If Everyone Survives, Did You Really “Bomb” Onstage?

An acquaintance came away from a gig feeling like she had totally bombed.

This is what I wrote:

First of all you didn’t bomb. Okay, so you didn’t connect with the audience for some reason, and you may have made what seemed like mistakes for you, and you may have let that make you more nervous or whatever, but if you played music and everyone was still alive when you left the building, count it as a victory of sorts.

EVERYONE has nights where things don’t go the way they would like, and as often as not it’s as much a mismatch with the audience as anything else. A friend who plays adult MOR pop songs in a lot of bars accidentally played a country bar last weekend and admitted that he was not well received. But it wasn’t his fault per se. In fact he’s going to go back and listen to the acts that ARE well-received there to see if there was anything he could have done differently. Forty years ago I was in a pop cover band and we accidentally got booked into a biker bar. That didn’t go well either. No, we didn’t go back to see what we could have done differently.

I played other gigs where the sound system sucked and people said AFTERWARDS that they couldn’t hear our voices or whatever, and I’ve played other places where people were just there to drink and yell. Again, nobody died, so I count it as a victory of sorts and move on.

Being poorly received is NEVER a judgment on your personal worth, and it’s ALMOST NEVER even a judgment on your talent. Learn what you can, turn the bad feelings into a song if you need to. (Here’s a song I wrote when I thought things weren’t going well for my music and it still gives me comfort: “Battered Guitar”) But do NOT take this as a personal failing of any kind. The people who fail are ones in the audience who are convinced they could do it better than you but never give it a try.


About Paul

Paul Race has been writing and playing all kinds of music since the 1960s, though he tends to favor acoustic and traditional songs. He has created resources like CreekDontRise.com, ClassicTrainSongs.com, and SchoolOfTheRock.com to help other musicians get a good start on their own journeys.

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