10 Things Singers Should NEVER Do Onstage

A band performing
Singers should say no to these rookie errors – says Jaime Babbitt.

If you know me, you know I never say ‘never’ to new experiences and adventures because… life is for living and learning, right?

However, because I am old and I know a lot, I’m telling you now: singers clearly should sometimes say ‘never’ onstage…especially to these next 10 no-no’s:

Singers do NOT:

1. Chew gum

I figured I’d start off simple. I know it’s a given for many but you’d be surprised. I was guilty as charged…until I saw a video. Yeesh. I still can’t un-see that! I know it keeps everything moist and whatnot but no. Just no.

2. Make frustrated faces at or shame a band member

Ohhhh. We’ve all had it with onstage colleagues. And some of us have the eye-roll down to a science. But doing anything like this tells the audience a lot more about you than the perp of the wrong note/chord. Ugly.

3. Tell audience members to shush

If you have to tell an audience to pay attention, you’re not doing your job.

Okay, a kid’s party…fine. Otherwise, if you have to tell an audience to pay attention, you’re not doing your job. Work harder. Try again. Accept that some won’t/can’t listen (nursing home residents…but hey, it’s all love in there.) Be the bigger person, always.

4. Bring negative energy/drama with them

I have. It’s nasty. Pickles the whole vibe. It’s not called ‘show business’ so you can show everybody your business. Everyone is there to connect, not vibe your bad mojo. Meditate, do deep breathing and talk to yourself like a crazy person in the mirror and tell yourself how you can go high on this gig even if you feel low.

5. Telegraph that they made a mistake

This is tough, but it’s a real rookie move. Like Lady Gaga said, make sure they ‘can’t read your, can’t read your, no they can’t read your poker faaace’ (see what I did there?). Unless there’s an emergency, audiences will probably be none the wiser. So, smile through the pain of your boo-boo and siiiiing. This too shall pass!

6. Forget their earplugs (if they’re using stage monitors)

Of course, for an acoustic gig, no worries. But on any band gigs, protect those babies. If you’re gigging a lot but not using in-ears, please consider getting fitted for musician’s earplugs. They’re around $150 but well worth saving yourself from hearing loss or tinnitus. And you’ll hear a lot better than with the drugstore kind.

girl with earplugs

7. Get cross with monitor/FOH (front of house) mixers or any employee at the venue

This is super-duper important. Getting pissed off at anyone at the venue not only creates unnecessary drama, you could be setting yourself up to receive some serious shade. Some of those folks might not be evolved enough to not retaliate. And it’s their house, so be polite. Unless there’s any sexual harassment. Then, have at ‘em. And get to their boss stat.

8. Read lyrics

Another rookie move. Sorry, guys; unless you’re told to do it, don’t do it. Do your job. Learn your songs. Free yourself up to entertain, engage, interpret, connect, etc. It’s what you’re getting paid for. And if the money is lousy or nonexistent and you think you can work less hard, you’re not thinking right.

9. Look at the jumbotron

For those singers who have hit the big time, do NOT look at yourself in that crazy thing. Your every flaw will be magnified and the time lag between audio and video can throw you off. And your every flaw will be magnified. Did I mention about your every flaw? Good. Glad we had this chat.

10. ‘Phone in’ (dial in) the gig

Seriously, if you don’t want to be there, there are plenty of other singers who do (and in Nashville, throw a stick and you’ll hit one). We all have bad days, hours, etc. I know. I’m having one right now, really! But I’m showing up and writing for you guys. True, I don’t have to wear heels to write. But I’m here to do the same thing you are called to do at a gig: connect.

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