Night Ranger Onstage

10 Commandments for the Performing Musician

Posted on .

The do’s and don'ts that will keep your show on track, convert the crowd into fans and get you return engagements

  1. Thou shalt show up on time and stick to your allotted time slot. Setting out for the show, allow adequate time for traffic snarls and doing your sound check. Hit the stage on time and stay aware of the show schedule.
  2. Thou shalt be prepared. Have extra strings, drum sticks, effects batteries, reeds, cables, etc. on hand.
  3. Thou shalt keep the show moving. Leave the comic routines to the comedians. A little between-song patter is fine. A brief bit of background about the inspiration for your song’s okay—but then get on with it.
  4. Sound and lighting people are your allies—thou shalt treat them with respect. Convey your needs clearly and be gracious. If the monitor mix isn’t right, signal that to the sound tech without drama or involving the crowd.
  5. Thou shalt avoid feedback at all costs. We’re not talking about controlled feedback here, but the earsplitting howling variety that turns off the crowd. If you’re doing your own sound, ring out the room carefully during sound check to identify problem frequencies.
  6. Thou shalt hit the stage sober. The crowd may be in a partying mood, but you’re there to work. Save the partying for later.
  7. Thou shalt tune quickly and quietly. A good pedal or clip-on headstock tuner with a bright display will let you do that. At all costs, avoid tuning with your amp turned up.
  8. Thou shalt not complain from the bandstand. The stage is not your pulpit and the crowd isn’t necessarily interested in hearing about your hassles. Needless to say, dissing the venue, the city or the crowd is not good form.
  9. Thou shalt communicate intimately with your audience. Make eye contact. Don’t emulate those aloof artists and bands that put up emotional walls between themselves and the crowd.
  10. Thou shalt be humble and grateful. Sure, some acts use aggressive behavior and dirty talk as part of their act. But it is just part of their act. Even the biggest stars remember to thank the fans for coming out. You should too.


# Just Jim 2015-03-29 00:24
I believe these "rules" are suggestions for those who wish to tour a circuit.
If playing a legendary show, with a mosh pit, no "green room", no contract is more your style, then ignore these ideas. You've probably got all of the ideas you need to build your following.
If playing frequently at venues unlike "CGBG" is more your aim, then these are good ideas.
It's never a good idea to be a dick on a post where someone is offering experience based advice. Only dicks would trash someone for offering help, instead of keeping their ideas to their own self. Maybe it's the only time they have an audience for their "rage"?
If you're a music purist, then be about the music, not posing on another's post, because you seem pathetic.
Play well and everyone else will speak for you.
Have a following and you might not be so frustrated.
Be cool and watch your following grow, or be a dick, and no one will care.
# dcdigrec 2015-03-21 08:14
doing whatever you want is awesome, in your basement. If you want to complete your gig, or ever have another one, respect the venue and your audience. The venue IS a business, and when they tell you to turn down or end by 1:00am, do it or you won't be back there or to their friends venues. Also, #4. If you don't follow that, or crank the amp too high, you WILL suck. If your sound person is not respected, the band will suck. The audience is there for a good time, not to bow to your arrogant ass. There are probably several in the audience that are way better than you and are watching. Hone your skills and show them and you will earn respect. Be an ass and it doesn't matter what you think you know, you're an ass.
# Dude 2015-03-24 21:18
Dude I think that only applies to certain styles of over commercialized rock. lol What would rancid say? Or NIN or Mushroomhead. I think you are trying to filter everyone else into this glam rock décor when not everyone is into that pussy shit. Get real dude and play and do what you want. I want to see a band play not see a band that is afraid to be loud because the venue slapped their wrists... this is such moronic bullshit. Be a band and play and do what you want! Who cares if said bar/club/venue doesn't want you back!! Let them hire some dumb ass cover band!
# Vince 2015-04-15 07:42
Dear "Dude", based on your response. You don't get it - and probably never will (but that's ok, it happens). I kinda feel sorry for you because you are missing out on so much as a REAL musician and what true musicianship has to offer. Not only to yourself but to people and FOLKS that really could use a good tune and at the right moment. Some cover bands should be extinct, I agree. Some make a ton of money off of other peoples hard work - and don't pay royalties. On the flip side, any musician worth a damn is gonna learn a ton of cover songs and of from many different genres. Based on your response and the bands that you cited, you let us all know that you will never understand what is being offered to you- it happens. It is possible though that you are misunderstood, but based on your tone, you don't have the sensitivities required to be successful with your music. DUDE, there are notes & there are rest. You might want to shut up and listen.
# Fat saul 2015-03-21 03:19
My singer izzy puked on stage during a love song and the crowd loved it.. We rock . Some chick was makin out with izzy onstage after he puked too. The place went wild. We put on a good show is what im gettin at
# Tipper Deigh 2015-03-20 14:36
44 years this year. Every single one of these is why I never approach club owners. They approach me. I'm trusted period. No, I don't make a ton of money, but I live in Maine, the most beautiful place on Earth.
# Vince 2015-04-15 08:47
F*CK Maine!!!
Just kiddin.....seriously just kiddin'. Played the Big Tree inn before, great food. Yeah, and that was one big azz tree.
LMAO...seriously was just kiddin' around. Maine truely is a wonderful place.
# HubBub 2015-03-20 13:27
Thou shall not devalue my craft by playing for NOTHING or for less than market value. You're hurting EVERYONE!
# Vince 2015-04-15 07:49
I slightly disagree. Sometimes you gotta do that benefit and share the gift of your abilities, especially if its a worthy cause. Would you charge your best friend to play at a fundraiser because he really needs it? Just sayin'..
# MerlinFL 2015-03-21 11:15
# MerlinFL 2015-03-20 22:03
Such a correct statement! It's likely too late since nearly everywhere in Florida's local bars & clubs stopped charging cover to get in, having drink minimums, having patrons who know the difference between a great band & a drunken lame one. Blame the audiences first for NOT being more picky about what they accept as live entertainment, then blame the bar owners expecting the bands to pack their house. Venues should advertise their own place, have their own regular crowd. Until the audience & venue give a shit about what they listen to live, stop complaining about live band volume. LEAVE if you want to have a quiet meal, drink, or conversation. Stop harassing the bands who aren't causing ear damage & have a comfort level to get into performing to those people who want to enjoy the live music that is why the band was hired. Finally, EVERY BAND have a minimum pay rate which is NO LESS THAN $100.00 per MEMBER. Also demand a raise after several solid months of being a hit at their venue.
# Dude 2015-03-24 21:22
I blame the countless cover bands that exist in Merica for ruining music and BMI lol. If everyone and their mom plays guitar why are you so special??? And furthermore why would you give a shit about rules ??? Because you think if you suck enough roosters then a club will give you a reach around? lol
# MerlinFL 2015-03-21 11:21
And if those reading are not smart enough to get the point I'm making which is NOT to disrespect anyone, but BLAME those who caused the local scene to turn to shit, then I can't help your stupidity. Perhaps some furthe education is needed by those who think wrongly about my remarks?

And to the guy who posted ...How his singer puked on stage....puking on stage and some girl making out with him on stage is a very "special" band and audience. In your case, you're doing everything perfectly. Keep it going. I think I'm going to be sick just thinking about it.
# Justin 2015-03-20 14:42
Definitely! I hate this and it happens all the time.
# Dude 2015-03-20 12:18
No need for rules. Rules are for the police and paper pushers. Play and do whatever you want with your time. Its your freedom to do whatever you want up there. Let everyone else be worried about "making it" and putting some kind of definition to what it means to be professional. Some of the best bands I have met would never have gone anywhere if they just did this cookie cutter existence of what music "should be" who the hell is anyone to tell you what to do in the first place. Some of these people [blocked]ot to let their balls drop. If all you are doing is trying to be "pro" and worry about what an audience thinks then maybe you [blocked]ot what its like to play music because you enjoy it and further more you have become the cancer in music that is slowly killing good music by sitting there and bashing other bands for doing what they want and think everything should revolve around your little shrink wrapped world. Stroke your egos somewhere else. Musicians can do whatever they want!!!!
# Vince 2015-04-15 07:54
Dude, you definitely have some valid points, for sure!
# Jay English 2015-03-25 19:05
Dude, I wish I was 14 again and knew everything like you clearly do. My 25 years of doing gigs means nothing at all. Clubs love it when you play too loud, abuse the staff and audience, alienate everyone within earshot and act like an asshole. They call you back the next day and offer you twice as much money !!
Guess what yutz, there ARE rules if you want to play someplace more than once. The club will let you know what they are.If you don't follow them, you WON'T be back. All of these tips are offered by people who know that you can have a great time AND keep the audience and venue staff happy. And yes, my "crappy cover band" does about 30 shows a year ( about 350 total so far ). We have fun, the crowd and venue leave happy and we look, act and prepare professionally. Everybody wins. That's what you want in the end. NOT an ego trip where only the "artist" gets off. Read the atarticle again, pinhead. You might actually learn something. Full Turn Band...
# john 2015-03-21 00:54
Bull shit good musicians ,solid players work a room finesse the crowd and use their musicianship and stage presence to communicate with their audience.The cancer is the players who posture and never strive to be pros,without your audience you are nothing more than a garage band playing for each other.Peace
# Dude 2015-03-24 21:31
I call bullshit on you. I think that if you are trying to conform to some idea of what music "should be" then you must be another person who picked up a guitar just to be recognized. Just like people join a football team so they can have something in their lives that they can actually identify themselves with but not actually care about the game. The truth is no one cares about your finesse or your technical skill level you fool! People want to hear and see someone that gives a shit about what they do instead of giving a shit about what everyone else wants them to do/sound like/ look like/ don't be too loud/ don't play to hard/ don't do this/ don't do that/ where the fakk does it end lol. Music is absolutely free. By the way send a link to your album and where you guys normally play id like to hear it :)
# anotherdude 2015-03-20 16:12
Thank you. The only people that matter are the ones that enjoy what you do and inspire you.
# AJ 2015-03-20 12:14
If you're not the front person and you have nothing to say between songs don't say ANYTHING
# JD 2015-03-20 11:55
Heh... It's pretty easy to tell which commenters are going to be playing five years from now and who's going to be whining that they couldn't make it in the biz because no one could see their vision.

It's not your vision that put people off, it's your ass-hat attitude.
# Smith 2015-03-20 14:38
JD is absolutely right. Dude, you have been fed a whole bunch of crap about how the music industry works. I agree that you should have fun, but you shouldn't actively try and screw with people by grand standing and acting like a douche to the people who can get you more shows and's all about contacts, and if your an ass hat, you will lose your contacts. Look at Axle Rose. Sure, guy is rich, guy had a long career, but now that he's goofing around with peoples time and money, no one likes him. And if you emulate that type of behavior, no one will like you either. It's just business. If you don't act professional, don't expect to get gigs that pay. (which is fine if you're just playing for fun).
# Dude 2015-03-20 12:02
The funny thing is that you are the one with an ass-hat attitude. Have fun constantly being worried about "making it" while the rest of the world has fun playing music and doing what they want you clown.
# paulie 2015-03-20 16:37
Dude, Good luck getting out of your basement...
# Dude 2015-03-24 21:38
@paulie send me your album since your so pro! Send me a ling to your website and all the pro tunes you do since your our of "the basement"....I would love to learn your jedi ways. The truth is there are millions upon millions of bands and people that want to start bands out there.... just going to craigslist I can find thousands of people that want to be "pro" so wtf makes you so special? Because you think that playing to loud is offensive? Good luck playing anywhere with real bands then....
# anotherdude 2015-03-21 10:03
I agree with dude, and I play shows constantly. I live in northern ohio, and I get asked to play the Islands in lake erie in the summer time and i play numerous clubs and bars every weekend (i have a full time job during the week) because I don't care about what people think of me. and people enjoy it. Oh, and I get paid! Good money too. So...yea. There are no rules when it comes to true art.
# Danni Rodes 2015-03-03 09:53
I have been doing this for over 27 years now. From small clubs to medium sized arenas. I can say to things... 1, all the rules are real and appreciated. Of course every rule has a time when it should be broken- right. But follow them as much as you can- it will only increase your profit. If you make a dime off of music, then you are in the music business- how well do you want your business to prosper?
2, Yes, it is only professional to get off the stage in time for the next band. But, A, that's the problem with slatting multiple bands in one night. And, B, if you think I'm going to break down a $5000 drumset (cymbals not included) in a hallway, because the club owner/promoter can't schedule enough time between acts- well you can just keep right on crying.
# T-Bone 2015-03-03 09:22
I think these rules are good if you're playing in a cover band or play music someone else wrote.
# Bob 2015-03-20 13:27
I agree...if it's an all or (mostly) Original Act....I think a few of the more "selfish" aspects might work to one's joke. like being a little "aloof"..or slighty "intoxicated". I mean i don't think Johnny Rotten or Kurt Cobain were all "pleasantries and cupcakes" :P
# JB 2015-03-05 04:47
what does original music have to do with professionalism?
# hank 2015-03-03 08:52
These are rules that all TRUE hired-gun professionals have followed for years..separates us from the whiny-runt amateurs
# T-Bone 2015-03-03 07:44
I don't know what style everyone else is playing but I play Hardcore/Punk/Metal and I think a list of rules is the dumbest shit I ever heard! At the end of the day I play music because I love it... probably more than the people listening so I'm going to do, within reason, whatever the hell I want to do... I'm not going to be overtly disrespectful to anyone, unless they have it coming. I agree with being professional to a point but you have to let your passion rule otherwise why are you even playing music?
# Dude 2015-03-20 12:04
I agree!!! All the rest of these people are morons. And claim to be pro musicians... what are these peoples bands called? Never heard of them ever.... lol Piss drinkers. Do what the fuk you want with your music period!!
# Vince 2015-04-15 08:19
@Dude, some of your points are spot on! But some are over the top...Ha! If 70-80% of you peoples set are cover songs, you got issues. Especially if you don't pay royalties. Songs weren't put out there to for you make a fkn profit off of. Write your own sh*t - and contribute too!
As far as rules are concerned, there are traffic laws (rules) for a reason. I think that from and artistic stand point, I can do whatever the fk I want. But you can't perform at your local food fest in the friggin nude either. Nor do you have the right to go into an establishment and disobey someone that has worked really hard to build an establishment for you to get your rocks off. Cat's loose sight of how hard it is to open and run a club OR[blocked]anize a festival. Fk being famous, write good sh*t and your ass will follow - play good covers too.
# Eli Schacher 2015-03-03 18:09
I agree T-Bone. My band and I where playing at a bar one time and we had a person in the audience screaming play some Metallica, over and over after each song until I had enough and said we are not fracking Metallica, go buy a fracking ticket! Sheesh.
# JediRabbit 2015-03-03 06:19
Just as the photo conjures up glam rock and other anachronistic has-been genres, these rules are out of touch and applicable only to consumption driven drivel that serves to sell beer and provide background noise for drunken red necks.
There is a reason rock and roll is dead and its because of lack of imagination.

If you are coming to my show it is because you want to be entertained and part of that entertainment is my comedy and political triple entendre. I am always happy to alienate rascists and homophobes. Consider it a job well done ;)
# T-Bone 2015-03-03 07:34
Well said! I agree completely! It's about emotion and if I'm a little pissed off and tipsy then so be it!
# mark ferry 2015-03-03 05:15
thou shalt not text on stage! it has got to be the most detached, disinterested, and disrespectful things one can do to the fellow band members,and the audience.
# vander 2015-03-02 23:23
Feedback sounds fuckin awesome in black metal and punk. Especially drone metal
# Ben 2015-03-02 19:50
Ha number 7
# Eddie O 2015-03-02 15:26
We are also a "non professional" band for which gigs are as much for us as anyone else. But we still want to entertain the crowd. So, yes, we have some originals (and we tell the audience where they can get them: on iTunes), but eschew deep album cuts that no one has ever heard. The bulk of our shows is what we present ourselves to be: a Classic 60's rock band, with occasional excursions to the near present.

But we also end on time if the venue has a curfew or other reason that they want to shut the doors, and still give us time to load out. It's courtesy to the venue and we get invited back more often.
# Ossie Agius 2015-03-03 01:13
You could have descibrd thr band I play in and our motivation, Even if we are probably older than you guys. Keep music live.
# CD Kenney 2015-03-02 15:15
Many of these are true, my band has been gigging for four years now, we start the show on time, but if the crowd is into the show, we will go over. We are always the only act, so there is no "next" act. Also, this is not our day job, we do not want to "get signed" or have anything to do with the music industry, so we ARE there for our own entertainment! We play the songs we want!
# Jay English 2015-03-02 14:48
Enjoy yourself. Smile. Laugh at the little mistakes. I saw a friend's band, and the keyboard player looked like he was on an assembly line making widgets. Big turnoff. Don't get messed up. Not cool.
# Big Al 2015-03-02 14:43
All the above are great advice. When you go on play at least three or four songs before you stop to say anything. Like previously mentioned, the crowd is there to have a good time. Not to hear someone rattle on.
# JW 2015-03-02 14:42
Chevelle were dicks when I saw them in Milwaukee once... complaining that the crowd was not very into them. They needed a mirror... because they were the reason the crowd was not into them, they weren't good. They opened for KISS and I was hoping Gene Simmons would walk out and kick them off the stage for being disrespectful to the crowd.
# Jerry 2015-03-02 14:06
All great comments. Yes, keep your opinions to yourself while on stage, politics, religion, & sports will alienate you from some of the audience all of the time.
# Eddie O 2015-03-02 13:53
Play loud enough, but not too loud. If you are are in a small club, your Marshall doesn't need to be turned to 11.

And remember, in general the singer needs to be heard more than the rhythm guitars (and I say that as a guitar player). It's about the SONG, not the individual instruments.
# Jojo 2015-03-05 18:38
Nice one, Eddie O.
# ronnierrr 2015-03-02 13:33
You are first and foremost a jukebox play music you can handle if not drop it! Signature licks and close is a geat version of any song.Dont play half the song before its played to the crowd, nothing wrong with dancers!
# Ronster Monster 2015-03-02 13:13
get off the soap box and leave the politics at home. Fans showed up to rock, not to hear your opinions or be lectured.
# nate 2015-03-02 13:05
Rule #1 - Get off the stage. The next band deserves as much time as you got to set up. You can tear down the drumset off stage just as easily and the next guys can start setting up.

Rule #2 - Get off the stage. Seriously, I'm happy for you that you've put on a live set and your friends from out of town made it or whatever, but you're seriously going to take pictures and post performance celebration shots right there on the stage with your gear?

Rule #3 - GET THE F*&% OFF THE STAGE!!! - My gear is set up in a way that I can tear down as FAST as possible. That way, I can get out of your way and you'll have a decent soundcheck and time to play your whole set because EVERYONE is better off when the show goes smoothly and the bands sound good. It's also arranged so I can set up as fast as possible for when you burn me on all 3 rules. If you want to get gigs, be easy to play with. Get off the stage as fast as you can when the lights come up
# Paul 2015-03-07 11:58
Exactly. Act like you've been on stage before.
# Big Al 2015-03-02 14:46
Man you're so right. Nothings more irritating than a band who Don know when to shut up and leave. Nothings more rude than cutting into the next bands slot.
# larry 2015-03-02 12:36
If you're booked as a dance/cover band - play songs people CAN dance to even if it means mustang Sally!dz
# Tom Jones 2015-03-02 12:28
Just be a working ADULT. Treat the gig as well as you would a day job, PROFESSIONALY.
# Walt Redmond 2015-03-02 12:09
The band is there to entertain the audience,not themselves.
# anotherdude 2015-03-20 16:14
The audience isn't always a bunch of brainless sheep. Most people can see right through the facade of a fake performance and will only enjoy the show if the artist is enjoying it first. so you're wrong. sorry.
# Jojo 2015-03-05 18:36
Absolutely! And another thing, if you don't follow rule Number 2, I don't think you'll be able to play any music.

Add comment

Security code

The HUB by Musician's Friend Logo



Stupid Deal of the Day (SDOTD) Musicians Friend Backstage Pass  Open Box Musical Instruments at Musician's Friend


  • BACKSTAGE PASS Rewards Program
  • Guitar Case Finder
  • Give a Gift Certificate
  • Clearance
  • Private Reserve Guitars


  • Hot Deals
  • On Sale
  • Pre-Order the Latest Gear
  • New Gear
  • Top Rated Gear