As COVID-19 restrictions loosen up and music artists release concert tours, a new wave of teenagers are eager to see their favourite musicians at local venues. But with the change of how music climbs the charts and the lack of experience and knowledge with new concert-goers, the music show experience has changed drastically.
In June of this year, I had the opportunity to see Rex Orange County live in concert. After getting in after hours of waiting in a line of thousands that stretched along a long concrete path, I went and looked for a good spot in the crowd. As the concert started, I noticed a wall of phones covering my view, overcrowding as people pushed closer to the stage, and an overall hostile energy that created tension between audience members and the artist. This wasn’t something that I had experienced before at concerts.
From obsessive phone usage to disrespecting the artists that are performing, concert audiences have been declining since the pandemic, and it isn’t just because of COVID-19.
As social media networks continue to grow and people are more addicted to their phones than ever before, more new concert-goers may want to record their memories of the concert to keep for themselves or post online. However, this sea of phones recording the entire concert creates a disconnect between the artist and the audience, and blocks the view of those at the concert just trying to watch and enjoy the show.
Mitski, a popular music artist who went on tour this year, talked about the way that phones hurt the connection between the performing artist and the audience.” When I’m on stage and look to you but you are gazing into a screen, it makes me feel as though those of us on stage are being taken from and consumed as content, instead of getting to share a moment with you.”
Mitski Concert (Original Photography) – Devon Fender
One quite obvious cause of the lack of concert etiquette is the pandemic. “Many concertgoers have pent up energy they’re just waiting to set loose. And there’s a new group of people who’ve never been to a concert just entering the scene,” The Star said when talking about concert etiquette. Many more people, including young people, are yearning for exciting events today, creating a larger demand and demographic for concerts than ever before.
TikTok could also be a contributor to the current state of concert audiences. The social media platform doesn’t accurately paint a picture for an artist’s music, as usually only a clip or two of a song will become popular. This makes an audience that has little knowledge of the artist, and is only there to post on social media or for one part of a song.
Steve Lacy’s most popular song, “Bad Habit,” exploded on TikTok over the summer, reaching 1st place on Billboard’s Hot 100. A popular TikTok shows the audience not knowing the second verse of Lacy’s Bad Habit, which was a part of the song that didn’t trend on TikTok. “Why’d you stop? Let’s hear the second verse, come on,” Lacy exclaims as the song stops and the audience awkwardly cheers.
Tyler, The Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost tour (Original Photography) – Devon Fender
With more exposure to the concerts of current artists, the hype and excitement has dramatically grown. With videos of people at the very front of a pit trending, more and more people are willing to spend their extra time and money for that special moment. Thishas led to people camping out for hours, even days, before any concert in order to get the closest view. Meaning that the casual concert attender will need to wait for longer in order to get a decent spot.
This may also contribute to the inflation of concert tickets and their fees. With more and more demand for concerts, tickets have been resold for way more than the original price, with tickets sometimes reaching up to thousands just for one seat. The current monopoly of Ticketmaster and their substantial fees and wait times has led the Taylor Swift fan base to call on politicians for change of Ticketmaster’s anti-competitive behaviour.
Some musicians have tried to address and change audience behaviours through techniques such as pouches to lock phones inside during a concert. Bruno Mars, a recent artist who’s adopted the phone-free pouches for his shows, has said “Without phones, there’s no fear involved. You just get to paint — truly live in the moment. And I think there’s a beauty in seeing something fail and then being able to talk about it with the crowd.”
Featured Image: Rex Orange County’s Who Cares Tour (Original Photography) – Devon Fender