As far as I am aware, no formal instructions have ever been offered to audiences on how to behave in public so I thought I would use this opportunity to point out a few things which really get up musicians’ noses.  Most of the following points may seem blatantly obvious but any gigging musician will tell you they are all regular occurrences.

Singers are not ventriloquists
It always amazed me how musicians develop the ability to play an instrument and hold a conversation at the same time. People often came up to me while I was playing to either request a song or just for a general chat and while that could be irritating it was so common in the end I accepted it as part of my job. What was extraordinary though was the number of people who wanted me to talk to them at the same time as I was singing. When this happened I would try to ignore them until I had finished the song but some were so persistent I had to stop and announce to the audience “sorry to interrupt this song but I have someone here who is desperate to ask me something.” The place would go deathly quite and everyone would look up to see who it was that was bothering me. They never did it a second time.

Requesting Songs
Most musicians welcome requests but please bear the following in mind:

  1. Singers and musicians don’t know every tune that was ever written so don’t start complaining when you are told they can’t play your request.
  2. If the singer doesn’t know your request it is highly unlikely that they will know it if you ask them again in 10 minutes. Asking for the same unknown song 10 times in one night is also unlikely to improve your chances of getting it played.
  3. If your song is being played don’t stop the singer in the middle of it to request something else.
  4. If your song is being played, do the singer the courtesy of listening to it. I have lost count of the times I played a request for someone only to have them talk to their friends non stop through it and later complain that I hadn’t played their request.
  5. If everyone is in a party mood with people dancing on the tables don’t request something slow, especially if it is a country song involving a dead dog. Likewise, don’t request A Bat Out of Hell while dinner is being served.

Getting up to sing
Some singers don’t mind if you get up and sing a song but it can be a minefield so don’t complain if the singer doesn’t allow it. It is hard to compete against someone who has all his mates in the bar cheering him on and harder to get people off the stage. Sometime mates of the guest singer join in and the evening degenerates into a rowdy free for all. If you want to get up and sing, go to a karaoke bar otherwise let the band or entertainer do their job.

If you go to a restaurant or pub which has a live band take it for granted that they will play too loudly. If you want to sit and chat quietly to your friends then go somewhere else. It is difficult for a band to control it’s volume considering each musician has their own volume control and each feels they should be heard above the others.

Buying a Drink
It seems to be the custom that rather than musicians being given tips they are bought drinks. Musicians appreciate the offer of a drink but if you see one with 10 pints of beer lined up behind him then don’t be offended when they turn your offer down. Several times I almost got into fights after declining a drink and I don’t know how many gallons of beer I have poured down the sink at the end of the night when refusals was ignored.

Don’t ask if you can play a musician’s instrument even if you are sober. It’s like someone asking you if they can take your brand new Jaguar around the block a few times.

If you are really drunk and want to talk to one of the band members, take it for granted that you will be irritating. You will keep repeating yourself and generally talk a load of rubbish. Remember they will probably be sober so will not be as eager to listen to you as the others at your table who have also been drinking. Just enjoy the night and accept that the singer probably doesn’t care that your mate Fred is a brilliant guitarist and plays Apache better than Hank Marvin.

If you are enjoying what the band is playing don’t wait for someone else to applaud, be brave and lead the way. Many time I spent hours playing without any audience reaction until someone claps at the end of a song and then everyone joins in and starts having a good time.

If any other musician has any pet hates please click the “submit comment” button below and send them in.


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