For musicians, playing live music for the first time is a life-changing experience. It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time. In fact, being comfortable on stage can make or break a musician, since some people with musical ambitions would rather give up than face an audience.
There’s not much you can do about nerves before your first show; you’re likely to discover that there’s not much you can do about nerves even when you become a seasoned live performer. But even if you can’t keep the butterflies at bay, there are some things you can do to increase the odds of enjoying your live performances. Before you play your first note, put these five things on your to-do list.
Before you book your first show, make sure you’re actually prepared to do the job. A common rookie musician mistake is booking a gig without having enough songs to fill a set or without the band members needed to pull off a live show.
Don’t assume you can just play covers or play acoustic when you’re booked as a full band. Don’t book live gigs unless you’re booked specifically to perform covers or do an acoustic set.
Instead, talk to the venue manager or the promoter. Ask how long they expect you to perform and if they are expecting a full band. If they want an hour-long set and you’ve only got two songs, you may need to hold off. If they want an hour-long set and you’ve got five songs, maybe there is some wiggle room with a few well-chosen covers.
Communicate honestly about what you can deliver to avoid burning bridges. Event coordinators will appreciate your honesty and will offer you opportunities to perform live when you’re prepared to do so.
Live music isn’t about going out and hitting every single note absolutely right. If you flub on stage, don’t expect tomatoes to fly and your music career to stop dead in the water.
Fact: If you mess up, most audience members won’t even notice. However, that doesn’t mean you should just waltz on stage without doing your homework. Practice before your show to get your set as a tight as possible.
Perform for your friends and family before performing in front of an audience. This exercise has several purposes. First, you can get feedback about your song choices and set length.
Second, playing for this friendly bunch gives you the opportunity to get comfortable playing in front of a live audience, which is completely different from playing in front of a mirror or your bandmates.
Use this opportunity to work on your stage presence, your banter, and of course, your music. While you don’t need to memorize things to say between songs, you should feel at ease chatting with a crowd.
Last but not least, playing in front of people before the main event will boost your confidence and help you slay your stage fright demons.
Live music keeps fans engaged, and for an up-and-coming artist, live music is a way to make music fans want to know more about you.
By the way, after the show, hit your social media network and rave about how much fun you had. The fans will appreciate that you enjoyed your set as much as they did.
For your first show, chances are you’re first on a two-, three- or four-band bill. Don’t show up without knowing anything about your fellow musicians.
Spend a little time online learning about their music and what they do. You don’t have to become their biggest fan, but knowing about others shows professional courtesy.
Even if the other bands may not show you the same courtesy, it’s these little things, like showing interest in other artists and their work, that get the attention of the industry heavy-hitters who matter.
It doesn’t hurt to brush up on your opening band etiquette, either. Again, it’s the little things that add up to big breaks.