Live Music Performance Tips: How Not To Suck On Stage

Updated: Jul 5, 2020


Learn The Art of Live Emceeing!

In an era where anybody can pick up a mic and just start rhyming, the art of Emceeing (MC-ing) has taken a huge loss. While technological advances have helped Hip Hop in many ways, they have also ushered an in influx of bedroom rappers. A “bedroom rapper” is someone who may be skilled at making music at home on a laptop, but when it’s time to perform they can’t quite capture the crowd. This may be because of a lack of confidence, experience, knowledge or just plain laziness.

What is an Emcee (MC)?

An Emcee is someone who directs an audience. A master or mistress of ceremonies. The person who is behind the mic and in front of the crowd. An Emcee commands the audience from the stage with nothing but voice and presence. True Emceeing is an artform that requires skill and technique.

This article is designed to give a step by step checklist on how to be proficient in the art of live Emceeing.


Find out everything you need to know about your show.

  • When / where is it? How much is show admission?

  • Are you getting paid?

  • What is the show’s title / theme?

  • How long do you have to perform?

  • Does the show’s theme require you to censor your content?

  • Is there a sound-check?

  • In what format does your music need to be in (mp3, wav, etc.) and how does the promoter want to receive it (email, thumb drive, cd, etc.)

Remember to tell them of any special provisions you’ll need (like how many mics, amps, projectors, etc.) If you have a rider, make sure it reflects your specific needs and that it is clear.

Help promote your show.

Some artists are fortunate enough to do shows that have a big promotions budget and a team of people to help push them. These artists don’t have to worry about whether or not the show is being heavily promoted.

As for artists on a local level, you should actively assist in helping to promote your own show. Local promoters usually lack the man power, time, money & where-with-all to get the show out there like they should. This is why the job will partially fall in your lap whenever you perform locally. Get on social media and help spread the word as much as you can. Make sure all your friends know at the very least.

Have the promoters give you physical copies of the flyer to hand out if possible. And of course, be sure to get an electronic copy of the flyer to share on all social media networks. Remember to remind your fans often leading up to the show, but don’t badger them. If you have any interviews or other appearances leading up to your show, always remember to promote your up and coming shows / events.

Put your show together.

Pick out the best, most appropriate songs for the event. Avoid picking songs that are too difficult to perform comfortably. Apply any censorship to the songs you are performing. Always consider your audience when putting your show together. Don’t pick too many songs. Keep it short and sweet but powerful.

ALWAYS have a show track made to perform to. NEVER perform over your own pre-recorded vocals (except for hooks and adlibs). Rhyming over pre-recorded vocals subtracts from your professionalism and makes you look lazy and un-masterful.

Plan your outfit.

Don’t just go on stage looking crazy unless that’s a part of your look. If you are in a group, picking out a color scheme or some other thematic element adds to your look on stage. Just don’t be corny with it.

Rehearse! Rehearse! Rehearse!

Rehearse standing up whenever possible. Rehearse with mock microphones in a mirror. Pretend that it’s real. Rehearse with real mics if you have them. Rehearse acapella and with music. You can even have someone try to distract you while you rehearse. Try to see if you can stay focused during this exercise. Learning to ignore distractions while Emceeing helps to minimize mistakes on stage.

Identify areas or your performance that need work and work on them.

If you have someone adlibbing you or a hype man, make sure they are in tune with your stage show. Create “filler” material that can be used in case of unexpected problems during your show. Filler can be freestyling, promoting your music, or even just conversing with the audience.


Arrive early.

Be professional. Greet the promoter and/or club owner. Establish a relationship with the soundman or DJ by introducing yourself. Make sure they have your music well in advance of your performance (bring a backup copy just in case). Do the sound-check if there is one. Listen respectfully to other artists who might be performing. Avoid intoxication until your duties have been fulfilled.


Be an MC and move the crowd.

Establish a relationship with the crowd. Practice good audience etiquette. Introduce yourself first. Be natural. Make eye contact with the audience. Come to the mic with a positive attitude. Don’t depress and badger the audience. Don’t talk too much or too little. Don’t be dead on stage. Don’t hold back. If something unexpected happens, keep going if possible. Enunciate. Breathe.

Practice good microphone and stage etiquette.

Don’t cup the mic. Don’t smother the mic with your mouth or your hand. Speak clearly. Be aware of how you sound. Listen for feedback spots and avoid them. Be aware of the stage. How tall and wide is it? Are there obstacles on the stage (cords, instruments, etc.)? Keep track of others sharing the stage with you.

Promote yourself a bit before exiting the stage.

Let the audience know how they can find you online. Tell them about any upcoming events you have. Keep it brief. Try to have something physical to leave the audience with (flyer, cds, merchandise, etc.)


Share media from the show as soon as possible.

Post images and video onto social media platforms and on your website. Thank whoever made it possible for you to perform. Follow up on any leads you got at the event.

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