What Ruined The Concert Experience (And Can We Fix It?)
Live music has always been an electrifying and transformative experience, but in recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in the concert culture. From fans obsessively capturing every moment on their phones to intrusive heckling and a focus on consuming artists as viral content, the essence of the concert-going experience seems to be diminishing. In this article, we will explore the various factors that have contributed to this change and discuss potential solutions to reclaim the true spirit of live music.
While filming and photographing concerts have been a common practice for decades, the desire to document and curate viral content has taken over. Fans now invest excessive amounts of time and money to capture these "memeable" moments and be the first to share them online. Artists like Matt Healy of the 1975 have embraced this behavior, using it to their advantage by creating unpredictable onstage antics that go viral on platforms like TikTok. However, this competitiveness among fans has created a hierarchy of the "best concert experience," with fans vying for close seats and high-quality content. This shift from the spectacle of the artist to the spectacle of the fan detracts from the communal nature of live music events.
The rise of parasocial relationships and the centering of the concert experience around fans and their technology has blurred the boundaries between fan and artist. Musicians now face unsettling behavior, such as being heckled by crowds glued to their screens or dealing with intrusive requests. When musicians attempt to set boundaries and reclaim the sense of connection, they are often met with negative reactions. This dehumanization of artists and the emphasis on content over live performance could lead to a decline in the quality of concerts and the overall satisfaction of both fans and musicians.
The invasive trend of filming and documenting every moment at concerts carries over to other hostile dynamics within concert spaces. Some artists face blatant disrespect or intrusive heckling, as shown by incidents involving Steve Lacy and Charli XCX. There is a growing sense of entitlement among fans, with some demanding specific songs or shouting during quiet moments. This lack of boundaries and respect for the artist's choices can create an uncomfortable environment for both performers and the audience.
One of the main issues contributing to the decline in the concert experience is the exorbitant rise in ticket prices. Factors like inflation, cost of living increases, and dynamic pricing have resulted in tickets becoming unaffordable for many music enthusiasts. Ticketmaster, the leading ticketing company, has been under scrutiny for holding back a significant number of tickets and charging high fees. This has led to fans overspending on tickets they can't afford, causing financial regret and contributing to the anxiety surrounding the concert experience.
Despite these challenges, live music continues to be in high demand. The post-lockdown era has seen a surge in ticket sales, with Gen Z consumers seeking a return to communal experiences. The pandemic deprived this generation of key moments like proms and graduations, making them even more eager to participate in concerts. However, the disruption caused by virtual concerts and the blurring of boundaries between fan and artist during the pandemic have made it vital to re-establish proper concert etiquette and bring back the essence of live music as a shared experience.
The evolution of live music culture has both positive and negative aspects. While the desire to capture and share moments can enhance the overall experience, it shouldn't come at the cost of genuine connection and respect for the artists. Setting boundaries, both online and in person, and reevaluating ticket pricing models can help reclaim the communal spirit of live music. The future of live music rests upon the willingness of artists, fans, and industry leaders to address these challenges and prioritize the transformative power of live performances.
So, let's put down our phones, cherish the moment, and embrace the true essence of live music.