Performing live can be a daunting experience. Especially if this is your first band, and you’ve never performed live before. Naturally, you want to make sure you’re ready – no one wants to get up on stage to find out they should have practised a bit more first. And you can practice performing live in a pub or smaller venue before taking on Wembley to get used to those nerves and that feeling, but if even that seems like a monumental task, we have created a list of signs you’re ready to perform live. If you find yourself mentally checking each of these signs, then you’re good to go! If not, don’t worry, you’ll get there! You just need a bit more time.
1. You Don’t Get Overwhelming Stage Fright Anymore
We all get it – whether you’re about to make a speech or order a cappuccino at your local Starbucks, there’s no denying that anxiety gets to all of us at times. But I think we can all agree that singing on stage is way more intimidating than ordering your daily caffeine-boost.
You’re showing off your skill to the world – something that people will either love or hate. If people don’t like the way you play, it can hit you hard in the feels because it comes off as personal. This is even more terrifying for singers, as this is the voice that they are born with and if people don’t like it… well it’s very hard to change your style. But don’t lose hope, there is always room for improvement in everything.
The worst advice ever given to me was ‘imagine the audience naked’ because I’m a proper prude. But I stand by the logic that goes with the saying. Basically you need to imagine the audience as inferior to you. Yes, they will internally judge you, but that doesn’t mean it will always be a negative outcome.
Remember, they made time to watch you perform, so that already certifies a certain level of respect. Whether they think badly of your performance or not, they’re not exactly going to go up to you and tell you that you’re awful, unless they have the social skills of a twig. Most importantly, please remember that not everyone likes even the biggest singers in the world. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re bad. Realistically, everyone just has different tastes.
This is where the quote “You could be the sweetest peach on the tree, but that doesn’t mean everyone will like you.”
Another skill is to act as if you are confident. The audience can get a sense that you’re nervous, and it will create a tense vibe for everyone in the room. However, if you act cocky, the audience will buy it. Even if things go wrong, the right attitude could help recover it. That’s right, you could get away with murder by fooling people with your fake confidence.
When I get nervous performing, I try to imagine the ending. It works! I always imagine the huge applause at the end. This then reassures my brain that this moment will be positive and my anxiety is consequently halved. A lot of stage fright issues come from the fear of something going wrong. Maybe a consistent error that happens during practice will creep up again during the live performance. But nine times out of ten, something will go wrong because you’re either nervous or unprepared. And even if something does go wrong, nine times out of ten it goes over the audience’s head and they forget about it by the end of the show!
2. Whenever you see your instrument around, you can’t help but play something
You’ve become the ultimate show-off. As soon as you see a guitar, you’re right there playing a Brian May solo. All the other ‘amateurs’ will have to wait a while until it’s their turn to play their attempt of ‘Smoke On The Water.’ This coincides with my earlier point of overcoming stage fright. If you have more of an urge to show off to your peers-rather than run off the stage and move to another country-then you are good to go.
Most people who ‘show off’ are just recalling a phrase they’ve already practised. Just like all the famous jazz players, these phrases have been practised constantly. So if you want to really impress people, then memorize a few cool phrases and people will think that you’re a musical prodigy!
If you have no problem showing off then performing live should be a piece of cake!
3. You’ve researched and practised having a stage presence
A lot of musicians find great influence from their idols. You can see that Bruno Mars has incorporated moves from Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga owes a lot of her experimentation to Madonna.
It would be worth looking up your favourite artists and seeing how they perform on stage. Making a song is one thing, but making it SELL is another.
Techniques such as getting the audience to sing back to you or getting a fan on stage can create a deeper connection to the audience and make you even more likeable. Check out this compilation of the top 10 crowd singing moments. Adele is known for her quirky and funny conversations with the audience. This creates a deeper dimension as, without it, she would just be known for singing serious and sad ballads. However, with her positive energy with the audience, it creates a better experience for spectators.
4. You want your band to MAKE IT
It’s obvious, isn’t it? If you don’t want your band to make it, then it will show. You are hardly going to end up on Rolling Stone Magazine if you stand there sadly hitting a tambourine on stage. You have to be ambitious. Every performance must be as if someone from Island or Universal is there in the crowd. If you don’t have ambition, why are you in a band in the first place?
Performing live is a different skill in itself and like all skills, all it needs is practice. You’re not exactly going to be Freddie Mercury at your first gig. But experience is full of highs and lows. There’s no harm in finding out what works for you. Even the greatest musicians in the world are still taking risks and trying out new styles and techniques.
5. Somebody other than your mum thinks you’re GREAT
Mum’s the word, but she’s surely not the whole audience. If the only positive feedback is from your mother, there may be a problem. Now, this might be because of many factors: you’re not showing what you do to enough people or to the RIGHT people. Try putting your songs online and see what the response is like. Furthermore, if you’re putting it online, make sure it is to the right audience. You’re hardly going to make waves if you post your techno band on a Mozart Appreciation Society site. So be smart.
…And if you are putting it in the right places and still aren’t getting good critiques, you may want to rethink your sound. It would be an idea to contact the audience you want to reach and find out what your band is lacking.
6. You can listen back to yourself without wincing
Adele once famously said that she doesn’t listen back to herself singing because she thought her voice was ‘naff’. However, I think her bank account would disagree.
Being self-critical isn’t always bad. If you loved everything you produced, you’re either extremely talented or extremely deluded.
But if your ‘masterpieces’ are cracking glasses and making your cat run away, you might need a little longer in the studio.
This ties back to what the audience think as well. Maybe show a few people your song to see their honest opinions before you release it to the world.
If you find yourself nodding along to your song or humming the tune for the rest of the day, then it’s more than likely that others will also love it.
It must be considered that you will always be your worst critic. Many give up at the start because failure rattles them to the core. But it takes great persistence and positivity to move past these bumps in the road. A main message in this article is to never give up, no matter how bad you might think your performance is. Just take it as a lesson and learn from it.
7. People want to see you live
In the digital world, it is easier to get your music noticed. If you are already successful in creating an online fan base, then you’ve already jumped the first hurdle. Unlike some other bands, you have already succeeded in one of the hardest things to obtain for a musician: a loyal audience.
More than likely, if you have a strong online presence then your fans will be itching to see you live. You may see your audience in the comment section asking when your next gig is going to be. This is good news. Yes, performing is completely different than releasing a song online. But, if you already have loyal followers, then they will be way more understanding, as they already know what you can do. Also, if you make it clear that performing live is a new experience for you, the audience will be empathetic. But do not let that be an excuse to have a breakdown on stage or to make only minimal effort with your stage presence. This is because the audience will then interpret it as an excuse. Or even worse, they may give up hope on your musicianship. On every performance you must give 100%. The audience loves to see the journey and development of a musician as it gives themselves hope as well. So give it to them!
And just remember… just because you have built an online fan base, you can lose it just as quickly.
Performance is a skill that takes persistence. Don’t expect it to come easily. Just like learning an instrument, it takes time, practice and influence from other great performers! But with a bit of dedication, you can get there. And if you want some practice performing some songs with your band, why not head on down to WeJam and have a go at being real live rockstars! Book a session here. If you’re new to the whole band thing, we recommend checking out this article on the things nobody told you about being in a band.