What Does Face the Music Mean?

To Face the Music Meaning

Definition: To deal with or meet the consequences one one’s bad behavior.

It is common to say to someone it’s time to face the music.

Origin of Face the Music

It is unclear exactly how this phrase originated, but the allusion seems to point to performers facing the audience during a show.

One origin story points to early American theater, where the orchestra was in a pit, which the actor faced along with what could have been a hostile audience.

Another origin story points to the military, where a soldier’s disgraceful dismissal might be accompanied by the band’s playing the “Rogue March.”

Whatever the exact source, the phrase appears to come from around the year 1850 and have an American origin. Its now well-established meaning is to meet the consequences of your decisions head on.

A synonym of this phrase is face up to something.

Examples of Face the Music

facing the music idiomThis example shows two women discussing a mistake that one of them made.

Bella: Hannah, I think I made an awful, terrible, very bad mistake.

Hannah: Oh no! What happened?

Bella: I was in charge of those very high profile clients. One of the clients was a little heavy. I mean, he was a little bit overweight.

Hannah: Okay…

Bella: He said his name was Patrick, so I wanted to say, “Can I call you Pat?” What I actually said was, “Can I call you fat?”

Hannah: Oh no.

Bella: Then I tried to correct myself, and I accidentally said, “Can I call you fat Pat?”

Hannah: That’s awful.

Bella: The boss wants to meet with me in an hour. I assume he’s going to yell at me for messing up so badly.

Hannah: Maybe you should just say you’re feeling sick and can’t go to the meeting.

Bella: No, I have to go face the music.

face the music originThe following example shows two college students who are discussing an assignment.

Hanh: I did something that I shouldn’t have.

Zhongyi: What did you do?

Hanh: I let my roommate borrow my old essay to look at. I thought she just wanted to see an example of what the essay should look like, but she just copied the whole thing! Now the school is punishing her for plagiarism, and they want to talk to me about it, too!

Zhongyi: Maybe they won’t punish you because you didn’t know what she was going to do.

Hanh: That’s true. But our student handbook prohibits the sharing of materials, so if they decide to punish me, I’ll have no choice other than to face the music.

More Examples

The excerpt is about athletes on a team that was playing really badly.

  • “Guys were like, ‘Ah, screw this pep talk. Let’s just go play,’” Nece said. “It was like, ‘Let’s go get this over with and either we’re going to face the music in that we become 0-16 or we find a way to get a victory and then we never talk about it again.’” –USA Today

The second example is a person who must go to jail for his crimes.

  • Last week, Duterte said de Lima had to “face the music. There were a number of witnesses, it took two months to develop the case,” Duterte added. –USA Today


The phrase face the music means deal with the results of bad decisions or actions.