a guide to concert etiquette
As a concert enthusiast, I have spent nearly half of my life attending live music events. However, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a hard blow to the live music scene, causing a two-year hiatus. Now that concerts are back in full swing, I am happy to be back in venues with thousands of other fans, but it’s clear to see that the pandemic seems to have altered the behaviour of concertgoers.
It seems everyone has forgotten what normal concert behaviour was before the pandemic. Not only has all ‘concert etiquette’ crumbled before our very eyes and unfortunately it’s making what used to be a fun and pleasant experience turn into a bit of a nightmare.
If you’ve not attended any gigs recently, or you’ve been lucky enough to experience nothing but positive crowds, then I’ll paint a picture for you.
I attended a small intimate Gracie Abrams gig earlier this year in Kingston which was being hosted to promote her upcoming album Good Riddance. Abrams performed beautifully and gave the crowd glimpses of her upcoming album as well as performed a few beloved older tracks. And yet the main takeaway I had from the gig was that Abrams must have the patience of a saint because that was one of the most frustrating crowds I’d ever had the misfortune to be a part of.
Long story short, the way in which people were interrupting Abrams throughout her performance was almost unbearable. She was gracious enough to offer to take one person’s BeReal but, of course, the crowd took advantage of that and suddenly everyone was asking, phones being shoved in the direction of the stage as if it was their right for her to do this for them too. Members of the crowd were shouting over her as she tried to speak about her upcoming album. Amongst these interruptions, they requested her to play songs that weren’t even hers. I assume the plan was to perform a few of the songs from her upcoming album, but she didn’t get the chance to perform as many as she wanted to. At Gracie Abrams’s shows, she usually does perform a single cover, and for this show it was this is me trying, a Taylor Swift song I personally love and was excited to hear. However, she ended up doing multiple covers because people were requesting them of her like she was some kind of DJ in a nightclub.
I had a great time, and I was happy to see her live, but my God, was that a painful crowd to have experienced it with.
Although I had known that concert behaviour had been a problem for a while, it wasn’t until this show that I saw the extent of the problem.
When I asked fellow concert go-ers on Instagram about bad concert experiences, my DMs were flooded. So many fellow music fans had so much to say about their awful concert experiences from the last year or so. There were all sorts of artists, venues, and types of crowds; from pubs to stadiums, from rock to pop to grime. I even had a small indie artist message me about his struggles with a crowd that was difficult to perform in front of.
So, it seems like everyone has issues similar to the ones I do, so here are a few tips for concert etiquette that should be pretty basic to follow.
If you’re going to camp clean up after yourself
Now, personally, I’m pretty against camping as a whole. It’s one of those behaviours that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more people camp for a good view, then the more people feel like they also need to camp for a good view. It just seems a little pointless to me, but I know people enjoy doing it, and I guess there’s no real way to stop that.
However, if camping is your thing, then please do not leave litter, tents, food packets or even clothes left strewn all over the ground. This likely happens because people can’t take these items into the venue, but that is something you need to think about beforehand.
It really is not difficult to tidy up after yourselves and it’s selfish not to do so, quite frankly. It is not the responsibility of the local street cleaners or the venue staff to clean up your shit.
Look after yourself in the pit
Chances are, if you’re an avid concertgoer, you will have been to a gig recently where the artist has had to pause to make sure someone in the crowd is okay due to someone passing out or falling ill. Most of the time, this is due to the people that have been waiting in queues and in the venue for a long time, without eating or drinking properly.
Although artists should absolutely care about their crowd and be aware if anything untoward going on with any of their fans; they shouldn’t have to be as vigilant as they are at the moment. Imagine what it’s like to be an artist performing, and also acting as another level of security for the crowd.
Obviously, this doesn’t refer to people who become unexpectedly ill, but those that almost intentionally don’t look after themselves so they can get the best view. Not only does it disrupt the gig, but you’re doing yourself a massive disservice by not having the time of your life at the concert.
Respect the opening act
If you didn’t know I have a TikTok (shameless plug: @rubyonmusic) and my most successful video to date was me calling out people who were acting atrociously to Mitski when she opened for Harry Styles Love On Tour last year. They were being disrespectful and saying gross things about her online.
Now you don’t have to even enjoy or like the opening act. But you have to respect that they are often an upcoming artist, who is very aware that the crowd is not there for them; you don’t have to make that discomfort even worse.
If you’re going to be in the venue when they perform (which you are not required to be), then make sure to pay attention a little, be polite, and at least clap when their set ends. It’s the least you can do as a participant in the audience.
Hold back on the signs, unless you’re going to be respectful
Signs can be a lot of fun. Emphasis on the can be. Some artists respond well to them, and some won’t even acknowledge they’re there.
First of all, you should check which kind of artist you’re seeing. For example, someone like Harry Styles loves reading and engaging with signs at his concerts, but someone like Taylor Swift doesn’t have a pause in performing to pay attention to them.
If your artist is receptive to signs if you do bring one, make sure it doesn’t block the view of others. Perhaps either just hold it up in front of your body rather than your face if you can, or if you can’t; wait until the artist either invites signs to be read or stops performing to speak. And even then, only do it once or a maximum twice during the set. Nobody behind you wants to just see the back of a bit of paper for the whole show.
Do not interrupt the artist
It’s difficult to believe that this is something some people need reminding of, but they do.
Perhaps at big stadiums, you can get away with it, since unless you’re right up close to the stage you’re unlikely to interrupt anything. But if you’re at these smaller shows, then please don’t try and interrupt the artist.
It’s disrespectful and chances are you’re the only one who cares about what you’re doing or saying; everyone else is mad.
Obviously, if an artist speaks to you, or encourages audience participation then this doesn’t apply. Duh.
Be aware of the people around you
This is quite a difficult one to quantify, but it really is just as simple as ‘don’t intentionally annoy the people around me’. And that includes yelling far too loudly. This can be controversial, but it really is all about the cues of the crowds. If it’s a slow and quiet song, then chances are you will anger people in the crowd if you’re filming yourself screaming to it for a TikTok. But then, if it’s a loud and fun song, go ahead! Shout as loud as you like.
It’s all about taking cues from the artist and the rest of the crowd; just be aware.
Don’t be mean, and have fun!
This is the most important one of them all and encompasses pretty much everything that’s already been said. Just, be nice to people. You’re all here to support this music artist that you love enough to justify paying the ridiculous price for concert tickets. There’s literally no need to be mean in the venue, or on social media later on. Just be kind, and have fun. If you’re so focused on other people that they have the opportunity to be mean, then you’re not focusing enough on the gig.
Hopefully, that’s a good summary. Of course, there are more points, and there’s nuance to each of these, but it’s a good start to get back on track when it comes to good concert behaviour.