It may seem like a silly question, but I am learning that it seems to be more common than I ever imagined. I'm having a dilemma when it comes to becoming a music artist. I've been recording my vocals and producing music since 2001, but it wasn't until 2007 when I finally decided to go for the exposure. The problem is, I am deathly afraid of performing live. It's what's been keeping me from any kind of success in what seems like a cut-throat and competitive industry. I have piqued the interest of quite a few record labels, both major and indie; but as soon as they learn that I have no experience with performing, they lose interest and move on to the next person. It's very unfortunate when they took the time to listen to the demos that my manager had submitted to them and actually saw potential in my music.
So, I feel like I'm stuck in a rut because of the inability to perform live. I fear that I could easily forget the lyrics or slur any words up while singing live, or even run out of breath during any attempt. Would it be possible to start off as a "studio artist?" Or is performing live pretty much required to get anywhere? Should I possibly just promote myself first and generate buzz until there is a demand for live performances and just hope for the best? Sorry if they sound like stupid questions, but I'm also not an expert when it comes to the music industry. After all, I'm still an amateur. I don't know if this is something an artist should admit to when pursuing a music career, but I'd rather be real and honest in order to get where I want to be, and this site is full of emerging artists with great talent. I also enjoy writing lyrics for other artists, since writing is my biggest passion and strongest suit. But even that can be tough to pursue, since more and more artists nowadays write their own songs (which is a good thing, of course).
Does anyone have any advice or personal experiences to share to possibly lift my spirits and give me some kind of hope? Barbra Streisand has been known to suffer from stage fright, and look at her now. This well-known actor (I forget his name) became a country singer in his 50s after years of battling stage fright. I started with music as a hobby when I was 21. I'm now in my 30s. That's quite some time wasted, don't you agree? Though, it did allow me to improve musically compared to when I started, but still.
Sometimes the wait is worth it. You weren't ready to be a performer in the 20's, but somehow / something is wanting you to do it now! I don't get stage fright like normal people do, I'll still get nervous and dizzy sometimes before playing in front of people, but once I get up there and start playing, it goes away and im in my own world.
You're lucky. Perhaps now is just not the time for me. I really do want to perform, though. I've thought about doing some heavy promotion for my material, enough to generate buzz and lead to demands of a performance. That way, when I actually do perform, people will know what to expect musically and support me more because they will have liked my music to begin with, versus performing as an unknown artist and taking that 50/50 chance that you will either get booed or cheered at with only an amateur performance.
You do make a valid point about letting yourself into your own world during your performances. I have a good friend in a metal band who is just like you, dizzy and all. But we don't talk often, so that is partly why I wanted other people's thoughts. I appreciate your advice very much. Thank you.
Thanks, AndrewMisanthropy. It must be nice not to have stage fright, since you are probably more relaxed. I don't have any close friends in person, and my family doesn't support my music, so I have no way to perform at this time even if I were ready. But I will definitely consider that idea. I have wondered if doing it gradually could lead to better results until I gain more comfort. I've also decided to try "Second Life" out as an outlet for my music promotion. I've heard of artists performing in their bedroom, and all the other members would only hear them perform, not actually watch them. Of course, there is always just playing my mp3's, since the audience is nothing but SL avatars; but voice performance can seem like a decent way to start. Once again, thank you for your advice. I value anyone's constructive feedback on this topic.
Ah, that's sounds like a very neat outlet! How could I have not thought about that before? Once I am set to do that, I will definitely consider that option. It seems like it could help tame the stage fright somewhat, since it's just audio.
Unfortunately and frustratingly, I have family living here for the time being, so I am unable to do that just yet due to their lack of support and extremely religious views against my music (I tend to write lots of anti-religious lyrics, as well as other questionable topics). But it is great to know that you'd listen when the time comes.
I didn't find your response to be a ramble. On the contrary, I found it quite enlightening. I don't want to be one of those people who quit and grow older only to ask themselves, "What if?" I think what fears me the most when it comes to stage fright is the fact that I'm not in a band/group. Thus, I'd be on my own against a possibly large crowd. But I had never imagined that the crowd could overlook possible mistakes. I always seem to assume the worst. It's partly why my artistry is named Failure Fanatic. I've always been a very pessimistic person with a dark cloud over his head. But if I keep stalling, I'll never get anywhere. It's partly why I should have been exposed back in 2007, and it's now almost 2012 (though, musical perfectionism can also be the culprit of that).
I enjoyed reading your post because of the insight you offered and the experience that you have had. It's interesting meeting other musicians who have performed and who admit that the stage can mimic the tidal wave that a typical surfer would anticipate riding.
My manager tells me all the time never to give up because of the amount of potential I have, and I need to follow such advice. Just like your advice is very essential and very credible. There really is no other way around it, I guess.
I also love your advice about real music versus corporate sellout. I always try to be myself and not be some hack or ripoff. It can be tough, since everything's been done, but it's not impossible. I like to do what I enjoy and am passionate about, and that includes singing in various languages (which may or may not be a popular trend).
As for the UK... it's funny that you mention that because aside from New York, the UK and Germany tend to be two of my main targets. Unfortunately, living in Michigan for the time being doesn't help. I guess that would bring this back to the fact that I have to get out there and do my best on stage in order to earn enough money to move and give decent tours to help promote my albums. Having just finished my second full-length track in German can mean that I'd be ready to take on a European tour, since German seems to be a popular non-English language when it comes to darker electronic music. But that would never happen if I allow my stage fright to rule over me.
I appreciate every word of advice you have given me. The length of your post only proves how honest and genuine you really are; and I can sense your passion in music. It's a shame that you haven't been able to use your hard-earned degree. That could change, though. And since I will eventually plan to go to Europe at some point in the future, I have added you as my new UK contact.
Thanks for the replies. It's been a while since my last post.
Cyber_mentalist, that's funny. But I always hear about that, even for just public speakers.
Tjcrow, thanks a lot for your advice! It's funny that you mentioned the mask thing because I have always thought about doing that. I actually never thought about it as a way to "shy away" from the crowd, but more as a look. However, I can see how masks can help reduce the fright. Great idea!
TheOProject, that's too funny. My only fear with that is that I'd end up getting drunk after wanting a few more drinks, and then, I wouldn't be able to perform at all.
Guitarist2, I have no idea who that is. I feel like i should be embarrassed to admit that. Hahaha.
Vysse, that's the thing... it seems as if stage fright will never be cured per se, but rather, it can just be reduced. Perhaps it's different in some cases. I would hope that in my case, it can go away.
My debut single is now starting to play via college radio stations, so I will definitely have to think long and hard about how to tackle this. Fans will eventually want a performance soon enough, and I don't blame them. We'll see how it goes!
A, honestly record labels are a TERRIBLE way to go. You sell yourself incredibly short, especially considering half the time you lose almost all of the rights to your songs once you sign the contracts, with very rare exceptions. You can do everything a record label does yourself in this day and age, and make a lot more money doing it. [IE Social media, digital distribution, etc... None of which requires a record label.]
B, yes, live performances are pretty much the big way to make any kind of funding in the music industry right now, as far as music creation goes. [Obviously there are a million and one other jobs in the industry, but as far as being an actual artist and bringing new music into life goes, yeah... CD's and DVD's leave no hope. Your best bet is to get a good following, make a press kit, and gig from there starting with smaller venues and growing larger].
C, as for stage fright, realize that the nervousness is you thinking about yourself. You're thinking about what mistakes you might make. Don't think of it that way. The audience is paying you to think about them. Something I do personally is I just sit there and get accustomed to the stage first, and the area in which the audience will be located. Before your set starts go meet some of the audience members, introduce yourself, and get to know some names. That way when you get on stage there are plenty of friendly faces to look at, which takes away a good portion of the nervousness. Then, as I said, realize they're paying to see you and to have you think about them. Look at them while you perform, especially as a singer. Take in what you see, what you hear, and what you feel. If you see them reacting positively, keep doing what you're doing. If you see them reacting not so positively, well, get your shit together! Just relax, go onstage, and have fun. That's the most important part of it, having fun. If they see you having fun then a few mistakes here and there are meaningless. It's live for a reason, not a studio take that's going to be identical to the record. A few mistakes add to the live experience.
I'm dual majoring in music education and guitar performance at Berklee, so I've learned a lot of this shit inside and out. If there's any other questions you have, feel free to ask!
Oh, and another huge plus to meeting the audience... Gives you an opportunity to thank them for being there, and shows appreciation on an individual level. How many times have you gone to a show and the band yells "THANK YOU!!" to every one and you felt like they legitimately meant it? I mean shit, even in a metal setting the fans are really tight knit. If you can establish that bond with them offstage then it will do wonders for you career wise, they'll see you as much more respectful and one of them, not some person on stage.
Another thing, your ego should be like an air mattress. When you're ready to go to bed, you blow it up. When you wake up in the morning, you deflate it. Similarly, when you go onstage, your ego needs to be HUGE. I'm extremely guilty of this, haha. But once you're offstage you need to be able to deflate and come down and be one of the regular Joe Schmoe's. Again, it works wonders for yourself because as long as you're not being a major douche they'll see your growing ego as fun stage presence. And when you're offstage you can just relax and be yourself. It makes a huge difference. /rant, haha
I've been doing performances for about 5 years, I just started at Berklee this past January, haha. It's more or less just refining everything down into something I can explain rather than just some unexplainable X factor. But yeah, it's all stuff you learn over the years.
yes, it never goes away... but it is kind of a nice buzz in a funny kind of way.
Ironically, I find that I get worse with a small audience than a big one.... with a big audience, it's just a sea of of faces and you don't get to notice individuals.
With a smaller more intimate audience you tend to notice people more.... the guy at the back checking his damned watch (for the 3rd time in the gig FFS - what GIVES?!?!) to the overly excited teeny fans who just managed to get in and are now looking at the stage like a rabbit in headlights... They're all there to see in almost painful detail.
Something you don't seem to get with a big audience - just a bunch of faces....
Umm well I am comfortable in singing to large crowds just not small crowds. Try singing to small crowds first like with a group of friends and gradually build up to larger crowds. If you are nervous that you may sing horribly ( been there) record your own singing and play it back believe it or not the voice of one sounds better than you may believe.
Yes. Sure, when I first started off it was terrifying. My first show I just had a few beers, then the next day we were opening for Suicide Commando and my label boss (potential label boss at the time) would be in the audience! And we were on first, so no time for beers. I was terrified, I went from being a studio project to playing live and had no idea what to do as a performer, as an entertainer.
Our 4th ever show was opening for VNV Nation on tour in front of nearly 1000 people. Even more terrifying. But on that tour I learned what to do, I had great feedback every night from the other bands and crew, and I learned to do what I do now. So always listen to advice from people you respect. Nobody really knew who we were at the time so it was difficult playing to another bands audience but that is what you have to go through....trust me, it does get MUCH easier when you have your own audiences.
Then our first EP came out, it blew up, we did the Combichrist tour in the US. So all those tough shows on the VNV tour taugh us how to perform. By the time we hit the US people knew who we were, knew some of the music, and by the end of the tour we knew people would love what we did, the question was how much. Once you get those reactions it galvanizes you.
From that point onwards it becomes less and less scary. Now I love getting on stage and playing.
Fear is of the unknown. Now? We know audiences know our music and once you step up to headliner you know people are there to see you so they already love what you do. By that point you've learned your craft, you've learnt how to perform, how to work an audience, how to behave on stage, what to do when things go wrong. It's natural to some, others have to work at it a bit more, in either case it gets easier with time. You know your songs inside out, you know every cue, you are confident in everything you do.
So fear is merely the difference between inexperience, ability, practice and where you want to be as a musician and performer. I still get a big adrenaline rush doing it, but the fear is pretty low because I'm confident now in what I'm doing. I've rehearsed a million times, I know everything I need to know to give a great show. I don't even have to think about it, I just do it. Once you reach that point fear becomes confidence.
But the only way to reach that point is to go and do it.
I've performed a couple of small things before. Nothing serious, I've done drums and guitar on stage, and I'm always very scared. But I get through it, and can always recover from a mistake. Stage fright is a pretty common thing, just because it's something you aren't used to. The more you sing on stage, the more comfortable you will become.
I used to, and I'll tell you how I overcame it...Karaoke! I used to have huge stage fright, til I met people who loved doing karaoke, because whether your good or bad doesn't matter. You get up there in front of the crowd, sing the song and you build confidence. Start with one song on karaoke night at your favorite bar, frequently, then build from there. You don't even have to drink or stay long, just jump in on karaoke and let 'er rip!
Ceaseless serenade of silent screams
Make me restless and disturb my dreams.
I shift my thoughts to fix my pride,
But like a beautiful rose, I'm dead on the inside.