Five Common On-Stage Accidents Musicians Face and How to Handle Them

There’s nothing quite like live music and, for many musicians, performance is the reason why they’re in the game at all. Audiences agree, with the UK spending over £2 billion on attending concerts in 2022 for the first time ever.

But part of the thrill of live music is its immediacy and, sometimes, its volatility. Things do go wrong in the moment and it can require quick thinking and an innate understanding of your equipment to make sure the show can go on.

Equipment malfunction: quick fixes to keep the show going

Any musician who’s spent any time performing has had to make do with equipment they know isn’t always the most reliable. Pedals in particular can be notoriously temperamental! If you are working with tech that might be prone to conking out, make sure you have suitable backup options on hand that you can switch out quickly between songs.

Perhaps the most important skill to have to mitigate malfunctions is crowd management. Public speaking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, even performers but, if you have to stop mid-song to fix a faulty amp or replace a broken guitar string, being comfortable enough to keep the audience entertained through a bit of banter or anecdotes can keep the atmosphere up until everyone’s ready to resume. It’s the kind of skill you might also need if there’s a sudden issue with lighting – perhaps a big, dazzling display you had in mind doesn’t work, or the whole room goes dark. Either way, being able to roll with the punches and vamp or chat while whoever needs to fix something gets it fixed will serve you well.

Sound-system failures: ensuring audio consistency

Nothing hurts the vibe of a live performance more than the harsh tones of microphone feedback, and it’s something you should take great care to avoid with thorough sound checks. If it does happen during a performance, though, see if you can move the microphone further away from any speakers – or vice versa, if that’s easier.

Instrument drop or damage: immediate response tactics

This might be the big nightmare: suffering damage to one of your instruments during the gig. Perhaps a drink was spilled in the wrong place or you tripped over a stray wire and dropped or fell with your instrument. These are the kinds of scenarios that explain why many performers take out musical instrument insurance but that won’t make it feel better in the moment. If you own more than one instrument of its kind, having a backup backstage that can be brought out and quickly set up to step in can help.

Unexpected stage incidents: staying safe and professional

‘The show must go on’ is the number-one mantra until it’s not – safety is always more important than the relative success of a performance. If you find yourself tripping over mid-performance, having the presence of mind to brush it off and keep going can be very valuable. But if it happens to someone else on stage, make sure to check on them as quickly as possible, even if it’s just an eye across the stage to silently communicate as to whether you need to take a pause to address it.

It’s when something like a stage invasion happens when you should be more prepared to shut things down immediately. It’s behaviour that’s not permitted for good reason, because it jeopardises the safety of people in the room as well as your equipment, so it should not be rewarded by the continuation of the performance. Make it clear immediately that it’s not acceptable and don’t resume until it’s been taken care of.

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