9 ways to save your show from a difficult artist

9 Ways to Save Your Show from a Difficult Artist


You’ve either been there before or dreading the day when it will happen to you.

Sometime, somewhere along the line, you’re going to have to deal with a difficult artist.

It is important to remember that difficult artists are not (necessarily) horrible people. We all get grumpy and want our way at times.

Consider putting yourself in their shoes. Maybe they’ve flown halfway across the world and are jetlagged? Maybe they’ve been doing back to back nights in clubs with 10-person crowds that reeked of urine? Maybe they’ve just broken up with their significant other? Maybe they have the hangover from hell? Maybe they just really are a jerk.

Regardless of the situation, you’ve got to do you best to keep them happy. Get rid of anything that could annoy them. The happier they are,  the better they will play. The better they play, the better you look. You don’t want the night to flop harder than Vince Vaughn’s latest movie.

Here are some tips for handling artists to make sure everything goes smoothly and you both come out on top.

  1. Go through the tour manager when possible

It is important to stay on good terms with the tour manager at all times. Show them that you’re organized with a proper, detailed schedule. Do not ask the artist about their tour schedule, ticket allowances, or VIP signings.

tour managers are easier than difficult artists

  1. Leave nothing to chance

Artists only want to worry about performing, and having a good time.

Everything else needs to be taken care of for them. This means accommodation, city tours, food passes, luggage, etc. This is primarily the manager’s role – hence tip #1. Make sure you provide the tour manager with all the details they need. Don’t be afraid to liaise with them regularly to make sure everything is accounted for.


  1. Meet them at the airport

The best time for you to meet the respective artist is at the airport. If you can’t make it, at least have a personal driver waiting for them. The transition from airport to the hotel is your first chance to make a good impression, make sure you use it. If your driver is late, or there is some kind of confusion, you’re getting off on the wrong foot. 

Get difficult artists a driver

Try to think ahead. Have some food and drinks ready when the artists arrive. Check with the manager to learn what the artist likes beforehand. Have all these items waiting in the car. Chances are they will be on a busy schedule and won’t have time to stop anywhere.

  1. Don’t let them get distracted

With busy touring schedules, your first stop is likely to be the accommodation, sound check, or straight to the event. With a difficult artist, the last thing you want is for them to be swamped by fans or media as soon as they get out of the car. Pre-plan the shortest and safest route beforehand. You need to get them from the car to where they need to be fast. Once again, think ahead of the game.

a difficult artist will get distracted

  1. The rider

Make sure you have everything on the artist rider waiting for them. If it’s on the list, they want it. May sure you’ve got the rider far enough in advance to allow for any hard to find requests. We’re looking at you Jack White, and your guacamole recipe.

a difficult artist will have demands

  1. Pre-show

Artists all have their own routine before a show and this needs to be respected. Make sure nothing interrupts it. Sometimes the pre-show is when VIP or meet and greet access for fans or media is handled. Make sure the artist is still okay with this via their manager and set firm restrictions for the fans if possible. Restrict fans to one photo, saying hello then leaving, not touching anything, etc.


  1. During the show

Taking photos from the pit can distract artists during their performance. Make sure the media doesn’t take photos in the pit. Or, make sure they only shoot for the first few songs. Talk with the manager about this beforehand. Having a bunch of bright lights flashing at you is pretty off-putting.

avoid a difficult showtime situation with artist

  1. Post-show

Drinks? Girls? Keeping drunken fools away from them? A great rule of thumb is to always ask the manager. The manager will know their artist well. They will tell you if the artist wants to party afterwards, or just jet out of the building. Make sure to be polite, thank the artist, make sure the rest of their stay is all arranged.

some artists will want an afterparty


  1. Prepare for the worst

What do you do if the artist won’t perform? Get together with their manager and think up a damn good excuse for them. Sickness usually gets the most airplay. Make sure you’ve got some other entertainment or a backup act for this situation.

Sound equipment sometimes suffers glitches and hiccups during a performance. Make sure you solve these issues quickly. Artists will usually play through sound issues, but if it continues for too long both the artist and crowd will give up. If someone throws something at the artist ala Azealia Banks? Get your security on it quick. This is the time to kick patrons out if they’re misbehaving.

prepare for the worst with a difficult artist

There is a lot to remember when bringing in a difficult artist to perform. Make sure you are on top of everything. These people usually have little patience for mistakes. Don’t give them anything to complain about.

Stay on top of your game. Talk to the manager regularly. Follow these steps and you won’t have a problem.

Colm shares his years of experience marketing events on our blog, writing about successful strategies to bring more people to your events. Colm is a product manager at Crowdflow, responsible for client success.