I encourage all my students to perform. Amateur nights, open mics and talent contests are great opportunities. One important aspect of these type performances is that you have limited time to perform, usually 10-15 minutes or three songs. At an open mic, staying with in your time is a matter of politeness to the other performers. They signed up for their slot same as you and share your hopes and dreams for the evening. This equity makes for a friendly event and both audience and performers are quite supportive especially to a noob. Acting the diva and staying on stage longer than your slot is a major faux pas and no one in attendance will appreciate it no matter how well you play.
At a talent contest going over the time limit can actually cost you the prize. Some judges will take points off for overtime even if it’s not part of the adjudication sheet, which it usually is. Make sure you read ALL the rules before entering a contest. It’s a shame to give one of the best performances of your life and find out that you were disqualified for going 10 seconds overtime!
So why play them at all if you get rushed of the stage? If you just started they’re a great venue for honing your stage skills. Everybody has a first gig. Most of us started out at open mic night or high school talent show. If you’ve been playing for a while these short gigs are a good way to introduce new folks to your music, increase your fan base and try out new material. On another level, it’s just like a performance on nightly talk show with out the interview. Watch David Letterman and notice how tightly the more successful artists can perform, usually down to the second, one song, no talk, starts on cue and ends right on the commercial!
The trick is to practice the timing of the event same as you do your music. Prepare three of your best, most energetic songs, perform them all together and time yourself. Three minutes under? Great you could add another song! But, don’t. The Idea is to hit them hard and fast and get off stage. Leave them wanting more.
Rehearse your stage banter; do you need to thank anybody? Does an introduction or short story improve the effect of a song? Cool, but write it down before the show. You don’t have to memorize it, but thinking ahead will avoid all the “ums” and “ahs”, backtracking and other useless time sucking verbiage. Don’t EVER apologize for being on stage; bad stage behavior anytime and a serious mistake if you don’t have much time. Now rehearse it again with the talking included and work it out so that it’s at least a minute under time.
Get up there and play. There is power in your music, let it speak! But, when time is limited make it short and sweet.