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Almost every musician has been familiarised in some way with the curse that is stage fright. In the fast and high-tension world of gigging and touring, even those who do not suffer from it themselves may have a bandmate or friend who does. And whilst there are numerous tips and tricks both online and in the industry to combat stage fright, little is spoken about it’s a slightly less well-known cousin. 

‘Red Light Syndrome’ is the phenomenon when a musician makes mistakes as they know they are being recorded. It refers to the red light on a DAW or mixing desk which shows recording is taking place, and it can be as big an obstacle to a musician’s career as traditional stage fright. However, whereas traditional stage fright is caused mostly by the fear of audience judgment and expectations as well as social embarrassment, the red light syndrome is more likely to be down to perfectionism and certain unnatural conditions in the studio. 

In his podcast and related book, Ways of Hearing, industry insider Damon Krakowski refers to how digital recording technology has altered musicians’ experiences of time. Whilst recordings in analog used to allow for some flexibility and for musicians to march to the beat of their own metaphorical drum, digital requires much more rigidity- asking musicians to manipulate their internal metronome to something robotic and inflexible. Could certain experiences of Red Light Syndrome be down to this as well? 

Ultimately, whether fuelled by a fear of social judgment or by unrealistic expectations of perfectionism, performance nerves are a recognized part of music-making. Nevertheless, it is as important to acknowledge other factors which may contribute to it both onstage and in the studio – factors which will be as unique as each band playing there. 

Do you suffer from studio stage fright or red light syndrome? Leave a comment on the page! 

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