From The Side of the Road… I got you on video!

The smartphone, especially the smartphone with video camera, has changed a lot of things in our society. Just ask any politician who has had video of something he or she said posted to social media that directly contradicted yesterday’s statement, or that was just stupid. “I never said that,” or “that’s fake news” no longer flies as a response. The incriminating statement was clearly captured by Charlie Waterson of New Boston, Ohio and posted to his Facebook account two days ago. The picture’s a little wobbly but the audio is clear.

The technology has changed the lives of touring musicians, too. Before we took the stage at a California bluegrass festival, Alan Munde said to us, “Don’t be nervous, but there’s a camera crew from YouTube here to record your show.” We have to accept the fact that any performance we do is likely going to be immortalized somewhere, whether we were having a good day or not. It used to be you could come off stage, think about the blown G-run in the last song of the set, and say to yourself, “Oh well, it was just a fleeting moment that went by and it’ll be forgotten an hour from now. Chances are, most people who heard it never even noticed.” Today that blown G-run has 6,800 views on YouTube and a few guitar players have rewound to that part several times.

I actually covered this subject once before, focusing particularly on YouTube, but now there are so many different platforms to post that blown G-run on that it’s really hard to keep up. Whether it’s Instagram, TikTok, or the new social media app that’s actually called “Blown G-run,” your on-stage errors have the potential to live on in multiple places. Forever.

There’s also really no longer any point in trying to forbid people from posting videos of any or all of your show. When the issue was a couple of people with expensive video cameras showing up to your concert it was one thing, but now most of the audience can do it in between checking the score of the Cardinals game and texting a friend: “At the Wyndy Creek show right now. The banjo is really loud LOL.” To keep everyone from posting a video of your show, you’d have to hire a staff of enforcers, and most bands struggle just keeping that second guitar player or the singing bus driver on the payroll.

The wisest strategy now is to get a friend or fan to take some competent video clips of a show and send them to you. Once you find some clips you like, post them yourself, so at least they’re out there competing with the one in which your fiddle player got on the microphone and said something that was offensive to 60% of the population.

When I wrote about this topic before, I listed eight things that touring performers could no longer get away with. Here is that list again, slightly amended, with a couple of bonus items to bring the list to an even ten:

  1. Making noticeable mistakes (see blown G-run above)
  2. Having spinach in your teeth (in case of the closeup shot)
  3. Using expletives, undeleted (especially during the Gospel portion of the show)
  4. Wearing the same clothes for an entire tour (the old “we won’t see the same audience twice, will we? I’ll just pack one shirt” strategy will no longer work)
  5. Maligning the audience from the previous gig to score points with the current one (“It’s great to be here with you all in Ohio! Anything’s got to be better than that Pennsylvania crowd we played for yesterday!”)
  6. Inhaling a moth during the second verse of He Took Your Place (I actually did this once)
  7. Doing a striptease version of Wayfaring Stranger (though this could go viral and eventually make you some money)
  8. Going on a drunken rant of any kind (unless it’s really entertaining)
  9. Criticizing your agent, manager, record label, or spouse on the microphone
  10. Heckling members of the audience (unless you have the Jethro Burns touch and are really good at it)