10 Things You Should Never Say On Stage

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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 Significant Other

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 them out of it. It makes you look whipped. If they 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 significant other needs to be publicly thanked for their 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

160 Responses

  1. daryl shawn

    OK, this is my *favorite* post of yours so far, Ari. I’ve cringed so many times at my fellow musicians.

    This should be pasted to every monitor.!


    Daryl Shawn

    • Kickei

      I use ” Is this On ??? Is this On ??? Can you guys hear me ??? how’s the sound everyone, can you hear me ok ??? Can you hear the band ok , are we too loud ?? I need your help letting me know so we can all have a good time… ? 9 out of ten times it will be dialed in just right so I know we’re good going in but I use this to Involve the audience with crowd participation and get their sponsorship in sound levels , it puts management at ease to see the crowd responding saying yes and giving you thumps up. It works to brake the ice, crack a joke or two – If the crowd is cool with it then we’re good to go. I always use it and it’s not about a prima dona sound guy that thinks it’s all about him – It’s about involving the crowd right from the start. Anything is better than ” How’s everybody doing tonight ??? ” Be Different !!!

  2. mesmix

    Oh no, have totally done 10 before… I claim beginner ineptness! I send apologies and chocolate bars to all past sound people. This article definitely takes a saucy slant though – been carrying these pet peeves for a while? 😉

    • NitroBlownBass

      I think #10 is ok to do, if, as a band, are having to handle your own sound. If you have a sound guy, let him do his job.

  3. Williams

    I want to do all this stuff!The cool thing of this is do it all in the same gig! AND play awsome.

  4. Anonymous

    Was at Mike And The Mechanics gig in Aberdeen a couple of weeks ago.

    Said if it’s Tuesday, it must be Perth.


  5. River Waters

    That’s it. I’ve had enough of these newbie articles. There is a place for them and they may be beneficial to some, but they have nothing to do with digital music. It has nothing to do with Ari. This is an editorial problem. I’m unsubscribing.

    • hank@nv.net

      Good point, especially when an author can’t be bothered to proofread for literacy.

      “Don’t every apologize on stage.”

      How about, “Don’t ever post some lame list without having a third party proofread it”?

      And there are larger matters here. “Desolation Row” can be heard as a very depressing song. There is more to music than poppy feelgood escapism that is oblivious to real world issues.

      In the end does your own audience find you entertaining for some definition of that word? Do they find you worthy of their attention? That is what matters.

      • Dan K.

        He never says not to play depressing songs. He specifically says “You can play a song about your dead grandma, but you don’t need to tell the audience that’s what it’s about.” The point is that your music is where to express your emotion and your banter is where to show your audience that you’re a cool person they should talk to at the merch table after the show. Ari’s articles are about how to make a living as a musician, so these tips should be read as “what you can do outside your music to make a connection with your audience that will keep them coming back.”

        • mike

          If your Gwar playing a song about your dead grandma might be considered cool…who knows..lol

        • lnigh

          The whole point in this debate …’He never says not to play depressing songs. He specifically says “You can play a song about your dead grandma, but you don’t need to tell the audience that’s what it’s about.” ‘… is that individual members of the audience tend to associate songs with their own personal “life events”, meaning each song may mean something a little different to each person. Why risk losing that attachment and sense of “WOW, he/she knows just exactly how I feel…”? Just thinkin’ out loud..

          • RhondaRhinestone

            True, but in an age where people DO want to know the context of things a narrative performance isn’t that bad of an idea, showcasing each song as a chapter in your life. It can be done in a captivating way. One must have creativity and not be the type to hold boundaries against the dreamer… like the author of this article.

            If art or performance has rules count me the fuck out!

    • Anonymous

      I don’t know about unsubscribing yet, but performance advice for musicians really isn’t what I’m interested in, and it’s definitely not why I subscribed to DMN in the first place.

      • JR

        Performance tips and tricks are definitely analog issues.

        • Dan K.

          And Crimea is not in New York, but there it is on the front page of the New York Times. Expand your horizons a bit, it’ll do some good. If you’re serious about making money with music, understanding *why* you shouldn’t say these things on stage will help you build relationships with fans offstage and online as well.

          • Anonymous

            I’m already making money with music, thanks. And I’ve been doing it long enough to know that, as many other comments here illustrate, every one of these “shouldn’t”s doesn’t apply across the board. If the piece were better written, it wouldn’t have provoked all of those. “Never?” In music performance? Really?

            I’ve also been a reader long enough to know that not every article in every publication is going to interest me. But a publication that’s delivering a significant amount of stuff that I’m not interested in isn’t going to hold my interest for very long.

            If the point of running more of this kind of stuff – another comment calls them advice listicles, which made me laugh – is to have more original content, I’m more likely to keep reading DMN if the content relates to me as a member of its audience, which the “about” page describes as “highly-targeted decision-makers from every segment of the business, spanning major labels to artists to garage start-ups.” Beginner artist advice, whether it’s sound or stupid, doesn’t really address most of that audience – and if this is the direction DMN is going in, I’d say that most of that audience won’t be around for very long. At least, I won’t.

          • Georgiann

            I think if I went to see someone who followed all these rules, I’d be bored very quickly…

          • Kojo

            Hey, next time include your actual name and maybe the author will contact you personally to okay the content with you. Better still, he can name the whole blog after you and only include pieces that pertain to you. That would make us all very very happy indeed.

    • DonkeShern

      Sheesh. Your comment belongs in an article entitled, “1 thing to say to prove you’re an arrogant SOB and drive off potential customers.”

  6. Anonymous

    I think I saw a Replacements gig where they broke everyone of these rules. And it was awesome.

    • Scott B

      Amen. Be spontaneous and genuine on stage. If you try to fake “everything’s OK,” you’re not going to fool me anyway.

    • Johnny C

      That’a awesome, screw this hateful writer and their sh1tty rules!

  7. Anonymous Prime

    I saw John Mellencamp a few years ago. Surprisingly great show. In the middle of it, while he was singing “Little Pink Houses,” he started singing some random line, stopped and said, “Oh fuck, that’s not right.” It was hilarious. He seems to have done okay for himself.

    • Donovan

      Yeah, it goes along with: “Own the stage. Own the room. Own your set. Or don’t show up.”

      I think if you’re confident and successful to the point of not giving a fuck anymore, then you can break all of these rules.

    • Randy Hansen

      Well there is a difference between a star like Mellencamp making a mistake and an unknown doing it. For a star it is appealing every now and then because it makes them seem down to earth and human like the rest of us. For an unknown it looks unprofessional.

  8. Anonymous

    easy on the normatives … girls and queer guys are in bands too …

    • NBDS

      You just left out homo girls on purpose, didn’t you?
      The article is fun to read and helpful, because there will always be beginners in music gigs.

      • I am also anonymous

        um yeah, because they’re covered by the normatives Anonymous is talking about. Girlfriends.

        If it really ‘makes you look whipped’ just to thank your girlfriend, which, surprise, surprise, can be done on your own initiative, I certainly don’t want the author of this article in any of my audiences, not that I feel the need to thank my significant other anyway. But if I did, I would, and that would not make me ‘whipped’. This writer needs to read some lists on how to not come off as an arrogant jerk.

        Although I get that some bands/singers are definitely working the arrogant jerk angle.

        • Mark

          Funny thing is, most of the article seems to revolve around appearing cool. Anyone trying that hard to be cool, really isn’t anyway lol

  9. Dan Hylton

    Thanks for this, Ari. The main takeaway, I think, is very much in support of performance guru Tom Jackson’s philosophy, which is: Don’t do anything to compromise your authority.

  10. Beefus

    #10….Unless you’re in a small club and don’t have a sound person

  11. Robert Merrifield

    Remember those lyrics! Except for David Lee Roth whose ‘”I forgot the f*&#*n’ words” bit has been a hilarious part of his schtick since the 80s. “To the chorus!”

  12. Robert Merrifield

    Remember those lyrics! Except for David Lee Roth whose “I forgot the f****n’ words has been a hilarious (IMO) part of his schtick since the 80s, “To the chorus!”

  13. Disgruntled

    A nice article that is doing its job to maintain musicians as either something to be revered, and also to further misogyny in the field. Congrats. Sarcasm.

  14. Who Me?

    Who’s the ugly chick in the picture? Is she the one who threw up on Lady Gaga last week?

    • Trouble In River City

      Funny. Looks like someone walked in on her taking a dump.

        • Anonymous Prime

          It’s the truth. Ari said as much on his Facebook page. (Yes, he still uses Facebook, even though it’s dying.)

  15. Talent Buyer

    You need to add onto #5 – Don’t insult the venue that you are performing in. Don’t insult the staff. Don’t insult other bands performing on the bill or in other rooms of the club.

    Insulting the venue can get mics turned off faster than you can imagine.

  16. Anonymous

    who ever wrote this is a fucking MORON, and probably has never played a notew in their lives…shut the ell up twit!!

  17. David

    I see so much of this. One band mate had his back toward the audience because there was the TV in back.
    So sad.

  18. churchlady

    Apparently Ari has an endless supply of these advice listicles and Paul’s going to run them as long as they get page views. By December we’ll be reading 10 Places To Take A Dump While Traveling To Your Next Gig.

  19. Will

    I like all these pointers except I disagree with #10. A live show (particularly if
    It’s a smaller venue) probably has the bartender running the show. True he is the gatekeeper for sounding good for the night but the show is about your fans and audience, not sparing a sound guys feelings. Besides if you really feel bad after helping him do his job. Tip the sound person at the end of the night and everybody goes home happy

    • rlheim

      Tip the soundman? I’ve been doing sound for 30 yrs and NEVER got a tip. Lots of compliments, never a tip ,or even a free beer from the bands.That one is funny! But, go ahead piss off the soundman……….

  20. Randy Hansen

    As far as #6 goes, I don’t have a problem with a few sad songs in a set in order to provide some contrast. The problem I have with a song that is introduced about something like “Nana who has cancer” is that it’s dreadful pandering and an abashed sympathy grab. I was once at an open mic and the singer introduced the song as being about “a young girl with downs syndrome who just discovered she was a lesbian”. Delivered totally in earnest without an ounce of irony. Not that I don’t have sympathy for such a person or wish her the best, but certain subjects make for a good song, and others make for a better Saturday Night Live skit. The song was patently awful but everyone felt obligated to applaud because of the pandering intro.

  21. Brian H

    Rubbish. New Order made a career out of doing all of these things and more, repeatedly. And stopped doing many of them when they became “well established”.

    So from New Order’s habit book, you can add
    – During one performance, Gillian took out sandwiches and started eating them while playing the synth
    – Bernard forgetting everything during Procession at Glasto 1981, making a few dog howls into the mic and throwing himself on the floor for no good reason (this one’s actually on YouTube)
    – Calling their audiences a bunch of counts with no o
    – “I’d complain to the promoter about the fvcking heating in this place” (once in Dublin)
    – Gillian frequently testing which sounds the sequencer was patched to *during* performances of songs
    – During a performance of Chosen Time, Bernard laughing into the mic as the band totally fvck up every element of the song possible, and keep going anyway
    – Dedicated a gig to a convicted drug dealer (Reading 89)

    In fact they (and many other bands) have done all 10, repeatedly, and it has been nothing short of hilarious. I’ve been to a ridiculous number of shows and have never once known anyone to have a problem with any of these things at a gig. Sounds like personal peeves of the author and perhaps a minority of infrequent gig goers.

    • joe livoti

      depends on the act, though. you expect the sex pistols to tell you you suck. but, i saw a famous surf guitarist once at a big club that cost me a pretty penny. the whole gig he was bitching to the soundman and lightman. it got old, and after a while cast a pall on the show. also, i thought it sounded fine. never would see the guy again. the audience doesn’t want to see you pissed off onstage.

      once, at an iggy pop gig, i was up front and he took a huge swig of whatever he was drinking, and spit it out all over the audience. it got a mixed reaction. i wasn’t stoked, and really, wanted to just punch him in the freakin face. didn’t really want his body fluids getting on me….

      • HypeFeeder

        Well that’s just it isn’t it? It’s all down to how you say something. Some people have the charm, some people don’t.

  22. xroadie

    Re #10: I always responded with a slight pitch change on the lead vocal in the house PA. How does that sound, dickless?

  23. baltimore musician

    I find almost every point in here totally nonsensical. It’s completely subjective depending on what kind of venue your in and what kind of music your performing. There is a time and place for any or all of these to take place the only one I can think of that would would warrant an exception is a 200,000 person stadium performance and if your at that level most of this is either common sense aside from the fact that you could do and say whatever you want and the audience would be fine with it. I advise up and comers to just go to lots of shows, figure out what you like to see on stage and model your stage presence around that. Not take in a quickly executed list of generalized BS and instead actually hone your own persona.

  24. sparky

    Yea..? Well I’m not sorry ok – I agree with everything except – who sells shed loads of ‘merch’ these days?.. hmmm..? WHO!??

  25. sparky

    The problem with not wanting to appear weak – is that we end up with loads of bands posing like hard men for their photos and they all look like a bunch of insecure c@cks…

  26. Garry Simon

    Forgetting the lyrics of a song is definitely something I’ve done one or twice.

    • Anonymous Prime

      Clearly, that makes you a terrible musician. If only we could all be Ari Herstand!

    • joe livoti

      one of my first gigs as a kid, i was so nervous, i started playing “Proud Mary” and started singing “Gentle on My MInd”. (yes, it was a long time ago). everyone started laughing, (it was a talent show), and i fled the stage. realized i should get a singer.

  27. Borf

    My best gig ever was when I add-libbed and replaced all the words with unflattering anecdotes about the audience including bartenders. They all loved it. And every time I’ve forgotten lyrics and started singing about that very fact I got more laughs and smiles than any other time.

    Sometimes there is no sound guy and the PA hasn’t been fixed in years and it keeps cutting out. There’s only so long you can keep pretending you “own” that.

  28. me

    Tips are useful and all, but they are opinions after all. And how about not expecting yourself to be perfect when you’re onstage? The writer of these tips sounds as if it’s your final kiss of death if you say any of these things. I remember one “tip” I read that stated your audience doesn’t expect you to be perfect, so if you make a mistake, you don’t NEED to apologize.

  29. Rene Labre

    This is kind of newbie,I don’t know what the pic is suppose to mean.?? To say the wrong things on stage can lose the gig,get your ass beat,kill your tip jar.ect.ect.Some things that happen,if you play it off right,can be touching and very funny!When you are on you are on.you ought to be reflecting that you enjoy what you do.Much of it also depends upon your audience and what they are expecting.Maybe your rep is to act crazy ya know.Generally speaking if you are being all negative talking between songs your show is going to be a downer and you are going to alienate the audience.it is pretty stupid I think, to treat the sound people,if they are not yours,badly,they want you to sound good so they sound good.If you are going to act like a prick to them and you get all kick drum in your vocal monitor.Providing them with a case of cold beer is a good way to show that you are cool..

  30. Alexander Worth

    What a whole bunch of horse shit. Seriously. Sometimes bad things happen at gigs. Sometimes no one’s listening. Sometimes you’re broke and can barely afford to eat. How you deal with any of this is up to you – not some self-righteous neverwas massaging his own ego.

    The first rule of performing as a live musician is to be yourself. If you go up there and lie, hold your tongue or generally dance around a subject you actually want to talk about, the audience will know and will immediately stop caring as everything you say from that point on isn’t considered genuine.

    Pretending to be something you’re not is the number one reason people don’t make it anywhere, and this is a fucking guide to it.

    • Georgiann

      I completely agree with you! I’m a fan, not a musician and I disagree with pretty much everything on this list. I want to see real people on stage.

  31. Brook

    It’s ok to ask how it sounds. Ya gotta care. What if you are running your own sound off the stage? But yes, saying you are sorry and pandering is a drag. How about getting drunk onstage? is that ok?

  32. jade

    Yup, this top ten is right on. Leave your self doubt at home. It’s not inspiring.

  33. joe livoti

    I once saw joe pass stop in the middle of a song and say….”i forgot what song i was playing”. everyone cracked up, and then he said “i know so many songs, and a lot of them have the same chords”. then he just started ripping again. but, hey, it was joe pass. it was a privilege to see him.

    on the other hand, i once saw a jeff beck/santana gig. beck said nothing. came out, kicked ass for an hour, put his guitar down on the stage, walked off and left everyone slack jawed and bug eyed.
    santana came on, talked about the whales, george w. bush, and god knows what else. i split.

    for me, rule #11; leave your political views, social issues, environmental agendas, etc, home. if you feel so strongly about it, do a benefit. at least i’ll know what’s coming. for $50 a pop, i just want to hear some tunes.

    • Georgiann

      I saw that same Beck/Santana gig. Not at the same venue, as Santana played first at the show I was at. (I think they switched order from city to city, as they were co-headlining.) As far as I’m concerned Carlos can say whatever he wants, and I would stay until the sun comes up…he’s the man. I loved them both; the whole show was amazing. One of the best concerts I’ve been to…great concert memory.

  34. joe livoti

    oh, and one more, while i’m ranting: let’s get everyone to sing along! first this side! now this side! now the boys! now the girls!
    what is this, freakin’ simon says. you’re getting paid to entertain and play, not me. i’m a jazz guitar player, not really a sing-a-long type guy. i pay to hear other people sing because my singing sucks. so leave me alone, and do your show.
    there, now i feel better.

  35. Turtletits

    I always yell “Can you guys see my cunt from there?” And I’m a guy.

  36. Aaron Butcher

    Thank you SO much for this list! I plan on going back on the road soon and I’m going to actually put all 10 of these ON the set list as part of the show! Why, you may ask? Because I play Rock music and my “fans” will appreciate the irony, being that they are not total morons. Also, we play a KILLER version of Freebird and will play it anytime someone asks. 20 times in a row, if necessary to please the crowd. I once played Knockin on Heavens Door 12 times in a row because the door guy had just died on the premises earlier in the day. The owner tipped us 3,000 bucks. Good luck with YOUR music career, Dearest author. I use the term “author” loosely and with venomous sarcasm.

  37. Tony Rey

    These are clearly aimed at touring musicians who are probably playing their own music and, in that context, I completely agree with the list. However, as a workaday musicians who plays cover songs for a living in small environments, I have no shame in falling back on 1-4 when necessary. The key here is that I’m connecting with my audience from the first moment I speak into the microphone (and yes, I’m running my own sound). Make friends with the people right off the bat and you can get away with uncomfortable, unfortunate moments without the usual tension. It’s all in the delivery.
    And, naturally, I do solicit requests (#10) on a regular basis even though I know there’s a good chance I won’t know the song they’re going to ask for. But I might and if I don’t, at least it gives me a gauge on what they do want to hear and I can steer my song selection in the right direction.

  38. AL

    Actually I disagree with 10. How Does It Sound – saw that happen at Opeth show, the crowd said it sounded bad and started chanting “Fix the sound”, it got better in less than 5 minutes, the guy was asleep at the wheel before that.

  39. Ray

    “Zeppelin” is the “Free Bird” in my neck of the woods…

  40. Anonymous

    i do a lot of gigs where i am both the drummer and sound guy…bout the only time i might ask how it sounds

  41. Syl

    Once, in the middle of a song, i excused myself, and proceeded to piss in a beer mug , for lack of toilet facilities at the venue,, does this apply ?

  42. Christozh Chaos

    How about you not tell me how to speak into my mic while I’m on stage. I like to play the heel sometimes at shows and it gets results.

  43. Philip Giglio

    When I was younger. I worked as a roadie, Then I did lights for bands in clubs and on the road,Red hot chili peppers fishbone. I toured with Teenage head, Long John Baldry The original Deserters. This was a fun read because none of the acts I worked for did any of this. Long John Baldry Walked onstage. And Announced Ronald Reagan has been elected President of the Unitrd states, “Lock up the border. Cathy Macdonald his back-up singer was crying in the dressing room. She perfomed impecably that night. At the end of the show she told us she had to gt her kids out of california.

  44. Anonymous

    Number 7 is too obvious. You are musician, of coarse you’re broke.

  45. JohnnyK

    This is quite inaccurate. I’ll agree with some of it. Like outside and songs out to your dead grandmother. But people like to see human emotion and life mistakes. That’s all part of the theater. Not a very well thought out post. Just my opinion. Best of luck.

  46. Anonymous

    Can I add a things that pisses me off? Get your crap on the stage quickly, and get it the hell off the stage quickly. I was in a band that took sooo long setting up we would have our set cut by 15 minutes. Then we took soo long getting off the stage we cut into the next bands set. Gotta say that doesn’t make friends and fans think you are dumb shits

  47. Trevor Reichman

    I disagree. It is refreshing when a performer is honest with the audience. If they forget a lyric here and there, it makes them human and means that they are not using a teleprompter. If they ask the audience whether the sound is good, it is often because they are doubling as their own sound person and can’t hear exactly what the audience hears and wants their feedback so they can make it a better listening experience for them. This is not American Idol, or a sport. It is a human exchange between musicians and an audience. The human flaws are often the icebreaker and what creates a connection between the performer and the audience. To try to cover up obvious mistakes and problems with the sound just makes for an all around awkward experience. Be Human. Be Real. That’s what music is about.

  48. Shannon

    Most of these suggest that, by uttering these words, the audience is often made to feel “uncomfortable”. If we as an audience are so easily made uncomfortable, perhaps we need to revaluate our sensitivity issues. Besides, the greatest artists are the ones who draw out emotions in others through their performances and general stage behavior. Sometimes those emotions are discomfort. I’m not saying this list is inaccurately describing how eye roll-worthy it is to hear some of this stuff. I merely think it’s a tad dramatic.

    • Mike

      I’d say this is more of an issue to other musicians than a band’s audience. Who is more critical of musicians than other musicians, whether they’ll admit it or not.

  49. Mike

    The worst I’ve ever experienced in a band was seeing our lead singer look at a player when a mistake was heard. Talk about no class! BTW, this singer forgot lyrics way too often. What a *ick!

  50. ross

    I once saw Joni Mitchell in Houston, she asked the audience if they wanted to hear some ‘rock & roll’…The crowd responded with a roar & she said “OK then I will get off the stage”. Then she walked off!!! She eventually came back and proceeded to reprimand the crowd before continuing.

  51. Moonpi

    Mostly good advice. Best to never say more than a sentence at a time on stage. Nobody wants to hear you talk. If your Mic is mixed correct, they shouldn’t understand you when you speak anyway. Unless you are doing an intimate “songwriter-storytellers” gig, nobody wants to hear a story. And you should have every song memorized, unless you are a “request machine” band, or if you are just debuting a new one, you can have a cheat sheet.


    Add, “Sure! We know Mustang Sally!” And “What do you folks wanna hear?”

  53. some guy

    #11 don’t let people tell you how to act on stage.. its Fuckin rock and rolL!!

  54. Strata

    John Grant is really honest on stage, he tells stories about his life, some depressing stories, some funny and of how the songs came into being through his difficult experiences. Suzanne Vega does the exact same thing.
    It is utterly captivating, sometimes uncomfortable but always honest, uplifting and human. Life holds difficult experiences for everyone as well as good ones and I think this really connects the audience with a performer as he is real.

  55. Tits McGee

    This line – “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”, was not written by a musician. That’s completely ass backwards. Doesn’t matter if you’ve had the same gear for 40 years – cutting out, screeching, and feeding back are all the sound guy’s business. I’m not going to acknowledge it unless it happens a 3rd time or carries on for more than 1 song. Even then, I’m sure as fuck not going to hop off stage and run out to the soundboard to make sure he’s got it all sussed out. Here’s something for the list. Never say the following to a sound guy – “Hey man, I was just noticing you got some pretty serious “wheeeeeee” going on at like 2k, bro. I can get it for you if you’re having a beer with your lady, no worries. K, cool.”

  56. Anonymous

    I have number 11 – “How’s everybody doing tonight?” Talk about opening yourself up to ridicule. Besides, you’re on stage, can’t you SEE how they’re doing? Dumbass.

  57. Dan

    …and don’t shut off the mic switch and stare daggers at the soundman when your mic doesn’t work on cue. He’s 150ft from the stage and can’t help you.

  58. Root Dorn

    You totally forgot one “TESTING, TESTING, CHECKING, CHECKING…” Gotta hate that. If the mics are set up and you take the stage, you should BE ready to ROCK!

  59. Alex Rawls

    My favorite: Bands that tell you how many songs they have left. It always sounds like an apology for taking up the audience’s time. Saying “We have a couple more” isn’t egregious, but I once watched a band announce, “We’ve only got seven more.” That should never happen.

  60. Bluesbass

    Two points. We usually don’t have a sound guy and, strangely enough, when everyone is playing or singing we can’t hear what it sounds like in the audience. So, it’s how does it sound or we simply hope it sound good.
    Second, and this has happened, we plug the soundboard into an electrical outlet that was faulty and kept cutting out in the middle of songs but was fine when we stopped playing (it must have been the vibrations). That was a technical difficulty that was beyond our control and, at first, left us baffled but trying different outlets worked.

  61. pezdspencer

    I once saw Rod Stewart. He was sick and made a point of telling everyone. After that, that is all I could focus on. I watched every move to see if he screwed up. Very annoying.

  62. nobody

    How about the set up if it sucks statement by your front person. I’m really hurting right now but i’m still gonna do this one for you. Please don’t.

  63. James Leslie

    I remember seeing Death Cab at Bumbershoot a few years ago. Someone who apparently had no knowledge of local artists had booked them to follow United State of Electronica and then BE followed by the Presidents of the USA.
    They performed well, but it was a little weird seeing them have to apologize for being a relatively depressing interlude between two party bands.
    I kinda felt bad for them.

  64. Rocker

    I call bs on this article. Do what you want, as you want. You’ll either gain fans or lose ’em. You work out what works for you and your vibe. Punk wouldny have existed if they listened to toss like this article..

  65. Anonymous

    “People don’t pay money to come to shows to be sad.” Nonsense! Then how do you explain Sigur Ros?

  66. kENTb

    “Ladies and gentleman, I’d like to take a moment to say how sorry we are for the technical difficulties we’re experiencing. Your ears are not playing tricks on you, I DID forget the lyrics and the ones I remembered were jumbled in the house mix. Anyway, we’ve got a lot on our minds since our manager passed away. We just learned he’d been embezzling our operating account so we are literally bankrupt. We have to cancel all of the cool cities that we were going to play and had to focus only on small towns like yours, because everything is cheap. I’m sorry if we are not playing up to our ability. In fact, my girlfriend wanted us to skip this stop, but I said you guys don’t know the difference good music and bad, so we should probably stop cuz we might be able to sell some more t-shirts. Despite her efforts, I want to dedicate the next song to her. Even though your city sucks as bad as we do right now, we’re going to keep playing on.

    Any requests?”

  67. randyallen

    so many critics of critics….anyway i do notice that most of these tips while interesting to consider are usually best learned by actual experiencing and encountering audience reaction that will learn ya quick or you’ll tuck your tail and quit…it’s really not an activity for the faint hearted…but the challenge to pull of a good performance is half the fun and you know when you do or ya don’t…it’s all good..beats workn the salt mines.

  68. DadLysle

    As a spectator I have a very strong Pet peeve about lighting. I want to see the performers.
    I have gon to some very prestigious shows and who ever did the lighting set the lights behind the band and all you could see were siloetts and then they turned up the power on the lights and pointed them at the audance, Now we couldn’t see a thing and we were left temporly blinded for an additional minute untill our eyes recoverd from the visual overload

  69. DadLysle

    And while I am at it, if it is a tune with vocals, Please Let us hear the words instead of burying the vocals with the music.
    And I have gone to gigs were the music was NEVER below 110 DB.
    When a record is cut you can easley hear the words, why not do the same at a live performance? or can’t you sing?

  70. Anonymous

    All good stuff…but 10. I am the bassist but also sound guy…mixing from stage. I need the audience input on how the volume ,inst balance is…

  71. drummerfromhell

    I just recently quit a band because of this and he was a supposed band leader this was his own music mind you and he broke about 8 of these 10 simple rules and he forgot more of the lyrics than the fu**ing crowd did ….pitiful… GREAT list

  72. Dan

    As for #10 the worst way to piss off a sound guy is to have a member of your band say “Hey, I’m a sound guy too” and then proceed to to try to tell the guy how to do his job.

  73. Sparky

    Screw this article. I will apologize when I truly feel sorry. My ego will never out weigh my ability to be humble.
    I am guilty of several of the above mentioned.
    And have been blessed with die hard fans and
    Ever growing new fans. It’s rock n roll.
    I agree with this but only to a point. To place to much
    Thought into it is just nuts. So I’m afraid I have to leave the author of this list
    A great big kiss my ass! And your own. Thank you and have a great
    Evening. And I am sorry for your lacking ability to spell check.

  74. alejandro

    What a trash post. Talking about coolness so often, that it sucks. I don´t know if this has been written by a north american, but most of the outer – american world doesn´t give a shit about being so cool. It bis nice to admit weakness and be natural, that doesn´t mean you will not be respected as an artist if you are good.

  75. Luke

    You know, when one of my good buddies passed away a couple months ago, I played a show at a bar the night after his funeral and dedicated a song I wrote to him. It helped bring me closure and it just seemed like the right thing to do. So you can fuck off on that front. I play the songs I enjoy playing, whether the crowd likes it or not is regardless. The minute I change my act to mimic whatever everybody else wants to see or hear then I will no longer get any joy or satisfaction out of doing it. I’ll be just another puppet on stage, butchering classic rock songs because I have no fucking desire to play them in the first place. This is mostly why I don’t play at bars anymore is because that’s all anybody ever wants to hear anymore. I agree there are things that should and shouldn’t be said on stage, and if you do happen to say certain things on stage you’re gonna have a bad time mkay. Trust me, I’ve done it. But I also know that at the end of the day, I had enough balls to get up there alone with a guitar and sing in the first place, so even if people don’t particularly enjoy what I’m playing I don’t care because I feel good about having done it.

  76. Frank Perri

    No need for an entire article. All every performer has to remember is to always respect their audience.

  77. 545

    #6 is absolutely wrong. I come to a live show to listen to live music. To me, music is generally about emotion. It doesn’t just have to be happy or positive emotions.

    For example, when I saw Iced Earth, they played a ballad called If I Could See You. The frontman announced that the guitarist had written it for his grandpa, who had just passed away. The song was one of the most moving and emotional experiences I’ve had at a live show, and all the more powerful because we knew /why/ it was so sad.

  78. Joe Strummer

    Horseshit, Rules for Rock’n’Roll now? Get a haircut!


    I don’t like musicians who judge others by saying: you shall do this instead of that!,
    even worse: musicians who take theirselfes too serious, if you’re not able to have a good laugh
    bout your mistakes on stage and desperatly trying to hide your “fuck ups” just to look cool & big on stage,.. you’re just a cheater & wannabe. As long as it’s competent & entertainy it’s worth doing it, anyway!

  80. iPhoneMusician

    I love the photo! Brilliantly funny. “You guys suck” – When one band member stops playing and exclaims such before storming off stage is always hillarious, especially if the band really sucked. #iPhone #iOS #Music Rules!

  81. Bengt

    Number 1 rule:

    Never follow or listen to a “10 things… -list” from a musical nobody.

  82. KooKKy

    Um, what if you really do have technical difficulty?

  83. Anonymous

    This guys a real perfectionist. I get most of them, but you blame almost every freak happening on the person playing. I’ve forgot lyrics to cover songs before, I spontaneously covered “floaty” by foo fighters and forgot how to play the whole bridge section cause quite frankly I forgot it existed. Shit happens, and this is the guy in the audience waiting to criticize you over his coffee. Idk, I could stereotype him more but that’s pretty much worthless here. Cause remember guys, when you go up there very nervous for your first time, if you fuck up “it’s all your fault!” Thanks Ari!

    • Rob


      Grammar is important. Especially when you’re tossing out insults.

  84. CJ Marsicano

    I’ve seen all of this happen, and as a musician I can understand both sides of most of these issues. But #8 is the stupidest thing to do – just ask Geoff Tate.

  85. Tony (Veilside)

    As a lead singer, the one that bothers me is #2. Sometimes, one of the guitarists will pick a song and start playing it (a cover) and I may or may not know the words but it’s spontaneous, it’s usually not at all in our style/genre, and I may flub the hell out of the words. The point is…..it’s fun, it gets people laughing, and has become somewhat of a staple to our show…..it’s a great icebreaker and shows the band actually enjoys what we’re doing. And now, the fans usually give the guitarists song ideas to see if they can stump me.

  86. Tony Miles

    I think an artist can get away with breaking every one of those rules but it’s inversely proportional to how famous/popular they are. One thing I do believe in however is caring about your audience because iic you don’t then they sure as hell won’t care about you 🙂

  87. ?!?!?

    I’ve never seen so many negative, ungrateful, assholes in my life! If you do not like a certain article/piece, move the fuck on to the next !!! Get out of your parents basement, and get a “real job & life”. Stop bashing other people’s work. I think the article was very entertaining and informative at the same time. Keep up the great work!

  88. Mark

    #2 – I can’t believe that you’re actually suggesting to bring a lyric sheet on stage. There’s nothing more pathetic. I’d rather see someone forget a few lines than read them off a sheet

  89. Ryan

    Sorry, but you’re wrong about #10. There are a great many “sound guys” out there who don’t have a professional bone in their body, some of whom are the regular “friday night guy” at a venue. When you learn who in your market just absolutely either A. sucks or B. doesn’t give a shit it becomes important to ask the crowd if they can hear everything. Sorry, but i’m more concerned with my fans enjoying the show than I am with protecting some local knob-twister’s ego.

  90. B Trammell

    All good points I would add a couple. 1] Don’t shout into a microphone. Microphones were invented to allow you not to shout. When you shout into them. It makes people want to punch you in the crotch. If you feel you must shout to express excitement or whatever, take two steps back from the mic before doing so.
    and 2] Don’t try to out-loud the crowd. It doesn’t work, even with 800watts in your P.A. system. If the crowd is wanting to be loud, your turning up will only make them shout over the top of you. It will also create hostility in the room in general, even among people trying to listen to you. Plus, if your music and performance is not enough to corral their attention, maybe you’re not right for that room. We’ve all been there a few times, but if it happens over and over…..

  91. boob

    Don’t take this advice. Learn from (YOUR) Experiences NOT FROM A WRITER THAt Dont know your experiences

  92. Brett

    The response to “FREEBIRD” is to show them the middle finger. 20 years ago I was in a thrash band (in Florida) so of course some one yelled “play some Skynyrd!” Which we did a short thrash version of Sweet Home Alabama. Wish I had a recording of that.

  93. Anonymous

    How about ANYTHING POLITICAL! I’m paying for entertainment, not to listen to you lemmings babble political catch phrase nonsense or bumper sticker/slogan intelligence that you don’t have the experience or exposure to understand anyways.

  94. aladin

    @aristake well i don’t know from where to start this pile of fascist shit it’s really embracing and i blame the lamo who shared this shenanigans on facebook … you are repressed and it’s glaring instead of vent your frustrations by writing bullshit on internet take a vacation, eh ?

    ciao imbecille

  95. Anonymous

    Never stop the band in the middle of a song if your having problems. Get through it and move quickly to the next song like nothing happened. Never bring attintion to your mistake during your performance.

  96. RE

    A lot of entertainers do apologize if they take a breath in the wrong place. We always tried to do our best and remember, the public is ignorant.

  97. bobz

    lame and telling the crowd theres ‘technical difficulties” its perfectly ok. especially when its just a string break or whatever. it can be an opportunity for the band to poke fun at themselves or each other and create a bit of humor. certainly better than being a take yourselves too serious band.

  98. Branski

    We open every gig by thanking Paul and Digital Music News – not.

  99. MH

    I’m sure if you thought about it, you could have phrased #3 with a little less sexist bullshit. What year is this? Oh wait I forgot, Trump is president.

  100. Rob

    Lame. Completely devoid of being clever or entertaining. ??

  101. Candy

    5 things you should never write in an article about musicians:
    1. Never refer to ALL musicians or sound professionals as men, multiple times, It will piss off an entire gender of the music industry.
    2. Never dictate who a musician can or can’t dedicate a song to onstage. If it’s depressing, then so be it. It’s all about bonding with the audience, not being disingenuous.
    3. Never tell a musician how to handle his or her audience when a technical difficulty arises or a song lyric is forgotten. Again, this is what makes them real, and more connected with their audience.
    4. Never tell them how to perform, or what to say, or what to do onstage, in general. It’s their show and they are not robots (unless they’re Kraftwerk.) Musicians are artistic beings who are there to express themselves.
    5. Never say never. There are no absolutes in music.

  102. V

    If you have a technical difficulty and there’s a technician in the house, let the technician do it.

  103. Michael Holt

    Dear Ari,

    I disagree with a couple of the points you’re making here, but I don’t like to get into online arguments. Would you be open to having a friendly conversation about them non-publicly, via email? Then, if we come to an understanding, or simply agree to disagree, one of us can post something about that here. My name is Michael, I’m a performer, and my email is pianotroubadour@gmail.com. Thanks very much! – M

  104. Doug

    Good Advice. Keep your act professional. I have seen musicians burn down on stage for less. Of course nothing is absolute. There are always exceptions. But not in my band. Keep your mouth shut, your opinions to yourself, play the music, and at least act like you’re having a good time!