top of page

The stressors of touring: Performing

Continuing along the theme of ‘the stressors of touring’, in this week's blog I will be looking at 'Performing to the best of our ability'.

Staying in the domain of the stressors of touring, this blog is about performance anxiety and the pressure to continually 100%. There is lots of academic literature and research on music performance anxiety or MPA as it’s often known. If any of you are interested in this, TONIC offer an amazing workshop called Music Performance Anxiety, additionally, I could recommend a book called Sound Advice: The Ultimate Guide to a Healthy and Successful Career in Music, it’s written by musicians and gives a good overview of the experiences and resources in this area.

One factor that was clearly articulated in my own research was the pressure to give 100% in all of their performances. This incessant drive clearly contributed to the anxiety they felt when performing in front of others. It almost felt as if the musicians were personally responsible for how the audience members perceived the performance. I do understand this, but it’s also important to remain aware of our limitations and personal responsibilities towards how we impact others.

Personally, I can swing between this deep perfectionism and my own nonchalance, although the latter is probably a defence against the former (I won’t get too psychologically deep here!). To bridge these two states, in the past, I normally found a conduit of booze and other stuff to sellotape them together! The pressure has lessened over time without a doubt, perhaps this is down to age and as Dolan Hewison says ‘learning to not give a f**k’ (Dolan is my guest on next month’s Tonic Music Radio on Totally Wired Radio). This ‘not giving a f**k’ doesn’t work for everyone, I certainly move between over caring and under caring depending on what ‘part’ is manifesting at the time.

As mentioned, some of the musicians in my study felt the constant need to always give 100% all of the time, which I feel is impossible, but everyone has their own take on this.

Lots of this need stems from the community-based approach these musicians take, on one level this is one of the difficulties of having such a close tie with our musicking communities.

The musician’s sensitivity to ‘caring and sharing’, paradoxically seems to form a tighter bond over not wanting to ‘let anyone down’, so on one level I can understand this self-induced pressure. This dilemma is another example of the nuances of being a musician similar to the ‘ups and downs’ of touring. The connection to fanbase is another area of both darkness and light (on another note, if you are an academic reading this, don’t nick these ideas without referencing me, original thought has taken original effort).

So, in a nutshell, I feel that MPA is deeply driven by how we relate and make meaning of the audience perspective. It also stands to reason that if we do have a need to deliver optimally, it may have an adverse impact and make us even more pressured (or not!)


Adam Ficek hosts a monthly show 'Tonic Music' on Totally Wired Radio, where he talks to various guests about music and mental health. You can listen again to any of the previous show on the Tonic Music Mixcloud page.


bottom of page