Many of my musician friends, especially the ones who lead their own bands, spend a lot of time worrying about and planning out what they're going to say onstage and when they're going to say it. There are plenty of advice articles that cover things that you can and should say onstage, but equally important are the things that you should avoid saying at a gig.
The best rule of thumb is to be humble, grateful, and pleasant. Even if you aren't in a good mood, you better get good at faking it. Projecting your negative attitude onto the audience is going to bring their experience down, and nobody wants to have a bad time at a concert.
As a concert-goer, there are a few things that I've heard multiple bands say onstage that have made me feel pretty uncomfortable. Here are the five most common cringe-inducing remarks I've heard.
1. "Hello, [hometown]!"
For a long time, I was in a band with a frontwoman who always felt the need to exclaim, "Hello, Seattle!" every single time we played in Seattle (our hometown). It drove me nuts. Unless you're trying to be cute or ironic, or only do it once in a blue moon, this is a phrase that should be avoided in your hometown. It's obnoxious to your fans and probably to your bandmates as well. Your fans want to feel the pride you have for your hometown; don't greet it like you would any other town on the road.
2. "Sorry about _______."
Never apologize for something related to your set while onstage. Even if it was a technical malfunction, or especially if it was something related to somebody's playing, an apology does nothing but drag the mood down. Most of the time, people in the audience either won't notice or won't mind a mistake. Making a big deal about it onstage just makes you look unprofessional.
If there really was a serious mishap (such as somebody getting injured) that you or your band were involved in, it would be much more appropriate to release an official apology statement immediately following the set's conclusion.
3. "We haven’t played this song in a long time, so it might sound bad."
Disclaimers are very similar to apologies. They don't really serve a purpose other than bringing the mood down and making you look unprofessional. (This could ring true in every aspect of life; I've heard people make disclaimers like this everywhere, even if it was in a context that was completely unrelated to music.) Don't lower people’s expectations of you. Let your music speak for itself, and if it isn't at a level where you are happy and confident, then don't play it! I can assure you that 99.9999 percent of the people who come out to see your band are there because they want to hear your music, not your excuses.
4. "Please buy our album, or else we won't be able to eat."
Using a guilt trip to get sales, views, or online followers is just awful. I've seen plenty of bands say the above at gigs, or vent frustrations on their social media accounts about lack of sales or attendance at their gigs. It's fine to be frustrated, but the energy that's spent whining to your fans would be much better spent brainstorming some new marketing strategies – or in the case of a concert, actually playing your music rather than moaning.
Most folks go to a concert because they want to have fun. As soon as you start trying to guilt people into buying your stuff, it sucks a lot of the fun out of the experience. And when your shows aren't fun, people stop coming to them.
5. "_______ sucks!"
Complaining sucks, especially when you do it onstage. As ridiculous as it may sound, I've heard bands get onstage and complain about all sorts of things throughout their set. Everything from the sound, the club, the number of people in the room, and the audience themselves can be turned into targets for a disgruntled band. This seems like a no-brainer, but I've born witness to it too many times not to mention.
Again, people just want to have fun at your shows. Complaining into the microphone is another surefire way to suck the fun out of the experience for them. Typically, it'll backfire on you as well. Complain about the venue? Good luck being invited back. Complain about the sound? You won't be invited back, and the sound guy will make extra sure that your set sounds like garbage. Complain about the crowd? You'll never see them at any of your shows in the future.
Dylan Welsh, a native of Seattle, Washington, grew up cutting his teeth in various club bands around the Northwest. Seeking a more diverse and challenging environment, he attended Berklee College of Music with hopes of gaining new perspectives and finding his own voice. Though music is what he does best, writing and journalism are other passions that he has kindled throughout his academic life.