I’m sitting in the third center row from the front and my view of the stage is perfect, excited from weeks of waiting to finally get to hear this band play. They are introduced and come on stage only to immediately kill any enthusiasm I had. It looked like they finished their last minute clothes shopping at the local Goodwill store. Their pants are ripped and their tee shirts are faded and torn. One male member of the band was even bare footed with painted toenails. Clearly their disheveled hair hadn’t been combed, cut, or washed recently. While their stagemanship was good, the music well-played, my first impression of them destroyed any good thoughts I will ever have for their music. No, I’m not talking about the newest and hottest hard rock band but a country/folk band.
I guess you can just call me old fashioned but whatever happened to the days when a performer entered the stage looking his or her best? What happen to looking good in the public eye, making a good first impression, etc? Music artists and performers today are going on stage in front of thousands of fans looking like they put no effort into grooming. I have a hard time understanding the new look of today's musicians and their appearance. This week I will try to convince every new act and some old ones to look their best while performing in front of the ones that truly bring them their paycheck, THE FANS.
Looking back thirty years I remember when I first got hired as a banjo player. At that time of my life I never wore a tie and only had a few pairs of dress pants to my name. I soon learned that when performing professionally the first thing the public notices is your appearance on stage and it will be the last thing they remember. In my new band all the members believed in looking their best at every show we performed. Coat and tie was mandatory for every gig we played, even the small ones. Throughout the years I spent in this band I realized they were onto something that led us toward the road to success. People's first impression of you on stage is so vitally important and most modern musicians overlook this small but essential factor. At every show we played over the years we received great complements on how well we played and how professional we looked doing it. Just the fact that we looked top notch made us feel more successful than we were at the time and confidence was communicated to the audience through our music. It was a chain reaction I soon learned to appreciate and use to my advantage in all areas of my life.
Most people don’t enjoy being classified, particularly musicians, but you have to see your dress as part of your identity. First impressions aren’t soon forgotten. Clothes alone won’t make or break you but making a good impression should be a priority if you want your career to have any longevity at all. Now if your still reading this I am guessing you’re a paid musician or someone who wants to be one and you and I both know that being one isn’t as glamorous as most people think. By choosing the right wardrobe for the right genre of music we can make a brand for ourselves, feel confident on stage, and even convince our audience that our music is better than what is actually is. The main idea is if you want to be treated as a professional musician you should always look the part on and off stage. By dressing like a professional you will notice that you gain more respect and get a better reaction from every person you come in contact with.
In my teaching career before I met my wife I used to think differently. I would dress in bib overalls or blue jeans and didn’t put much thought into my attire. After we dated for a few months I began to notice she dressed very professionally even on her days off from her job. We have had many a good conversation on this subject and I have come to realize that she was right. If you dress professionally you get treated professionally with more respect from everyone you come in contact with. She was totally correct in her reasoning and demonstrating the principle “Dressing with dignity shows others you respect yourself and them”. Then I remembered the days performing in front of crowds and being in the public's eye and realized that why our band’s look was so important for us. I am not performing much these days but I now view my daily attire as a teacher differently than before and found it works.
The cost of the clothing isn’t the issue and you don’t have to go into debt to look your best. Certain music deserves certain attire to look good when performing. Let’s look at a few simple things you can do to improve your own or your band image while on and off the stage.
First, always remember that what you wear is an outward reflection of the kind of people you want to attract to your music and your respect for them. That’s one to ponder on for awhile.
Second, whatever outfit you choose to wear make sure it’s clean. Unwashed, ripped, or stained jeans aren’t going to help you make a good impression. It doesn’t prove to people you haven’t sold out—actually it says quite the opposite, that you have no goals and ambition. Shoddy clothes bring shame to you and your family.
Third, make sure your clothes are appropriate for everyone, including children, to see. This requires a little common sense on your part.
Fourth, always, both on and off stage, come across as totally professional in your appearance. Remember what I said earlier that if you want to be treated as a professional, look like a professional.
Fifth, always make sure your style reflects the music you are representing. Little effort and a lot of thought should go into this final suggestion. It goes without saying that rockers shouldn’t look like a jug band or vice versa.
After many years I have realized that being a professional musician requires not only many hours of hard work and dedication but it also requires a good image in the public’s eye, both on and off stage. We should take great care of how we look no matter where we go or what we do to keep that special image working in our favor.
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