‘Musical Maxisms’ Column: Concert etiquette – The do’s and don’t of enjoying a show


You’ve just gotten to the venue to see your favorite band for the very first time. Your excitement is through the roof as you mentally catalog all the songs you wish to hear. You pack into the ballroom, the stadium or whatever room the show is being held, and then, after an hour or two of agonizing anticipation and a couple subpar openers, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting months for. But right when they come on, you can’t see them, all because some guy in front felt the need to shove his iPhone several feet into the air to record their entrance. 

Max Rosenbaum

Max Rosenbaum

I’ve been to enough concerts from basically every genre to know that there is always some unspoken etiquette concertgoers should abide by. I’m going to attempt to write them out. Obviously there are different standards for different concerts. It’d be offensive and hostile if someone were to randomly push you during a Fleet Foxes show, but it’d almost be expected to push someone at a Say Anything concert. Hopefully, in chronicling these expectations, I could raise some consciousness to make shows as enjoyable for everyone as possible.

General Concert Etiquette:

  1. Don’t record the entire show on your phone or camera or iPad – As a photographer, I understand the urge. It’s always nice to look back on a show you enjoyed. However, if you’re too busy watching the concert through the screen of your phone, why did you pay so much money to see it live?
  2. If you do want to record songs, keep it to a minimum of 2 (and not the entire song) – Even professional concert photographers are only allowed in the pit to photograph the first two songs. The same thing should apply to John Smith and his gigantic iPhone 6 Plus.
  3. Stop FaceTiming your friends during shows – Believe me, when I was in sixth grade, I loved calling my friends during concerts to show them what they were missing. However, I am not in sixth grade anymore, and phone calls have evolved into people FaceTiming. It’s almost worse than recording songs because with FaceTimes crummy quality and constantly lagging, especially in a crowded venue, you know they’re not getting even 1/32 of the experience.  
  4. Don’t text or tweet or Snapchat the entire show – You can answer all of this when the show is over. It’s totally unnecessary to tweet how dreamy Alex Turner is, right in the middle of The Arctic Monkeys’ set. You and your 20 followers can wait, I promise.  
  5. Leave the selfie stick at home – I know most venues are banning them — thank God — but if they’re allowed leave them anyways. You look dumb, and you’re ruining every single person behind you’s experience.
  6. Don’t get belligerently drunk – Yes, alcohol is fun. It’s unnecessary for shows when you’re super into the music, but it is still fun, I get it. However, if you choose to drink, be responsible. Don’t puke all over the place. Don’t push and shove everyone. In general, don’t ruin other people’s experience all because you don’t know how to hold your liquor.

Rock or Punk or Alternative Shows:

  1. At a show where moshing/crowd surfing is acceptable, pick someone up if they fall – When I saw The Menzingers for like the 10th time, a friend I made that night said something that’s since resonated with me. We were discussing the strange-but-loving community of punk rock shows, and he said, “Yeah, we might push you down, but hell, we’ll pick you right back up afterward and give you a high five.” It’s true. It’s fun to mosh, but if you see someone in danger of actually getting hurt, help them. This applies too if you’re at an EDM show.
  2. Don’t call out your favorite song – The band doesn’t care. The person next to you cares even less. It’s not going to change their premade setlist. And, whatever you do, do not call out Free Bird. It might have been a little funny 15 years ago, but now it is just plain obnoxious. Don’t be that guy. Nobody likes that guy.
  3. If you’re lucky enough to have a backstage pass, don’t be a jerk about it – Have some humility, don’t wear it high on your shirt. Don’t rub it in everyone’s face. I can promise you that we’re all jealous, and you don’t need to prove yourself.
  4. If it’s General Admission and you’re 6 feet tall, don’t stand in the front of short people – I am 5-feet-2-inches, guess how many concerts I’ve seen with full clarity? Well, a decent amount because I consistently weasel my way to the barricade. However, when I don’t care enough to do so, Bigfoot is almost always in front of me. Have the courtesy to let that short-stack in front of you. It won’t hurt your concert experience to be half of a foot further back.

EDM Shows:

*Disclaimer, these rules are coming from my friend and her extensive rave experience. I have been to one rave in my life and am definitely not well versed in EDM etiquette to write about it. However, because of their popularity, I think it’s necessary to include these.

  1. Don’t push people – Different from a punk show, pushing people isn’t exactly acceptable at a rave. However, if a mosh pit does happen to form, then pushing is OK — but only in the mosh pit.
  2. Be generous with giving people water if they look like they need it – Although this guideline makes me a bit skeptical, I can understand where it comes from. I know from the one I went to, raves are exhausting. If someone looks like they are dying of thirst, help them out.
  3. Leave space for being able to dance – Dancing is about 50 percent of the experience at a rave. Let people do it, and do it yourself. Respect others while still having a unifying adventure with those around you.

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