Should we allow music stands on stage? This can definitely be a question with several answers but not necessarily a 100% correct answer. As in any other decision making process, I'll lay out some pros and cons of music stands and maybe even a helpful alternative.
First, let's look at the cons of having stands on stage...
1. They're ugly. That has to be the biggest complaint of a traditional style music stand. You can try to put them off to the side, lower them some, but they're still just a black orb taking up space on stage and depending on how many you have, it can almost be distracting.
2. A/V Teams. For the same reason as number 1, I can only imagine that camera guys despise them. They get in the way of desired shots and hide musicians instruments. Also, lighting crews aren't always thinking about allowing light on the stage for a musician to be able to see their sheet music.
3. Musicianship. This can be a large part of the argument, and a tricky one. It's debatable that the use of a music stand can injure the musicianship of someone who plays an instrument. Having the sheet music and/or chord charts can be relied upon too much and can lead to just playing through the songs and never REALLY learning them.
4. Distraction. This can go hand in hand with Musicianship. If you're just playing along and following a chord chart and are focused on it, then are you able to do your part to engage the congregation in worship? This entails personal practice, which I think our teams are good at and take that responsibility upon themselves. When relied upon to get you through the song, having a chord chart on a music stand in front of you can be very distracting, especially with trying not to lose your place on the paper.
You may be able to think of more cons, but here are a few pros to having the music in front of you.
1. Piece of Mind. Having the music there as a reference and a slight reminder can be comforting. We have 3 Sunday morning services and do a sound check before 1st service. During soundcheck, we run through all the songs, just like service. So on Sundays, the band does the same set 4 times. Needless to say, things can begin to run together after some time. As a keyboard player or bass player, knowing that you're such a foundation to the music, having the music readily available can be very comforting because at some point or another, you will blank for a moment. It's just going to happen.
2. Perspective. I think it's really important that we put these things into perspective. What's the point of what we do? To lead people into the presence of Jesus. If having the music can make you feel more relaxed knowing you do have that safety net, that's great! You're more likely to engage people when you're comfortable. The point is to worship.
If you're on the fence on whether to ditch music stands, you're not alone. We stepped away from music stands a couple of years ago, but not completely. For a long time, we would print off chord charts and make folders for each band position for the songs for that week. One reason that we moved away from that was just the amount of work involved each Monday or Tuesday. The other reason, you guessed it, visual. There's no way around it, music stands are ugly. Upon doing some research, we discovered something called OnSong. OnSong is an iPad app that takes chord charts and puts them in an easy to read format that you can follow along with. We even have ours set to auto-scroll so there's no pesky page turning between songs or the worry of losing our place. They have a low light setting so there's never a worry of being able to see. One of my favorite parts is that since it's ran on an iPad, you don't have the sheer bulk of a traditional music stand. For us, this is the best of both worlds and our team really embraced it. If you would like to know more about it, check out http://www.onsongapp.com/.