Why Are Some Artists So Scared To Perform?

This Paste Magazine “UnGlued” humor piece by Grant Shellen that suggests things artists can do in between songs to avoid “terrifying silences” brings up an interesting topic: How do artists deal with social anxiety and how this impacts the live show.

Even though Shellen’s focus is on how to entertain audiences, most of what he suggests in his run-down is really about how artists cope with their various live performance anxieties.

So what do these witty tips tells us about how artists deal with stage fright and performance anxiety?

Music history, past and present, is full of artists who have overcome their anxieties to perform their music in front of a live audience. Sometimes the battle is a minor hurdle and sometimes the battle is a major struggle. Some even believe that stage fright is curable.

Deerhunter front man Bradford Cox is known to struggle with agoraphobia and even wrote a song about his fear on their latest album Microcastles. In 2008, I remember reading reviews mentioning the often awkwardly silent moments during Fleet Foxes shows. During these moments the group seemed to cope with their anxieties by rambling and getting fans to chuckle while they found the right tune in their instruments (making use of Shellen’s tips)and then continued with the otherwise transcendent show.

So how much do these anxious struggles impact the fan’s experience? Do we expect these awkward moments to a certain extent or do we avoid these squirmy, uncomfortable and impending train wreck moments, hoping we don’t see an artist struggle on stage.

Does this struggle make the performance better or worse? Is this struggle an important part to their show and does it make our live concert experience more memorable or utterly forgettable?

If you’re an artist, would you use hypnosis or medication to overcome your anxiety?

The causes of agoraphobia are currently unknown. And according to other wiki sources, “its presence is linked to other anxiety disorders, stressful environments or substance abuse, and more women than men are affected.”

How do you feel when you see an artist struggle on stage?

Tell me about when you experienced this at a show.

Here are two video versions of Deerhunter’s Agoraphobia:

Live Deerhunter version

Interesting Fan interpretation video version

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