Dealing with a heckler is something every artist and performer will have the pleasure (rolls eyes) of experiencing at some point in their career. You know the type. They either want to get your attention and make the whole show all about them or they’ve had a few too many top-deck lager shandies, think they know a thing or two about music and start demanding you play, “Kings of Leon” or “Ozzy”. (Facepalm)
I want to give you some tips and strategies to help you overcome these kinds of disruptions and continue playing your show without being knocked off track. Dealing with a heckler is something that can be really off-putting if you are unprepared, but it is also something you will get better at dealing with over time.
(It really doesn’t happen that often so please don’t freak out or be put off performing by this post.)
Here are my top tips for dealing with hecklers or unexpected disruptions. This process has never let me down.
1) Ignore them.
Most disruptions don’t last for long. Generally, it’s someone trying to draw attention to themselves or trying to engage with you. I have found its best to ignore these people and carry on with the planned set/show. They will soon get tired of being ignored and hush up.
2) Talk to them.
If you have a persistent heckler, someone that will just not let it go, then some engagement may be needed. Try to joke with them in a friendly way or ask them politely to stop shouting/being disruptive and to let the rest of the crowd enjoy the show without any interruptions. Always try to do this in a polite, light-hearted way so you don’t cause any unnecessary trouble for yourself or members of the audience.
3) Use the audience to your advantage.
When you have someone who continues to make disruptions during a show and you have tried the methods above, then it’s time to use the crowd to your advantage. Ask them to politely to let a member of security know where the heckler is so they can be removed in a professional way. Or you might ask the friends/audience members near the heckler to quietly talk to them. That has worked well in the past.
4) Stop playing until they leave.
This is actually a very effective tool because when you stop playing, the crowd will immediately turn into security and help remove the person that is causing the problem. They might have been happy to ignore the heckler up until now, but they want to watch the rest of the show. Now, you don’t want to start any fighting or fisticuffs, but you are the one with the mic and the voice to control what’s going on, just ask them to talk to a member of staff or security and get the person removed from the venue in a professional manner.
Youtube has some great videos of bands and performers being heckled and it can give you a really good insight into how the professionals deal with these situations. As I said above, you are never really ready for the disruptions, but the more prepared you are and the more tools you have to work with to either persuade, calm down or remove them, the better you will feel and the more adaptable you will be as a performer.
Remember to always stay professional and in control when situations like this arise as there could be children in the audience and when tempers flare, we say and do things that really don’t represent us very well. Never go down to their level, just let the security do what they are paid to do once you have exhausted the earlier methods above.