When did it become a trend for new musical artists to force sarcasm to prove that they were clever or funny or edgy?
I recently attended an independent singer/songwriter showcase of young artists (who shall remain unnamed) and witnessed something that I can only describe as the least professional stage presence I have ever seen.
The first artist was extremely shy and forthcoming about it as she flat out stated that she was going to allow the audience to command her songs for the evening and would only pretend to look at her song list as a delay tactic until someone shouted out a request. Now, I can understand that in an intimate venue like we were in (about 50 attendees) this was a great way to involve the audience, but to stand on stage without having done any preparation as to what songs you want to use to convey who you are as an artist to those that might not be familiar with your music just demonstrates to me that you’re not interested in commanding your audience while you’re on stage.
This performer sang every song from beginning to end with her eyes closed, which never helps when you’re trying to connect with your audience. I’ll write off a lot of this to just generally being young and inexperienced and needing someone to help her overcome all that by encouraging her and pushing her to believe in what it is that she’s doing. However, the second artist committed stage sins that I just can’t fathom (as someone that has been both a band leader and a side man).
She began her set by commenting on the fact that she prefers to have a microphone on stage because it allows her a physical item that demonstrates she’s better than her audience. Between each song there would be a 2-5 min diatribe about either the origins of the song, or just banter between her and the audience. These chat sessions would involve comments that were continually demeaning nearly driving me to leave, had I only driven myself to this show. My “favorite” part of this was that after continually trying to show how witty she was by sarcastically insulting her audience, she then asked continually for them to support her by purchasing her CDs or other merchandise.
All I could do was think to myself throughout her performance, you honestly expect me to spend more money on you?! You’ve shown a complete and utter lack of appreciation for those that paid money to come here and see you perform by a) insulting us and b) not actually performing for your entire allotted time because you had an overwhelming desire to chat. So essentially, I’ve gotten to see 50% of your show because you elected to not do what I had expected you to do, which was sing, but you want me to support your career? It’s artists like you that have no appreciation for those that have come before you or the audience that has worked hard to be able to afford to see you perform. In essence, shut your mouth unless you intend to sing. If I wanted to see a comedian I would have paid to see stand up. I wanted to see some new up-and-coming singer/songwriters that had talent and drive. Instead I saw young artists that have developed an unjustified overinflated ego about their value as a musician.
And this is my message to young artists out there everywhere: you used to be a dime a dozen and now it’s probably closer to a dime per 50 – appreciate the fact that people are spending their hard earned money on you. In the current state of the economy expendable cash is less and less in everyone’s pockets. Don’t act like you deserve the attention more than anyone else out there, be thankful and grateful for the opportunity allotted you for the chance to play and be paid at all. You’ve earned that right by being talented, and each show is a new opportunity to show people just how talented you are while being exceptionally humble about the fact that they are there to appreciate you. Never forget that your career can be over in seconds if you say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time. So please, keep playing, keep developing, and strive to create something new everyday, and appreciate the fact that someone, somewhere out there wants to hear it and pay you to do it. If you can make a living being a musician you are one of the lucky few – don’t discount that and always remember that there’s probably someone else out there that can do exactly what you’re doing just as well if not better that would kill for your opportunity. Check your ego at the stage door and just show me what you got.