Lessons about performing, lesson 28; Be consistent!

Well, if you haven’t noticed, there was at least one article published every single day last month. I can’t say that I’ll certainly do the same this month, but I can say that the scheduling feature makes it more easy for me to be consistent with my publication schedule. I mention that for a reason! You’ll see!

If you’re curious about what I’m doing, read the whole list of Rules for Performing Musicians. There’s a lot of rules but they’re really just lessons that I’ve learned from decades in the industry.

You can pick and choose which to follow and some of them are pretty subjective and prone to interpretation. However, if you want to reach the point where you’re making an acceptable income from your musicianship, these rules are probably good ones to follow.

In an ideal world, you’d have a book that you can reference. Alas, such doesn’t appear to exist. I pretty much just pound the keyboard until words come out, so you’re stuck with me. Strangely, people seem to appreciate my writing and my writing style – and that makes me happy. I’m happy to share the lessons I’ve learned and I hope they can be applied to your job or life – even if you’re not a musician.

But, enough of that… Let’s get on to our next rule!

Rule #28: Be consistent!

This scenario may not apply directly to you. It doesn’t apply to my current situation because I’m doing regional and niche. But, it may apply to you and it absolutely does have the same intrinsic values.

I have been in this situation before and this is a plea from your audience and fans. It’s actually one of the more important things I can think of to add to the list. If I could write this list over again, I’d possibly put this one closer to the top – just to give emphasis to the importance.

Let’s say you’ve been on tour and you’re nearing the end of your tour. Really, you’re tired. You miss your family. You’re on a bus, in the middle of nowhere. You don’t actually remember the name of the town you played in last night. You’re not sure, but you think you’re doing three shows this coming weekend. You’re sick. You’ve had a stuffy nose and the backyard trots for a few days now. Also, you’re possibly drunk!

At the start of the tour, you were pumped and you were full of energy. You put on shows that were truly peaks in your performance career. You fed every bit of energy you had into the audience and took everything they gave back. You even put on a show with your stylistic abilities, dancing and truly giving the audience everything they expected – and even exceeded their expectations.

You’ve been out there for three months and, frankly, it’s not nearly as fun as it was in the brochure. It’s actually a ton of work, little sleep, bad food, cramped, and stressful. Trust me, you’re not cruising into the show on your band’s private jet. If you are, you’re absolutely not reading my writing.

And we want to just phone the next show in. We can do this in our sleep. The audience won’t notice. You’ve given the rest of the tour all your energy and you don’t really have any more to give. You’re just going to go out there, play it the way you always do, say the things you always say, and nobody will be the wiser.

You’re wrong. Don’t do that. It is painfully obvious when you do.

If you’re not on tour and you’re playing local gigs, maybe you had a hard week? Maybe you are working two jobs? Maybe you’re stressed, sick, or just not happy with the band’s progress? Maybe you’re not being challenged in your ability and you’re tired of playing the same covers over and over again?

Well, the audience can tell. They can tell when you’re just phoning it in. They can tell when you’re not into it. They can tell when you’re not giving them what they’re expecting. After all, they’ve heard about you from their friends and have expectations.

They’ve waited in line and bought tickets that cost them hours of work. They’ve set up to have the time off. They’ve taken time out of their life to come see you and they’re expecting you to give them everything you have. They are expecting a good show.

I’ve told you before. When you decided to become a professional musician, you made the choice to give yourself away. When you have no energy left to give, you have to find that energy from a different source and channel it. You have to meet their expectations.

One of the biggest problems I see with new bands is that they’ll have one show that’s really good and the next one will be garbage. You can’t do that because people are going to talk more about the bad than they are about the good. They’re also going to expect that they’ll be there for a good one.

They don’t care that you’re sick. They don’t care that you’re tired. They don’t care that you miss your family. They don’t care that you just got fired from your other job. They care that you’re giving them the experience you advertised that you’d give them.

This isn’t just about you, the musician. This is also about things like your sound. You really need someone good on the board because venues are all different. You want a consistent sound, consistent lighting, and consistent ambiance. People are coming in with expectations and you’re obligated to meet those expectations.

Essentially, they’re your customers. There’s a reason that Fast Food Facility #27 uses the same menu, follows the same script, and provides the same experience. There’s a reason that Fancy Restaurant #2 has a menu and the food is prepared how you’re expecting it to be cooked. It’s because you go there with anticipations of quality, consistency, and experience.

The same thing applies to musicianship and performing. It’s not very artistic to break it down like this, but it’s true. Remember, your goal is to make a living – because your odds of extreme fame are really, really fucking low! You’re not going to be a rock star. I’m not telling you how to be a rock star. I’m telling you how to be a professional musician and, ideally, how to use music as your sole source of income.

This next bit is going to be a bit painful…

“But, TheBuddha… Err… What does this mean if I’m having an exceptionally good night and really want something that’s better than my consistent playing? Should I go ahead and reach for the stars? Should I just play a consistent set and give them only that? Should I do my best?”

Yes. If you’re having an exceptional night and everything is just so close to perfect that it’s like a fairy tale, go for it. Let them have it – but make sure your worst performances are still consistent and still consistently good.

And you will have some performances that are better than other performances. I guess, if you had to try to boil this down to something simple, it’s this: “Make sure your worst performances are consistently good enough to meet the expectations of those who took the time to come see you.”

You’ll have fans. You’ll have people who are, mistakenly or not, emotionally invested in your performances. You have obligated yourself to meet those expectations. So, even on your worst day – you still have to give them what they’re expecting. You still have to go on. You still have to give them a show they’ll remember – in a good way.

Also, sometimes those bits of stress and discomfort disappear when you hit the stage. You might be expecting the worst night of your career and actually find you do quite well after you got to the stage. So, put one foot in front of the other, put your stage face on, and rock ’em like they’ve never been rocked before. Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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