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The Downfall of Concerts

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

By Isabelle Zarrin

The quality of the once cherished concert-going experience has been in a tremendous decline in recent years. Music lovers have noticed this decline, with Rolling Stone’s Brian Hiatt reporting that “...people seem to have completely forgotten how to behave at shows.” This is in reference to the concerning behavior fans have exhibited while attending concerts, especially those post-pandemic. From objects being thrown to artists on stage, to fights breaking out in crowds, to concertgoers passing out mid-show, live music events are simply not what they used to be.

It is likely that the reasoning behind this behavior from fans is the ultra-competitive environment surrounding concerts. Attendees have to wait in online queues of thousands of people to get the chance to purchase tickets to an event, sometimes for hours on end. Those waiting in line not only consist of fans of the artist performing, they include bots and ticket scalpers who look to purchase tickets for resale purposes. These resale tickets can be listed on platforms like StubHub and SeatGeek at massively inflated prices, and are rarely sold at face value. Because of this unfair obstacle and rampant profiteering, fans grow stressed and angry when competing with others for the best seats available. For some music fans, jealousy boils deep in them for those who managed to get better seats than them, creating the perfect breeding ground for a hostile concert environment towards each other and the artist. Another possible cause of this behavior is the psychological theory of deindividuation, which states that, in crowds, individuals often develop a loss of personal accountability. Simple Psychology author and Harvard research assistant Charlotte Nickerson describes the social phenomenon as the act of individuals becoming “ involved with group activities that [they] ‘forget’ themselves.” Thus, the sense of anonymity that comes with being part of a large audience creates a lack of concern for how one’s actions can affect those around them.

An upsetting example of the extremes a poor concert environment can cause is the Astroworld music festival hosted by American rapper Travis Scott. The event infamously occurred in Houston in November of 2021, when ten attendees were tragically trampled to death in a crowd of over 50,000 people and hundreds more were injured. The victims ranged from ages nine to twenty-seven years old. An article from The New York Times states that “…witnesses described a chaotic scene before and during the concert, with many people in the back trying to rush to the front.” This devastating event shows that the competitive nature that has been created to get as close to the artist on stage as possible can be detrimental to the lives and safety of concertgoers. After the Astroworld incident, other artists displayed their care and concern more than ever for their fans while on stage. Singer-songwriter Billie Eilish stopped her show in Atlanta to make sure a fan in the crowd could get the help they needed before she continued performing. Rolling Stone reports that she said to the crowd, “We’re taking care of our people. I’m waiting for people to be OK until I keep going.” Many believed that Eilish was making an indirect dig at Scott, as he faced criticism in the media for not paying more attention to his struggling crowd amidst the Astroworld tragedy.

Aside from pushing and shoving to get closer to the stage, poor concert etiquette can also be seen in the numerous cases of objects being hurled at artists while performing. Bebe Rehxa, an American singer-songwriter, had a phone thrown at her face during a show in New York City, resulting in the artist getting stitches. Rehxa took to Instagram the following morning to share a photo of herself with a bandaged black eye, captioned “I’m good.” The man who threw the phone at her was arrested at the scene due to his violent behavior.

In a similar instance occurring less than a month after Rexha’s assault, pop star Ava Max was slapped in the face while performing in Los Angeles by an obsessive fan who jumped onto stage moments before he was taken away by security. Following the incident, Max wrote on Twitter, “He slapped me so hard that he scratched the inside of my eye. He’s never coming to a show again.” Rexha and Max are only two of many other artists who have fallen victim to the dangerous behavior of fans attending their shows.

Although the current etiquette shown by fans to artists necessitates improvement, in some cases it is the other way around. Country music star Miranda Lambert recently faced criticism for her seemingly rude demeanor towards her audience at a concert in Las Vegas.

E! News writes that Lambert called out a group of women in the crowd saying, "These girls are worried about their selfie and not listening to the song…We're here to hear some country music tonight."

One of the women involved told NBC News "It felt like I was back at school with the teacher scolding me for doing something wrong…I feel like she was determined to make us look like we were young, immature, and vain. But we were just grown women in our 30s to 60s trying to take a picture…We took the picture quickly and were going to sit back down." This was not the first time Lambert showed disrespect to her fans, however. At a 2019 concert, Lambert stabbed a beach ball she was given by a fan, E! News reports, telling the crowd, "I love y'all but we're not at the damn beach, we're singing country music tonight."

These occurrences of both fans and artists displaying improper concert etiquette beg the question - Is music about community or the individual experience? Perhaps the charm of attending concerts vanished when the rise of competitive online ticket buying, or when the involvement of cell phones at live music events took over the traditional ways of purchasing tickets at the box office and squashed the concept of living in the moment without the interference of screens. Inconsiderate fan behavior unfortunately seems to be overrunning the ideal reality of concerts as places to appreciate a common interest with a new group of people. Thus, the self-seeking nature of present-day concertgoers has made a positive communal concert experience increasingly harder to find. Fans and artists can only hope to collectively improve their etiquette enough for these events to become as enjoyable as they once were.


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