“You had insurance on that guitar, right?” 25 things you should never say to a musician

After touring for 20-some years I’ve got stories. Turns out other musicians do too. I recently asked my Facebook friends for something you should never tell a musician. Here are my favorites.

  1. “You had insurance on that guitar, right?” Yeah, but it doesn’t cover beer guzzling jerks who slam dance to my folk music.
  2. “The lighting tech accidently knocked your guitar over.” He actually knocked it OFF the four foot high stage. Fortunately, my guitar is built like a ’55 Chevy. Not much could kill it except the airlines.
  3. Speaking of airlines: “We don’t reimburse for damages to delicate items.” Look, a**hole, it’s in a case made with three-quarter inch plywood and inside, it’s surrounded by three inches of foam. It’s not any more delicate than your head.
  4. “Sorry the party was a bust. Go home early. Here’s half your pay.” This really happened to my musician father. His response? “You don’t understand. You don’t pay us to play music. You pay us to haul in all this stuff and we DID that.”
  5. “What’s your real job?” Killing clueless audience members.
  6. “Can’t you just do that as a hobby?” Sure, just like you can teach or practice law as a hobby.
  7. “Your CD was great. I’ve burned all my friends a copy.” See number five.
  8. “Can you play Stairway to Heaven?” Sure but it’ll cost you A LOT of money.
  9. “If you lost some weight you’d have quite a career.” If you gained some intelligence, you’d have quite a life.
  10. “Could you please turn the drums down?” I have to play this loud so I can hear over the noise in my head.
  11. “Can you play a little quieter? I can’t hear my friends talk.” Sure, tell me when you have that big meeting at work and I’ll be sure to show up with my metal band.
  12. “Is that a real song or did you make it up?” Clearly, it’s a fake song.
  13. “Can you play something we can dance to, like an Elvis song?” Sure, lemme crank this acoustic guitar up to 10 ½.
  14. “Your new CD isn’t as good as the last one, is it?” No, it sucks. That’s why I scraped together the $10,000 to record it.
  15. “Was that your sound check?” No, it was my idiot check and I’ve determined that you must go.
  16. “How about doing music that people know?”  I’m happy to play “Born This Way.”  Damn, I forgot my meat dress.
  17. “YOU know. It’s goes like this … dah, dah, dahdah, dah dah dah.” Duh.
  18. Said by a sound tech after an hour long sound check, “You’ve just never had good sound before.” Right. I wish my acoustic guitar sounded like a 747 taking off at O’Hare ALL the damn time.

What you should never say to a female musician:

  1. “We’d keep you as a vocalist and guitar player if you’d just dress sexier. “ As soon as you gain intelligence I’ll buy the push up bra.
  2. “I can’t believe your boyfriend lets a pretty little thing like you on stage.” I can’t believe idiots like you are allowed to roam free.
  3. “Are you the drummer’s girlfriend? Wow, that’s nice of you to carry his drums in for him.” Oops, the cymbal bag slipped. Sorry ‘bout that.
  4. “You can play my bongos anytime.” To which the girlfriend replied, “Sorry buddy, but she’s playing mine.”
  5. “Let me show you how to play that thang, sugar babe.” Oh thank you, big strong man.
  6. “Are you here with your boyfriend?” Sure, he’s the one with the “no one knows I’m a lesbian” t-shirt.
  7. And my personal favorite, “You play pretty good for a girl.”

Some of the comments were made to me. Ask me to play “Stairway to Heaven.” I dare you.

Got any to add?

Did this post make you spit coffee all over your screen? Or cry in your beer? Consider helping keep me in coffee and my cats in kibble. And it’s only $2.

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Thanks to my Facebook friends for the awesome help: Shannon Wade, Sarah White, Phyllis Free, Laura McLean, Gwen Frederick, Marla McCulloch, Marcia Gallas, Jackie Gaston, Cathy Chalmers, Martine Locke, Mandy Louise Clayton, J.D. Doyle, Cindi Zuby, Suzanne Cardinal, Millie Pankow, Wes Collins, and Chris Wilson. Most are pretty damn fine musicians. Look ‘em up.

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About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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24 Responses to “You had insurance on that guitar, right?” 25 things you should never say to a musician

  1. Chris Wilson says:

    Jamie I love this one! And not just because I participated in the suggestions (thanks for the credit). While my life as a musician is purely vicarious (i.e. I’m the manager), I cringe just as much each and every time I hear these things said. The musician, of course, responds graciously unless the person is truly off the wall. Most of the time the comments are made out of true ignorance not malice.

    Another one that I heard one night: “Your accent is so FAKE, I can tell ” [it was genuine].
    What I believe deeply in my heart, is that what you do as a musician is as worthy of respect as better paying professions such as doctor, lawyer, plumber, etc. Would you tell your doctor “hey I saw something on WebMD so here’s the drug you need to prescribe. And, I only owe you half ’cause I figured it out myself, ok?”
    [yeah, I know YOU live in Canada now. . .]

    Oh, and here’s another pet peeve: Don’t buy the musician a drink! Put the money in the tip jar instead! Often the musician has a bar tab as part of their compensation so they don’t have to buy drinks; also, not everyone drinks. I once watched a duo perform, neither of them drink alcohol and someone at the bar sent two Jamesons to them at a cost of $13 that could otherwise have gone into the tip jar. I sadly watched the ice melt, knowing that neither of them would touch those drinks.

    Always helpful, I did drink both of them myself . . .

  2. Allison says:

    I have gotten this one after playing, but even got it at my day job last week! “Wow, that was better than I thought it would be!” I’m so happy that I appear to be a talentless loser on the outside but that I was able to pleasantly surprise you.

  3. mefoley says:

    Amen, sister!

    I should start a similar list for authors. Things not to say:

    1. “I don’t see why I should have to pay for content.” You paid for the computer, you pay for internet access, but I’m supposed to work for you for nothing?

  4. Ashleigh says:

    Follow up to “you play pretty good for a girl” (except the 18 year old guitar player who actually said that to me, used the work chick instead), “you know so many chicks look bored on stage, you looked like you were having fun”. To which I replied: Oh! I see, it’s not actually about my ability as a musician it’s about how I appeared as woman on stage!
    And this guy had a female in his band, but I guess she had “gender appropriate” music roles, like singing and playing the tambourine. All of which are perfectly fine instruments, none of which have anything to do with gender.
    Will it never end?

  5. Love love love this list! As a female trumpet player, I always got, “Wow, I bet you have strong lips.”

  6. “Is that a real song or did you make it up?” Clearly, it’s a fake song.

    I’ve gotten all sorts of variations on this one and they all bug me. Mostly I get “Did you write that?” Or “So who writes the music?” Because girls only write lyrics, right?

    Also, and this is just for us mom musicians (rather than dad musicians), every time people find out I have kids when I’m playing a show, someone always asks me with great concern “Where are your kids right now?” Duh – they’re locked in my trunk. Us musicians aren’t a very responsible bunch.

  7. Robin Renee says:

    Here’s the one I’ve heard ad nauseum: “You’re just like Tracy Chapman!” They get bonus points if it’s followed by “Can you play “Fast Car?”

  8. Melissa says:

    I have to agree with the “I was pleasantly surprised” comment. I had no idea how bad they wanted me to be, but apparently I didn’t fall to their hoped for depths! Ironically, since the “pleasant surprise” I’ve played there at least five more times! Go figure!

  9. Ashleigh says:

    okay, okay I have one more (well a lot more)… opening band walks in, their bass player walks up to us and looks directly at the guys (guitar player/singer, the drummer and the keyboard player) and says “hey can I borrow one of your guys’ bass amp?” I say “sure thing, I’ll just show you how to” “uh” he interrupts “I can figure it out”. Later, opening band bass player can’t find the power switch.

  10. Love it. Mind if I add one to the fray?

    While unloading amps and cases out of my van: “Hey, do you play in a band?” OR “Are you playing tonight?”

    I realize this is just an awkward icebreaker. But I always feel like replying:
    “No, I’m just carrying music equipment on a Saturday night for the hell of it.”
    “Didn’t you hear? This coffeehouse also doubles as a late-night music repair shop.”

  11. Jasmine says:

    My two cents: What you should never ask a teenage musician:
    Younger cousin: “Can I play your guitar?”
    Me: “No.”
    YC: “Pleeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaase?”
    That little voice in my head: “Sure. If you’re willing to pay for it when you drop it.”
    Me: “No.”

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