Audience Contact

This article is part of the Psychology section.

Singers are lucky. Not only do they have the most beautiful instrument but also it is also given to them for free. They have no expensive trips to the luthier, no strings, no bows, no accessories to buy. Their instrument weighs nothing, occupies no space (a dream for airline transport) and nobody can trip over it and crush it. They are not allowed to practice for long hours, and they need at least a day of rest after each concert.

Because the singer has fewer expenses, you might think that they should obviously be paid less than instrumental musicians, but this is not the case. They are actually paid more. Why ???? Because, like football stars, people love them. And why do people love singers more than instrumental musicians ???? One of the reasons is because singers look at the public while they sing. The singer sings to the public, not just for them. The emotional communication is direct, personal, and powerful, thanks to the eye contact, even though that eye contact is not one-to-one.

We instrumental musicians cannot look at the public as we play. It would be very strange, and very distracting for us as well as for them. While playing, our principal relationship is not with the public but rather with our instrument. We transmit our feelings to the public through our instrument, which sings for us and expresses our emotions. We are not singing, we are making our instrument sing. We are not playing to the public, we are playing for the public. Perhaps that is why instruments are so expensive and their players often poorly paid: the instrument is the singer (the voice) and we are just the manual operators! (see “The Instrumentalist as a Skilled Manual Worker“)

We instrumental musicians, unlike singers, can only make direct human contact with our audience (by looking at them) before and after we play. While playing, however, the human contact is indirect, via our instrument. Singers, compared to instrumental musicians, not only have all the previously mentioned practical advantages but also have the added emotional pleasure of this enhanced, direct, emotional contact with the audience.

So why would anybody go to the infinite trouble (and expense) of learning an instrument when we can all sing ????? For the pleasure of Orchestral Playing or playing Chamber Music ?? See here for some more discussion about this question.