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The Mass Media

The dwindling of concert etiquette

Olivia Reid
Fans attend a Lil Uzi Vert concert at the MGM Music Hall at Fenway. Photo by Olivia Reid / Photography Editor.

Nothing is more delightful than being wrapped up in the intense, lush sounds of live music. In a room full of people, you feel an inexplicable connection to the artist and their craft. It’s incredible to hear songs that you’ve fallen in love with being played right before your own eyes. Getting ready, waiting in line outside the venue and trying to be patient as you anticipate the show’s beginning all elevate the joy of the event. Sometimes there is no seating, and you must stand with countless others—people you do not know but are somehow connected to. Concerts are places to bond and make community, even briefly.

Despite these great advantages, there has been an increase in incidents that have soured the concert-going experience. Clips have been circling online of attendees harassing performers, arguing amongst each other or even fighting. There have been countless examples of concertgoers using inappropriate language, disregarding others’ personal space and refusing to follow venue rules. Understanding the impact and implications of this behavior on the world of live music is of the essence. 

Since my freshman year of high school, I have attended thirty concerts. All of them were special and memorable in their own way and allowed me to experience a variety of genres live. However, I have also seen and been involved in an alarmingly high number of negative incidents before, during and after shows. I absolutely am aware that these situations seem to become more frequent as time has moved on.  

In 2019, rapper Tyler the Creator was traveling the country for his Igor tour. Boston’s show took place at Agganis Area, a sports and concert venue at Boston University. The floor section was packed, with people standing shoulder to shoulder, nearly on top of each other. As the openers, Goldlink and Jaden Smith, performed, the environment became more and more crowded, which is standard for a large show. I began to notice the demographics of the fans. We were a diverse group, but there was still a large number of White people in attendance. Most of the songs being performed included the N-word in their lyrics. So, it became obvious that not all people who were saying the N-word were Black themselves. Tyler the Creator himself noticed this too, and halfway through the show he called out, “Where all my Black people at?” The crowd had never been quieter as he listened to the response.  

Now this situation does not only exist at Tyler the Creator’s shows. It occurs at practically every single rap or hip-hop concert. There have been arguments made to justify these actions, but the reality is clear: The number of concertgoers using language not meant for them is insane. Additionally, it makes other fans and even performers incredibly uncomfortable. Aminé, a rapper known for his hit songs “Caroline” and “Reel It In,” is known to call out non-Black people saying the N-word at his shows. In 2017, during his NPR Tiny Desk Concert, Aminé replaced a line in “Caroline” from “killa, westside ni**a” to “if you ain’t Black don’t say it.” [1] Since then, he has kept up the tradition of using this new lyric at his shows. In 2018, Grammy-award winning rapper Kendrick Lamar invited a White fan up on stage to rap a portion of one of his songs. That fan proceeded to say the N-word a multitude of times, prompting Lamar to stop their performance and call out their error. [2] Although there has been an enormous and ongoing debate about who can use the N-word, these instances have been widely seen as disrespectful.  

However, it’s not just unbecoming use of language at shows. General concert etiquette has declined significantly. There are quite a few unspoken, common-sense rules at shows; for example, those who show up early and wait in line to secure a spot closest to the stage have effectively claimed their position. Cutting in front, jostling and pushing aside concertgoers who have done this is incredibly rude. In November, I saw Yussef Dayes, a British jazz drummer and composer. I followed the invisible commands, ignoring the aching in my feet to remain in my spot front and center of the stage. For most of the show I had a fantastic view and was able to see the intense looks on the faces of Dayes and his band. It was a wonderful feeling that I continue to chase. Unfortunately, near the end of the concert, a group of young men cut in front of me, blocking my and other fans’ view of the musicians. They held up their phones high to record, chattered loudly throughout the set and did not listen to others’ requests for them to move. The people around me seemed just as annoyed as I felt. We were quite upset, and this situation nearly ruined the remainder of the show.  

Last March, I headed down to the House of Blues near Fenway Park. For well over an hour, I stood in line waiting to see rappers Smino and JID. Once I got inside, I attempted to find a good spot in the already-packed floor space. Prior to the concert even starting, there was a fight in the crowd directly beside me. A fan was incredibly intoxicated and began to harass another concertgoer. Things escalated quickly, and the drunk person pushed some of us out of the way and attempted to physically fight the other concertgoer. Soon after, security apprehended and removed them from the show. Drinking at concerts is quite normal, but that kind of violent behavior puts other attendees at risk for physical harm. An incident like this has the potential to completely ruin the experience, which is meant to be safe and fun, not hostile. Beyond the harm that can be inflicted on other fans, fighting and arguing also negatively affect the performer. It can distract the artist, interrupting the show and causing them to stop performing.  

Concerts are meant to be community-building spaces. They are meant to be exciting, fun and memorable. Poor behavior from even just one person can turn what is supposed to be fun into something upsetting or even scary. Being respectful is the ultimate rule of concert-going. Here is my advice to those who perhaps don’t attend many shows: Be extremely aware of the consequences of your behavior. Coming late usually means you won’t be getting the best view. Using certain words might make others upset. Constant recording might hinder other fans’ experiences, as well as your own. I recommend simply being a decent person. Follow the rules of common courtesy, and everyone’s experience will be better than ever.


Sincerely, a Self-Proclaimed Professional Concertgoer 


[1] https://www.vibe.com/music/music-news/amine-doesnt-want-his-white-fans-saying-the-n-word-549257/ 

[2] https://www.billboard.com/music/rb-hip-hop/kendrick-lamar-n-word-white-fans-8457834/ 

About the Contributor
Olivia Reid, Photo Editor