Perform enough and you’ll start to draw a crowd. Maybe you have a great voice or your band is unique and has appeal. Either way you wind up having to deal with one of the most incredible but difficult relationships you’ll ever know, that of the performer and the audience. Audience members can be many things but one of the least acknowledged is how they can be obnoxious and unruly. Dealing with them in a gracious and graceful way can be difficult and many times it takes a little bit of firmness to keep them from becoming just a straight up nuisance.
It may sound ungrateful for me to say these things and that definitely isn’t my intention. Fans and audience members are the only thing that make performing possible and to say anything derogatory about them is to cut your nose off to spite your face. In spite of that, one of the many things that audience members have in common is that most of the time, they are drinking and alcohol turns what might be the sweetest person you know into a monster of huge proportions.
One of the most bothersome things about performing is when someone tries to talk to you while you’re onstage. It doesn’t cross the individual’s mind that they are interrupting you while you do what you are expected to do. One of the best ways to deal with this is simply to ask them to return between sets. Rather than tell them to shut up and quit bugging you, consider that you could turn them into a “superfan” by giving them a few minutes of your time when you aren’t playing. Often times, the few minutes that you spend trading stories or just shooting the breeze are the best part of that person’s night. Make sure not to allow them to control your time and be kind and polite, remember that you represent more than just yourself on the stage.
One of the worst things to deal with is the “song requester.” Given the opportunity, this type of person will saunter up to the stage and ask you to play their favorite song. Most of the time it’s something that you’ve already played or something that hasn’t been rehearsed. This is a difficult thing to handle gracefully. You don’t want to seem offensive but the temptation to be rude may be overwhelming. The best way to respond is, again, to ask if they’ll come back between sets. This gives you the opportunity to finish your rehearsed set and also gives you time to respond to them without worrying about it effecting the performance. If that doesn’t work and they continue to insist on making you into a jukebox, simply ignore them. A lot of the time this will either take the wind out of their sails or will cause them to raise a fuss. Either option is good because if they quit, you’re good and if they raise a fuss, security will take care of them.
Drunken fools are probably the biggest problem you will encounter while performing. They have been over served and are ready to act like an idiot to get attention. They will scream at you, try to sing with you on the microphone, start fights and even throw things. A great way to combat this is to have a “codeword” with your band that enables you to all be on the same page at the same time. If someone is bothering you badly enough, simply say the codeword and everyone stops playing. The show goes on pause until the venue or their security can either escort the person out or get them to calm down. Once the issue has been dealt with the show can resume. Make sure though, that you rehearse this option as it can be embarrassing to be the only person on stage rocking out when everyone else has stopped.
Keep your audience happy. They’re the reason that you get to perform. Don’t allow them to control the show, though. They serve a function as an audience and should stick to that function. Lots of people have the desire to be on the stage or to talk to the band but that doesn’t give them the right to be unruly or disruptive. In fact, a lot of times, the audience itself will take care of problematic people to ensure that they get the experience that they want. Be graceful, gracious and courteous but don’t allow the “bad” member of the audience to ruin your performance or the crowd’s perception of the performance.