank

    Great post dude — reminds me of that magazine article Jimmy Page wrote during the recording of LZ’s debut album. Oh wait sorry he was busy composing and producing songs – my bad, can’t wait for your next blog post


    Reply
  6. Some logical ass

    Lol you sound like a halfway dick of sorts, so your article might be self addressed. I get your points, but too sensitive about certain things in my opinion. Reality is, people will leave, people will talk, people will drink (who knew bars were there?), so try and tone it down a bit, yeah?

    Even though the spotlight is all about you, the rest of the environment is not. And I’m a halfway dick for reading this.

    What on earth will I do?


    Reply
  7. Halfwaydickx2

    What an entitled a-hole. So, care to swallow a bit of modesty with that pompous self righteous attitude. No, you don’t deserve shit. If the music is good enough, those who are disruptive will either embarrass themselves out of sheer impoliteness to fellow guests, or they will shift their behavior on their own accord. You have assumed the lowest denominator of intelligence amongst your crowd, and have such a degree of self importance that you are insulting bad mannered attendees. You are lucky enough that people come to see you. Instead of gratefulness you’ve vomited such a degree of arrogance that I hope–for your sake–that people don’t associate your blog with your music. Because then they’d see what a critical impatient almost rockstar you are, with a complete and utter lack of humility. It gives a bad name to those pursuing the arts: that they really are just a bunch of egomaniacal assholes.


    Reply
    1. indie dude

      I left half way through the article talking on my phone eating a sandwich..sorry Ari..now I NEED to get drunk :)


      Reply
  8. Steve

    7) Be the singer/songwriter.


    Reply
  9. music fan

    Mostly good points – but calling someone out for having to go to the bathroom? That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think?


    Reply
  10. Grinder

    Ari, there are consequences for mediocrity.

    Anyone who came to judge paid for the privilege. If you don’t like their votes, maybe try better material. Do you think Paul Simon would have this problem?

    Covers might not be a bad idea.


    Reply
  11. Willis

    Bottom line is that artists need to understand that these thing actually happen. It’s reality. Deal with it and stop whining. Everyone else does.


    Reply
  12. Chris Standring

    It would be a perfect world if those who came to a show took the level of respect that you would like. People have way too many distractions now and little patience if they are not immediately stimulated. It’s a me burger with I sauce. So there is a better way to look at it. You don’t demand that respect, you have to earn it. And you can do that by being charismatic and brilliant. Create some mystery and intrigue, get people fascinated. Draw them in. And it won’t happen over night, but it’s better to focus on you,not them.


    Reply
  13. Willis

    Blah blah blah – while it sucks and it is rude that most of these things happen, artists need to suck it up and deal.


    Reply
  14. Chandra

    I’ve been to one of Ari’s shows and it was great.
    I’ve also been to a lot of other concerts.
    The things that Ari points out aren’t just about the comfort of the artist. They’re also things that annoy other ticket holders… except for the bathroom break. Sorry, Ari, but the amount of bathroom stalls seems to be in direct correlation to the size of the venue so, in the rare event that I have to use the restroom, I try my best to avoid standing in a line 40 women long… especially since I am (unseen to the naked eye) handicapped. If I have to, I try to wait until the start of my least favorite song and make it back before the next song.
    Recently, I went to a Goo Goo Dolls/Daughtry/Plain White T’s concert. My tickets, in a respectful-of-others environment, would have been awesome seats. Just 2 rows back from the VIP section.
    Sadly, in the self-absorbed world that we live in, the seats sucked because the VIPs (who had a nice table with a view directly eye-level to the stage from a seated position) decided that they wanted to stand for nearly the ENTIRE concert. While standing (not dancing, mind you, just standing and hugging each other), they cell recorded almost the entire thing. It was one thing that the barmaid in VIP was always walking across our vision but to have this couple there the whole time was a completely other thing. On top of it all, he kept yelling things at the bands like they could hear him. NO, they can’t hear you, DUDE, so shut the f*** up. Instead, the drunker he got, the louder he got.
    Yes, I could have done the same thing so I could have seen over the top of the VIP’s heads but that would have left everyone behind me for the next 2 rows in the same position that I found myself in and I have enough respect for the people around me to not kill their concert just because mine was killed. Instead, because of my inability to see the artists and my handicap, I left the concert about 20 minutes early. In my opinion, I paid to see them live and, if all I can do is hear them and that’s if Mr. VIP Big-Mouth shuts his mouth, there’s no point in sticking around. I can hear that on my own speakers from my own playlist.
    So, if you think Ari’s being self-absorbed with his criticism, you might just be the person who’s annoying the artist AND all of the other ticket-holders around you.


    Reply
    1. Miss Meaghan Owens

      So as a performing singer songwriter myself I can understand the frustration. We all need a little reminder to be respectful of one another once and awhile, from the performer to the audience, to the staff at the venues. As far as the bathroom situation goes…..I have to agree with this lady. Be a girl at any venue packed with people, and realize that standing in those lines sucks. Nature calls, and personal health is a non-negotiable for most people. This isn’t Catholic School, it’s music. People should be allowed to get up whenever they need to. Yes, I agree it can be distracting, but curbing that distraction is one of the challenges of being a professional performer.
      BTW I loved your Hollywood Bowl Post and so many more …. but I think you lost people with the bathroom part.
      Mahalo for opening the discussion


      Reply
  15. Cynthia

    Chandra is totally on the mark. If you don’t think the artist is the center of attention, and deserves to be, you are one of the assholes that has RUINED 8 out of 10 concerts I’ve attended recently. If you want to talk and drink go to a big club and stand in the back since you don’t care about the music at all. Let those of us who do come FOR THE MUSIC, and paid just as much for our ticket as you did, enjoy what we came to hear.


    Reply
    1. Ralf

      I think a lot of the people who are gabbing the whole time were either comped the tickets or those who’s partner wanted to see the show but the gabbers aren’t particularly interested.


      Reply
  16. MICK

    I’ve played about a hundred acoustic shows around LA in the last couple years and for me the thing is:

    YOU’VE GOT TO EARN PEOPLE’S ATTENTION AND RESPECT

    Don’t get drunk? Don’t go to the bathroom? Are you serious? Who do you think you are?

    Do you think your songs are THAT good that they demand everyone’s undivided attention?

    No, if people in the room are LIKING what they are hearing they will shut up and listen.

    An engaged audience is a PRIVILEGE, not a right.


    Reply
  17. Chandra

    Some of what you are saying is true but, IMHO, you’re just nitpicking.
    I don’t think Ari is talking about a night where you know you’ve bombed for whatever reason (equipment malfunction/completely wrong crowd/rained out in an open-air venue/etc.). He’s talking about the self-absorbed jackass that uses every excuse to get drunk and act like an ass. The guy (or girl) who spends so much time on his phone that it should be implanted into his head. The one that thinks the whole world revolves them and that we all want to hear their opinion or latest gossip or whatever… so long as we get to hear their voice. (Can you feel the sarcasm?)
    I don’t care if you’re not “feeling” the artist. I don’t care if it’s your bachelor/bachelorette party and you want to get totally smashed. I don’t care if the artist is not “engaging” YOU. I don’t care that your BFF’s boyfriend cheated on her. I didn’t pay to hear your voice. I paid to see/hear the artist. If I’m engaged in what he’s doing, please have enough respect for the artist/person next to you to leave the venue (preferably before the show starts) so I can enjoy what I’ve paid for.


    Reply
  18. Hank

    pretty brave Ari, this not-so-tacit admission that your music/performance isn’t very compelling


    Reply
  19. y'all momma

    If you didn’t suck I wouldn’t play on my phone, get drunk, heckle you, hit on your girl, and then leave early. Good music keeps me entertained and honest.


    Reply
  20. Anonymous

    What you describe is the ideal scenario and if you want ideal – heaven is ideal!


    Reply
  21. Mike

    Yeah, this is an ideal best-case scenario, presented as a somewhat condescending, authoritarian list of Commandments. I feel alienated both as a performer AND as a fan of live music.

    Ari, man, I get and agree with most of your points – but your tone calls for a reality check. You point out valid things that can seriously suck for the performer as well as the rest of the audience – but I think you lost the baby with the bathwater by playing the righteous preacher on this one. I’m assuming you’re frustrated, possibly over something that happened recently – bit that particular frustration literally comes with the territory of being a performer and playing small(re) venues.

    You can’t make THE WORLD behave better, as much as you might like to. You can only do your best and hope that regardless of any distractions, you still get through to the fans that matter.

    I’m usually a big fan, but for me, this post totally missed the mark, and I think you’d stand to benefit from an attitude adjustment. This one’s not on us, pal – it’s on you.


    Reply
  22. Scott

    You want people to not talk, use their phones, and leave during the middle of your show? The easiest solution would be to put on a better show. If people are tuning out, there’s something about you or your music that’s not catching them. This article is basically blaming the blaming the microphone for you singing out of key. Maybe think about fixing your songs to hold people’s attention before criticizing the most important feedback on your craft you can get – audience engagement.


    Reply

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