I have played many live shows where I have seen bands do some unprofessional things. A lot of these things are simple things that can be fixed. Most of them will improve your overall image as a professional musician and improve. Some of them will improve your relationships with other bands as well. Here are 10 things you need to stop doing on stage immediately.
Being too slow to remove your gear after your set
This is a big-time no no if you are in the first part of a multi-band show. When your set ends then you need to remove your gear as fast as you can in order to get the next band on stage. If you are too slow then you are affecting the following bands’ set. Either they will have to start late, or play a shorter set to make up the time. The bands following you will remember this and probably choose to not work with you in the future. I’ve played with a band once that did this all the time. There were notorious for ending their set and heading straight to the bar for drinks. The next band would sit waiting to load their gear onto the stage while that band’s stuff was sitting alone on stage. If I talked to other bands around the area about that band, they all noticed the same bad habit. We all never shared a stage with that band ever again.
Be courteous to your fellow musicians and remove your gear right away after your set. Maybe even ask a friend to help during tear down to speed things up. You can pack up your things quickly, and then enjoy the rest of your next without screwing over the other bands. Bands will notice this. Trust me.
This item is a personal pet peeve of mine. Have you noticed how amateur bands tend to start their show late? Have you also noticed how big-time professional shows seem to start right on time? I sure have! I really appreciate when things are happening when they said they would. Nothing is as frustrating to me as a musician as when I plan a whole day around show times and then things change last minute. Sometimes you can’t control these things, but try to keep things on time if you do have control. Don’t wait 45 minutes to start your show because your girlfriend hasn’t arrived yet. She knew when you were supposed to start and she chose to miss it. If people aren’t arriving on time to see you play then it isn’t a priority to them. You stalling only makes the people that are on time mad about not hearing music when it said there would be music.
Tell people you won’t do well on the next song
Take some advice from the book The Art of War and act strong when you are weak. A live show can be a lot like a battle. Never show your weakness to your audience. If you know your vocals aren’t strong that night because of a cold, don’t tell your crowd that this next song will suck. Let them figure it out. Most people won’t ever notice what you notice about your own flaws on stage. Don’t help them to notice by putting a spotlight on mistakes that haven’t even happened yet.
Stop a song and restart it
Never ever stop a song once you’re started just so you can start over. You had your chance and you blew it. Get over it and come together to finish that song as strong as possible. Odds are, some of the people didn’t even notice how junky that start was anyway. Stopping abruptly and restarting will do nothing but point out to everybody that you screwed up. Act like nothing is wrong and people will forget about it. Just make a mental note that your band needs to work on that song harder at the next rehearsal.
Chat amongst yourselves for long lengths of time
Your time on stage is relatively short. Make the most of it. Never take time out of your set to chat with your bandmates about things you could talk about after you are done. Having a conversation that excludes your audience will ruin the fan experience. Always include your audience in your conversations on stage and they will feel like part of the band. You should always be aware of the fan experience and be looking to delivering the best one possible.
Leave the stage to get a beer or use the restroom
Leaving the stage to grab a drink or use the restroom is the sign of a true beginner. I’ve only seen this a few times in my life, and it is always bands that I will never see again. You are on stage for usually a somewhat short amount of time, so make the most of it. You can order as many beers as you want after you’re done. If you really need to use the restroom during your set then you didn’t plan well. I don’t recommend not using a bathroom in an emergency, but I know there are performers who would rather pee their pants on stage than leave during a song. Just be smart about your schedule and plan accordingly. Your show should take priority.
Figure out how your equipment works for the first time
We all love new things. Musicians especially love new instruments and gear. You’ll want to play with your new gear right away but fight that urge to flash your shiny new toy. Find out if that new guitar or drum or whatever works exactly like you think it should before you put it on stage. Nobody wants to watch you read the manual so you can figure out how to turn on your new amazing effects unit during your set. Not being 100% comfortable with new gear is also a distraction and can make your live show suffer. One of the worst shows I’ve ever seen was performed by friends of mine that thought it would be a good idea to try out their new in-ears monitors for the first time at a show. They spend most of their set fighting with the soundman only to abandon the in-ears halfway through their show. Take the time to really know your instruments and gear before you include them in a live setting.
Act like you don’t want to be there
If you are at a gig then make the best of it. Don’t act like a baby even if you are at the worst gig ever. Learn your lesson and never play that gig again. In the meantime, go out and play like this is the best place to be in the world at that moment. You might even surprise yourself with the results. I can’t tell you how many times my band has shown up to a show that on the surface looked like it was going to be a nightmare and then turn out to be one of the more fun shows we had played that year.
Put your drink on somebody else’s amp
This one is a personal pet peeve of mine. I’ve been in several situations where my amp was used by other bands during a multi-band show. Sometimes, it was to save time during changeovers. Other times it was to help a friend whose amp died right before a show. Either way, I’m doing somebody a favor and expect that my equipment would be respected. The last thing you should do is ever put a drink on top of any electrical equipment. Putting a drink on top of an amp is an even worse idea since you are vibrating the chassis with sound or stage movement. I have a degree in electronics and can tell you that spilling a beer on powered circuit boards is really bad. The next time you want to put a drink on that other’s persons amp, don’t! Put it on the ground, or buy yourself one of those mic stand drink holders even.
Treat borrowed gear like shit
This is a follow up to the above item. If you are using borrowed equipment then you should treat it like gold. You should return that gear to the owner in as good as condition, if not better, then you received it. That person is probably bailing you out or making your life easier. Make sure they aren’t getting burned in the process, or you might not be so lucky the next time you’re in a pinch. If you normally trash your gear during your show, you will need to change things up to show respect to your borrowed gear.
Once you stop doing these 10 things, you should see an improvement in your live show. Plus, people will respect you a little more because you will come off as more professional. Another benefit is that people won’t think you’re a bunch of jerks.