At their best, concerts are collective celebrations, uniting the fans assembled in mutual enthusiasm. But the good vibes rarely extend to the entire crowd: There’s usually someone whose actions detract from the experience of others. Yup, the sweaty dude throwing aggressive elbows on his way toward the stage, we’re talking about you. You too, the woman who won’t put her phone down so that others can see the stage.
We’re not asking for rigid decorum; concerts are designed to let fans let loose. But a little respect for the music lovers around you could go a long way toward improving the way we view live music. We asked 1,000 music fans about the obnoxious behaviors they’d observed at festivals and concerts and which they found most frustrating. Their responses confirm that social norms tend to fade once the tunes begin to play.
While over three-quarters of respondents felt inhibitions declined at festivals and concerts, they weren’t a judgmental bunch on the whole. In fact, a majority felt allowances should be made for those whose behavior at live events would be considered inappropriate elsewhere.
This reasonable approach made our cohort the perfect group to identify which concert etiquette offenses were egregious or excusable. Moreover, they put their musical experiences to good use, describing which festivals had the best vibes. For an intimate look at good times and bad behavior at live music events, keep reading.
When it comes to the behaviors music fans find most frustrating, hard partying offends less than interfering with the enjoyment of others. In fact, our data suggest relatively few concertgoers get annoyed by substance use at live events: Just 22 percent said they were irritated by others post smoking, and just 29 percent said they were bothered by fellow fans drinking. Public displays of affection were even more widely accepted, offending just 12 percent of respondents. Understandably, more intense romantic engagement prompted more objections: Forty-six percent of fans were uncomfortable with seeing sexual activity occur in the crowd.
At the other end of the spectrum, some behaviors irritated the vast majority of fans. Of those who had seen someone block others’ view with a recording device, 69 percent found it annoying. In fact, the ubiquity of phones has prompted a movement to ban their use at concerts entirely, a move supported by heavyweights such as Jack White. Roughly 3 in 4 respondents found blocking the stage by sitting on another’s shoulders frustrating as well. The behavior most consistently viewed as annoying was physical fighting, however – nothing quite kills good vibes like violence.
Some questionable concert behaviors seem to lend themselves to certain venues: You’re more likely to try smoking pot at a massive outdoor festival than inside an intimate bar. Sure enough, we found particular kinds of debauchery tended to transpire in specific settings. Respondents were most likely to observe excessive drinking, public displays of affection, and talking throughout performances in bars, for example. Arenas or stadiums, meanwhile, were the top locations for screaming at the artists and blocking others’ view with recording devices.
In terms of potentially annoying behaviors, no context compared to music festivals, however. Respondents were most likely to report seeing people smoke pot and cigarettes at festivals – an understandable finding given how many occur outside. But music festivals were also the most likely spot for potentially dangerous activities, such as fighting to get closer to the stage and crowd surfing. While these frustrations may be all too frequent at festivals, they hardly seem to have put a damper on the growing industry. By some measures, the global festival business has ballooned to $3 billion in value and shows no signs of slowing.
Concerts can inspire more than irresponsible exuberance and obnoxious behaviors: Attraction can also transpire. To be fair, most individuals don’t head to concerts on the prowl for a partner. Just 8 percent of women and 21 percent of men said they intentionally tried to forge sexual or romantic connections at live music events. But over 15 percent of women and roughly a third of men said they’d welcome such an encounter it if occurred organically. In fact, these concert connections frequently get serious: More than 1 in 5 respondents said they’d dated someone whom they’d met at a live music event before.
Not everyone welcomes advances in the crowd, however. Over a third of women found being hit on at concerts “very” or “extremely” irritating, in fact. Men were less likely to report these feelings, although 15 percent described it as “very” or “extremely” irritating as well. These experiences may reflect deeper challenges related to harassment and assault at concerts and music festivals across the country. Indeed, one recent study found that more than 90 percent of female concert attendees had experienced harassment or misconduct in some form, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assault.
Attending a festival as a part of a large group can pose logistical troubles, but going solo has its own challenges, such as getting lonely in the crowd. Interestingly, TomorrowWorld, the dance festival canceled after logistical and financial troubles in 2015, was regarded as the top festival for music fans to attend alone. Thankfully, solo music travelers can still attend second-ranked Austin City Limits, going strong since 2002. Roughly a quarter of people who went to ACL thought it would be best for music fans attending alone, perhaps because it’s easier to jump between the festival’s eight stages without an entourage in tow.
Unfortunately, many of the festival industry’s most illustrious events received relatively poor solo traveler ratings. Nearly 3 in 10 attendees of Bonnaroo and Coachella thought these festivals would be the worst for attendees without a group. The Electric Daisy Carnival and Lollapalooza got only slightly better reviews: Over 20 percent of attendees thought these festivals would be the worst for those going alone.
When we asked respondents for their honest impressions of the festivals they attended, some events emerged as particularly wild. The Electric Daisy Festival was the most likely to feature an extreme degree of nudity and intoxication, for example, although skimping on clothing could be a predictable byproduct of the event’s legendary Las Vegas heat. Meanwhile, Bonnaroo had the lowest hygiene rating among past attendees. This finding might not offend devotees of the festival: Famous for its camping culture, Bonnaroo embraces grit over glamour.
Of all the festivals considered, however, TomorrowWorld may have received the most bruising reviews overall. Forty-three percent of attendees felt it was overrated, and it edged out Ultra as the most annoying festival as well. This harsh sentiment could reflect the infamous rain-related conclusion of the festival in 2015. Attendees found themselves stranded in miles of muddy fields, unable to access transportation.
Regardless of the setting or set list, live music events warrant a minimum of concern for one’s fellow concertgoers. Perhaps we don’t intend to offend: Swept up at the moment, we block another’s view or bump another person accidentally. Yet, our findings suggest these behaviors do significantly detract from the enjoyment of others in the crowd, an outcome we should attempt to avoid whenever possible. So the next time you attend a show, remember concerts are about the collective experience, rather than your own prerogatives.
Of course, concerts aren’t the only public setting in which music is consumed. Millions of businesses play music on their premises, but many are unaware of the complex legal restrictions regarding audio content in commercial settings. If you own or run a business, let Cloud Cover Music handle all your music streaming needs. Delivering a fantastic array of stations and legal peace of mind, we’re the perfect accompaniment for your company.
We gathered responses from 1,000 survey respondents who have attended various music events from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Respondents are from the U.S. Fifty-two percent of respondents were female, and 48 percent were male. Respondent ages ranged from 18 to 75 with a mean age of 35.
The information we’re presenting relies on self-reporting from survey respondents. Issues with self-reported data include: exaggeration, telescoping, attribution, and selective memory.
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