The importance of performing live is a difficult topic to narrow down to a universally acceptable answer… Let’s see if I can come close!
Each of us react differently in a live performance scenario. Some people get sweaty palms or suffer from a bad case of fidgeting. Some, like me, decide to put up a mental barrier, in the hopes of it contributing to a more relaxed image on-stage. Personally, I think giving a calm impression in front of my audiences will make the venue more relaxed and in turn, that ought to make me more relaxed. It doesn’t always work of course!
But why do some performers find it difficult?
It’s only a stage, some lights and a bunch of people who have come to listen to some music and see a show. You’re just doing your job as an entertainer, aren’t you? Like a cashier behind the counter at an Asda store (that’s England’s equivalent of a Walmart by the way!)… all they need to do is give you what you came for and offer you the correct change. All a musician does is give the customer what they want and all’s good, right?!
As a musician, our specific job, in each venue that we perform in, isn’t written in black and white on a contract. We can all agree that creating the relevant atmosphere for your show and delivering a great performance are our primary aims. Our understanding of our job isn’t generally the issue. The issue that we’re facing is the stage. As much as it’s our job to entertain, it’s not so easy when a stage is involved. Writing music and releasing it can become a full time, great-paying job but do you boost your musicianship more with merely writing music and releasing it… or playing live?
Beaming lights. Loud amps. Impatient and often drunk audiences. It’s not quite like any other job (certainly nothing like being a cashier in a store!). In fact, performing live is unlike anything else, even in a musician’s career.
As entertainers / performers, we rehearse our act. We zone in on the weaknesses and the only the best leave no stone unturned.
But do we have to play live anyway?!
I will always argue that a songwriter or a practicing musician can only benefit from the atmosphere of a live audience (your living room shows for your mother and the dog do not count…). I’ll briefly mention why I believe this, but if you would like a full, detailed reason, you might like to read an older article of mine called How To Make The Most Of Your Practice Time. To paraphrase, it reveals a secret trick that I happened to find years ago. One which I actually still use today ~ “Find a band, in which each member is of a higher level of musicianship than you. Learn from each of the members and your personal technique and level of musicianship will grow, not only rapidly, but exponentially”.
This is one of the main reasons for my argument. I believe musicians should take the step into live performance before they reach a point at which their technical is at a stand-still. It becomes stale and then, your attitude towards playing any music at all will eventually spiral into almost-irreversible negativity.
There are so many positives of playing live. Not only can a band give you team-playing gratification but it also offers enormous amounts of growth opportunities such as a brand new social scene (your gigs!) and not to mention the pride you feel hearing your songs come to life.
As you can probably tell, I’m very passionate about the stage. Even though it can be utterly terrifying some nights.
And yet, it’s still the only place I would consider to be my true place of work.
Sure, I can write more blogs in the evenings but when I know how much learning and improving I can do on a stage, in front of a live audience, it’s crystal clear to me that I’d love to keep that up for as long as possible too.
It’s fairly obvious what my opinion is on this subject but only you can determine whether or not live performances can boost your level of musicianship. If the only thing holding you back is stage fright then perhaps ask other people, who have played in front of an audience, whether it was worth it or not.
I’ll warn you of one thing though!… once you get a taste for the live performance, for most people, it seems to be a hard habit to break!
Keep Playing & Good Luck
Director of Content, Buden Bay
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