Performing live - why?

Where do I start, I wrote down this post pretty much from the middle to start as I had real struggles to formulate my thoughts into words… I would like to one day attend an open mic locally, but I struggle with finding a motivation, as in a goal why would I like to do it. So I would like to ask you my friends both those who think they will do it one day and those who already have done it:

What makes/made you want to perform at local live open mic? Why did you/want you go, what were/are you hoping to achieve? Were/are you looking for new likeminded friends, forming a band or what else? Basically what is your purpose to attend one of those? Did you/would you go with someone from your friends or family for spiritual support or did you/would you go alone?

With Community Open Mics I really enjoy those as I feel like I am among friends with common interests, common learning path and there is a shared purpose in it, whereas live I feel I would be on my own, not sure what to do with myself before and after. I attended two open mics so far as an audience member and it felt a bit odd to me, unless you came with bunch of friends it was every man/woman for him/herself.

Hope my million questions make some sort of sense and hopefully first paragraph explains why I want to know it :grinning:


Good question. For me the reason I wanted to perform was because i could. For many years I dreamed of being able to play like others that I saw. Ordinary people, friends and such. So when I finally actually learned how to play the guitar, wild horses wouldn’t keep me off the stage.

The early, easy songs were fun, then I started playing harder songs and the mistakes kicked off a big bout of stage anxiety. My wife asked me why I bothered because in small groups, friends and family I didn’t get the performance anxiety. My answer to her was very much the same. Now that I’ve done it and accomplished something I’d only dreamed about in the past, I just have to be up there on stage because I can.


My live guitar playing performances are limited to friends & family at BBQs, and open mics. However I did play drums live as a teenager. Quite a few times. At church, talent shows, at end of high school grad party. Then I quit at 18. Also I did drama and acted in school plays a few times as a teenager. Over my career I’ve given speeches regularly. So I am familiar with performance in front of others.

I think it comes down to: what do you want to get out of guitar? If you only want to play at home and build some skills, having fun, just play for yourself, that’s ok.

Do you want to perform for others, join a band, gig as a solo singer/songwriter? Then playing in public, busking or open mic makes sense. I think it would be pretty hard to get a gig without some live experience first.

There’s a whole bunch of musicians that started off busking, so they got LOADS of live experience. Some I can think of are Ed Sheeran, Tones & I, John Butler. I think it’s not coincidence.

I think it would be pretty hard to just go and write an awesome song as your first song and then somehow perform it live in front of lots of people. I don’t think it happens. The more experience with songwriting and performing the better. Get loads of bad songs and performances out before the good ones :joy:.

Then again my realisation I probably wasn’t going to “make it” and had no idea how to do it was what made me quit drums and music altogether all those years ago.

Now for me personally I want to perform live because I enjoy it, I like making & performing music. Even if it’s just for a small group. Probably kind of like @tony. I’m not in a place of life yet where I can realistically do that, and I don’t think my skills are developed enough either.

So do you actually want to perform live? If not, that is totally OK.


That’s an excellent point. My wife has a lovely voice and when friends have heard her sing, they’ve coaxed and cajoled her to get up on stage. It’s not something she’s all that interested in and I fully support her in that lack of interest.

Performing initially for me was also easier because I’ve done my fair share of public speaking. So getting up on stage in front of people wasn’t a new experience for me. :slight_smile:


It’s an interesting question Adi. From my own perspective I’d been learning guitar, doing AVOYP etc. for a long time and to be honest you can get into a bit of a rut doing it. So the question was what is the next thing to do? I know there is plenty to “learn” (and always will be) but for me it was what’s the point and what’s the drive to do it? At this point I was pretty bogged down even with being able to play barre chords comfortably. Also playing live almost felt like a confirmation “that yes I really can play guitar”. All that said it actually took me quite a long time to get to playing live…and it wasn’t playing live that came along first but finding someone to play with which I sort of saw as an interim step along the way. I at that point had no intention to get into a band but it just sort of happened.

I sort of understand your comments in terms of it - initially - being a lonely thing. It’s quite difficult to break into new groups of people and different OMs at different venues are different things. Some we attend the audience are pretty much all the performers. Some we attend then the audience is really very much the public (I actually prefer these).
What brings most together is the person organising it and they are usually very pleasant and very accommodating…will usually introduce you to others and encourage you. It’s highly likely they’ll do multiple OM AND that the same people that perform at one will perform at others. As we’ve travelled around to different ones its ALWAYS the same people so you do (whether you like it or not) quickly get to know others. The fact that you perform gives you and others an excuse to talk to each other if only to say “well done good songs” etc. it’s surprising how quickly you build connections and build some friends in the local music scene. For me it’s become another social scene as much as anything. That is probably the bit that is most enjoyable now. I play guitar live which is great but also have some good friends etc. It’s a bit like this forum but in the real world. I often go along to gigs those friends are putting on now and in turn they often attend our gigs. Similarly we’ve picked up lots of gigs basically by just being around other music people.


Hi Adrian, I’m far away from playing for any audience except family but the biggest motivation for an OM or to perform in front of an audience would be to make people happy and relaxed. Music is such a magical thing. For me it would always be to transfer the feeling of music. Must be a wonderful thing to brighten peoples days…

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It’s a very interesting question and I’ll try to give an answer despite being on the other side of the fence compared to your original post, and I hope I’ll make sense.

The most crucial thing in my opinion is a genuine need and will to share something with your audience. This can be the joy of playing a song, singing a certain set of lyrics, your own thoughts and feelings, or just the mere fact of being among those people.

Personally, I’m quite content to develop my skills here on my own, taking note of things I’m getting better at and areas that I should work on. Being more of an introvert, I just don’t feel the need to play for anyone else (the lack of time for proper practice for a proper performance is another issue). Some people may say it’s selfishness, but I just wouldn’t like to put myself in the position of “serving” an audience, however much interest or goodwill they may have towards me.

However, I don’t rule out the possibility of changing my attitude one day, but at present I don’t know when that will happen.

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I don’t have an answer to your question Adrian, I have a very similar feeling as you do about live performance. It’s just not a goal of mine.

My performance goals include playing for friends and family, home recording, playing in the community OMs. But performing live in public? Like you, I have trouble seeing the purpose of it.

If you have dreams of forming a band and becoming a rock star, public performance would be a necessary step along the way. But I never dreamed of being a rock star. I’m sure it’s a real rush to play for a crowd who are into it, but that’s not a rush I’ve ever been chasing after.

I suppose that if you knew you were going to play in public, it could act as an extra motivator and force you to lift your own game a bit? But if your existing goals are already motivating enough, well there you go.

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Hey Adrian, thats a very interesting question indeed and glad that you asked it as I too would be interested in knowing the thoughts of the community members that have or aspire to perform live.

I’ve never performed live at an OM or currently plan to do so but I’ve left that door ajar. To me it would seem like the natural progression from AVOYPs.

At first recording and posting AVOYPs can be a bit daunting but over time the easier it gets as you build up confidence. I’d expect that its similar with performing live at OMs but on the next level.

When I watch the performances of those in the community that have been performing live at OM and/or in a band setting you can see the boost in confidence that they have gained as it shows in their performance.

So to me it’s an opportunity to put yourself in a situation to build your confidence up whilst meeting like minded people.


I have no desire to perform whether live, for friends/family, OM’s or AVOYP. It’s just not something that I am comfortable with, and just thinking about it brings me out in cold sweats!! Not being able to sing probably doesn’t help.

I also don’t think that after this short period of time (2.5 years) that I have enough skill to do this anyway.


Very interesting question!

One should go for things that give hil/her energy, not things that drain.
Looking forward to something might drain energy (stress, preparation, anxiety)
It oftens boils down to:“What give or drains energy”

  • To me, performing live is one the the most fun things there is.
  • I choose it over any day at a theme park.
  • I like to promote my solo gig and band, with the aim to score more live gigs
  • We make a demo, with the aim to score more live gigs with the band
  • being on stage itself boost my energy +100%! seriously, I could be working, sweating, … but never out of breath and it feels like I could go for hours. both solo and with the band.
  • Performing live is like a test of what you are capable of, with a difficulty modifier applied :smiley: But I THRIVE when performing under stress and I even need to create artificial (time) pressure in order to perform at work as well. You have to have something to show for if you want to turn heads and I like to match my progress: What do I notice myself as progress vs. how is it perceived.
  • And I have to be honest; I like being in the center of attention :smiley: I’m an ENTP
  • I’m kinda proud of what I do and what I can already but I always want to become better. Performing live really helps closing the loop to iterate upon, to improve.
  • Having a live gig on the agenda makes me practice more!
  • Having audience changes everything but for me having 3 or 300 people watching doesn’t matter. I do like to use the energy of the crowd, whether it is a intimate song or a racing heavy metal song!

An open mic can be a test, a part of a feedback loop, a point to learn from and to iterate upon.
If your main goal is to enjoy playing music and it helps to improve; improvement is probably your prio 1 or 2. Yet, playing live with a certain frequency will help you improve.


Interesting topic Adrian, and something I’ve given a lot of thought these past few months.
I’m sort of an odd case, I’m very much an introvert and don’t like being the center of attention, but at the same time I’ve always secretly dreamed of performing with an acoustic by myself, Llewyn Davis style.
Now, when I started with the guitar I never imagined playing live, and definitely not singing, it seemed very far fetched at the time.
After all this time I’m more and more comfortable with it, the AVOYP section and the community OM definitely helped, and earlier this year I did perform in a couple of real life OMs.
The experience wasn’t that great, at the moment it gave me a rush that felt good but I don’t believe my performances were exactly brilliant, lots of nerves and not really knowing how to treat a proper gig microphone being the main reason.
So now my goal is to record myself as much as I can and get relaxed and comfortable with it. I also did 2 gigs with a little band I have with friends, the first one I was pretty meh, but the second gig showed more promise.
Right now is not possible for us to do gigs together these next months (Work, life, etc) but maybe the band setting is what made me more comfortable, more “protected” even if I was singing. Performing alone again would help me get that confidence little by little.

So like I said, I’m planning to go back to OMs but I want to give it some time to actually practice and be totally comfortable with the songs, also since I’m planning on recording some originals an open mic is a great chance to showcase your music to different people with different tastes, and if you already have some music online to get some buzz going on.

Also, I met a girl with a great voice and she suggested to do a cover band duo thing, with me more focused on the guitar which could be very helpful as well since it would force me to learn a bunch of songs.


I love all the answers so far, I will keep my head low for now as I want as many people as possible taking part in this discussion and I feel me commenting now might feel like topic is sort of naturally closing down :grinning: so thanks to all the answers so far but keep them coming folks!


I’m replying from my phone but I’ll try to provide a coherent reply. I will ignore all the “getting better” parts because purely based on your posts, I am not the one to tell you or anyone else on the forum what makes you a better player since progress of members of this community is insane.

I must admit that I was actually shocked when I read this post. And not because I think that everyone should be a performer or that there’s something wrong with anyone who just enjoys playing for themselves in the afternoons, just to relax after work/school. I was shocked because playing live was my modus operandi since the inception and I guess it is the first time, I ever heard (well…read I guess) anyone express this directly.

This will sound a bit “wishy washy” but even as a kid I felt that the music is the closest to transcendental feeling one can get to (well as a kid, I’d use less fancy words haha). Concerts are a place where your personal views and the views of the people around you don’t matter. I mean they matter, you don’t lose your identity but it shows you that there is something that connects you to the other person in a joyful, happy and meaningful way. So far I’ve only experienced this in live musical settings. And because I know you’re studying Justin’s PMT: There would be no harmony without different voices. (And life would be boring.)

I formed a band within a year of playing, I jammed on stage a few months later. I love music and I love people. I have a hard time writing songs on my own but the moment you put me either in a band or on stage, ideas start to flow and energy bounces around between me and other people. I know this can be done in a private setting (a k.a. band rehearsal only without a gig), but the moment you include the audience factor, you get this 110% version of yourself that is more in tune with yourself/your thoughts/your emotions → better, more honest ideas flow.

To touch on your point on why/how to go. I go to 95% of gigs (from open mics, busking sessions to stadium gigs) alone. I am there for the music and I’m happy just to perform my two/three songs and then listen for the rest of the night. If I do it regularly or if others are there mainly for the music, I’ll eventually get to know someone (but that’s not why I’m there). Heck, I’ve met one of my closest friends and guitarist in my first serious band waiting in the queue for a gig!

Lieven mentioned the 16 personality types. According to the test, I’m extroverted (which I agree with) but I’m a relatively reserved and quiet person who puts a lot of thought (probably way too much lol) in what I say. Therefore I either have long conversations with people or no conversation at all because I’m just not capable of putting my thoughts in short sentences (also one of the reasons why I’m mainly a lurker on this forum). But give an instrument (doesn’t really matter which one) in my hands and an audience in front of me and I’ll get my thoughts across easily.

Lastly, a bit of a silly answer but it makes sense in my mind. You’re a player. You go to an open mic. You enjoy music there so let’s say it provides you a few hours of good time/entertainment for free. Isn’t it a nice way to pay it forward to sign up for it and provide good time to someone else. Justin teaches you, you pay it forward by being super helpful on the forum. What’s the difference with an in person open mic. Or if you want to finish on a philosophical note: music brings you joy, why not share it with others :)?

EDIT: Well, that’s a long reply for someone who can barely use a touchscreen. No wonder it took ages to type lol


Adi, I don’t know either but I’ll keep you posted.

When I started to learn guitar I had no ambitions. I’ve always loved music so I guess it was a means to immerse myself further and of course thought it would be cool to be able to play a few songs - I mean, I don’t find myself at many beach bonfires but hey-ho.

So I think the main reason I’ve stuck to guitar is that I learned to enjoy the process of learning, just half hour a day /whenever I can plug in and chill out. As JK said, yep that’s fine.

…. but then recently I began to think, it’s all well and good being able to play guitar but from time immemorial the purpose of an instrument has been to accompany a voice.

I don’t know many singers so thought it best to have a crack myself. Roll on the Justin guitar community open mics and you know I thought if I work at this too….

I found even the online open mics very nerve racking, to the point of flawless tunes I play all day turning to mush one the ‘red light’ goes on, I’m also very introverted so I know that I’ll have to work on this too, probably my Achilles heal so am now determined to ‘break through’ the barriers.

A few online open mics in and I began to look at in the flesh open mics. I know one guy who does sing and he recently put on a charity night in our local cricket club. This spurred me on to see what might be happening out there.

I’ve so far performed at one open mic. I initially popped along to one with the aim of lurking in the background for a few weeks / months and would see how it went, but once I got talking to folk I just thought why not? And had a go at the very next night.

I went along by myself, that doesn’t bother me at 44, I think there were a few others there in the same boat. Everyone was friendly and encouraging I’m going back for another go tomorrow night.

What did I get out of it?

  • I was amazed that there was even a music ‘scene’ out here where I live (I maybe got lucky living near to a touristy place) so I now feel more connected.

  • I met other musicians and got invited to a few other nights / jam sessions.

  • I now have an avenue through which to ‘test’ my nerves in order to improve.

  • The standard of the other performers was on another level, so I know by just keeping going I will be able to ‘level up’.

What were the downsides?

  • It seems to be quite an intellectual / knowledgeable crowd, I was never into music / drama club or anything like that at school or onwards so music is what I know from the radio / albums. Not sure I’ll fit in …… the usual introvert trauma :roll_eyes:

  • After the first night I was already thinking I would have to completely change the direction I was headed in music wise as everyone else was doing acoustic stuff, but no, they’ll be getting the full overdrive tomorrow, I’ll let you know how that goes down.

  • Do I even need to ‘get over my nerves’ and perform publicly? I’m hoping the nerves will be a transitionary period and I’ll be able to enjoy performing live, and just be part of the scene.

I’ll keep you posted……

(Great post Adi)


Hi Adrian, I enjoy going to Open Mics to hear people play and sing. ‘Simples’ (as Toby would say!). I don’t enjoy singing myself, so I have no ambition to play at a live Open Mic. If my partner Krista ever wanted to sing at an Open Mic (she won’t want to lol) I’d be happy to play. Apart from that I’m happy to listen at a live Open Mic. I do enjoy playing around a campfire with friends. Or in a living room. Wherever, just playing with friends. I don’t mind singing in that context too, starting off a song to bring others in so they will sing. Singing in service of the song (as Clint would say!). Years ago I imagined that I might be a singer/songwriter one day, but I don’t have the voice. I’d rather focus on my strengths. I was thrilled to be able to go over to a friend’s yesterday and spend a few hours jamming, and having him show me a bunch of things on guitar. I didn’t feel frustrated at the difference in our playing abilities, or shy or awkward about playing, I think I was smiling with joy the entire afternoon. There are tons of musical paths to explore on guitar, I’m focusing on starting to learn about improvisation. That’s what makes me the happiest right now.

I do have a desire to busk somewhere sometime. I see myself playing fingerstyle though, not singing. So someday I’ll do that. (I need to learn quite a few more fingerstyle songs first.)

I enjoy the JG Open Mics because although it does feel like an Open Mic, it also has a feel of hanging out with friends playing guitar, and that I find to be great fun.

Interesting to read everyone’s responses :blush:


Ah, a What’s the meaning of life? post :thinking:
An invitation for all to sharpen their pencils and scribble down a 5-minute Manifesto
OK, someone hold my beer :beer:

For me, (as for Luka and many others) music can be a truly transcendental experience and is worth learning to create and appreciate purely for personal enjoyment.

Performance is another kettle of fish entirely.
Humans are social animals and for most of us, our ‘happiness’ depends on our relationships and interactions with those around us, usually family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, countrymen etc. in decreasing significance. Strangers (until we engage with them) tend to be at the bottom of the pile.

My guitar ‘performances’ whether on YouTube, Facebook, open mics, or rarely live for family/friends, fall purely into the ‘sharing experiences with folk I know and care about’ category. (Yes, that includes you bozos, too :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:)
I’m often surprised when people declare how many ‘followers’ they have on social media (unless it’s their income). Why would anyone care about a number of people they don’t know?
I don’t believe folk go to live music events for the music. The quality is inevitably way below what they are used to and have 24/7 at their fingertips. It is, of course, the warm feeling we get from being in a crowd of similar sentiments, joining in the same spirit. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a concert, dance, theatre, football or street protest.
It took me a while to realise I don’t like large gigs, where I have to squint at the distant screen to see the performers. You have to imagine they are interacting with you personally. I love small venues (esp. my living room), where it’s much easier for performers to engage with audiences (and my heckling).
I have never had much truck with personality tests, but I am aware of (as are some of you), certain extrovert tendencies in my psyche :roll_eyes: I believe this comes from the wish to communicate with others and develop relationships.
On the other hand, there may be a bit of Bono in me, who said something to the tune of:
“There has to be something missing in my life, if I need tens of thousands of people every night to shout my name”

If I ever do a public open mic, I’m pretty sure it will be because I know someone else performing, or in the audience.
Now which one of you bozos was holding my beer?
See you all at the next OM :sunglasses:


I guess it’s really a combination of the points you raised.
Open mics give you the chance to play to an audience if you’re not in a band.
I find there are good communities among the open mics.
You can pick up tips to improve your playing.
There is a chance you could get picked up for a band (hasn’t happened to me yet).
But mostly it’s fun.


Start to believe that sometimes it really is… My very first rock concert was Queensryche, over 30 years ago, their sound quality is so good (the best of all bands at the time) that I didn’t like it that much, and many with me… at live performances something else almost always happens than at your CD at home extra long solos or licks and riffs that you have not heard before in that piece,…and see the dynamics/joy on stage with the music… etc etc etc… I think that’s great, and can’t wait for my first concert in my new condition(in a chair), if all goes well a bit away from the crowds,… because the annoying thing about live concerts are all those people around me and they all see you as a friend because you are one of them etc…I’ll keep it short now…

I want to pass that on sooner or later…on stage i can move freely and be almost alone ( i want a band), so that’s where I have to sit, back or on stage… :sunglasses:


Such a great question, Adrian, and prompted so many thoughtful responses. Reading through all that people shared I could personally identify with many, many of the points already made.

For me it was just the next challenge, a logical step to take to continue to grow as a musician. From AVOYP audio only, to video, to Single Take Saturday, Community OM and local OM.

I enjoy the events, there is something different about it, not to be compared with the original recordings most cover. Sure the quality may not match the original artists (sometimes I think it does) but there’s an intimacy and camaraderie that I love.

As a person who presents classes, was a Toastmaster, and now my crack at performing music, I have to say I enjoy the sharing and interaction, after the initial fears are faced, I get a buzz doing it. I’m not naïve as to consider myself an entertainer, so OMs are really a developmental activity, and I hope my performances are relatively enjoyable, at least not unpleasant.

What I am mindful of is keeping the ego in check. Performing is good for my self esteem and confidence but I stay mindful that it is about sharing the music learning, having fun and guard against become too self absorbed, narcissistic. But to a degree, there is an element of enjoying being the centre of attention and delivering a performance that people can enjoy.

This all goes along with other paths to explore, like producing original songs. I’m certainly not prolific but satisfied to have produced a few. And I am also attracted to lead play, acoustic blues. It is that never ending adventure.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts in due course, Adrian.