Opinions

Opinion | COVID-19 ruined concert culture

After the bulk of the pandemic had passed and it was finally safe to go to concerts, I saw as many as I could. Over the course of a month, I saw four concerts. And since 2021, the list has continued to grow. I’ve spent the little money I had going to shows with my friends and seeing some of my favorite artists, and I’ve had the time of my life doing so

I grew up in a household that cherished the spectacle of live music. I watched bootleg Bruce Springsteen concerts with my dad dancing around my living room and always asked my parents to recount stories of their past concert escapades. As soon as I was able to, I went to my first concert and had the time of my life — I even cried happy tears as soon as I saw Springsteen grace the stage. The concert bug bit me then, and I haven’t stopped trying to see live music since. This is unfortunately not the relationship most people have with live music — and it’s definitely not the relationship people have with it after the pandemic.

There is certain unspoken concert etiquette that people missed out on after not being able to see live music for almost two years. Mixed with a truly messed up ticketing system and the parasocial relationships many people formed with their favorite artists during the pandemic, I worry that those who did not go to concerts before COVID-19 are going to ruin live music for the rest of us.

Artists that gained popularity during the pandemic, thanks to TikTok, such as Mitski and Steve Lacy, have both had issues with their fan bases at shows acting extremely rude and not respecting them while they perform. Mitski respectfully asked fans to not have their phones up and film her entire set because she wanted to connect with her fans on a deeper level. Her more “chronically online” fans challenged this completely fair request. While it’s totally fine to film your favorite song to watch later or to send to your friends, filming an entire set defeats the purpose of experiencing live music. From the artist’s perspective, having a phone screen in front of them separates them from their fans.

Steve Lacy is under fire for having a more heated reaction, throwing a fan’s camera and smashing it after they threw it on the stage while he was performing. It’s absolutely rude to throw things at artists on stage while they are performing — they are not zoo animals, and they shouldn’t have to dodge things flown in their direction while doing their job. Should Steve Lacy have smashed this fan’s camera? Probably not, but artists deserve to be treated with respect. There is a level of respect missing between the artists and fans that two years in lockdown eroded. 

The thing that bothered me the most about both the Steve Lacy and Mitski situations was the feeling of entitlement that these fans felt about these artists. Because we were all in lockdown — artists included — there were no boundaries between fans and their favorite artists. Fans could keep up with artists on social media and many artists did Instagram Q&As and answered fan questions, all while people discovered and started following new artists. While it’s great that diehard fans were able to communicate with the musicians they loved during a time when live music wasn’t possible, a parasocial relationship formed. While these relationships can often benefit the artist, they can also lead to a lack of respect, as fans may see these musicians as a peer rather than an artist who they don’t actually know. This makes many fans believe that because they support an artist, they have to do exactly what the fans want and indulge their stupidity. Fans feel like they can yell at the performer, throw things on stage or record a full set against the artist’s wishes.

One thing that has also become more apparent since the pandemic is the entanglement between money, status and concerts. Because of the exorbitant pricing of concert tickets — which we all know all too well from the recent Taylor Swift Ticketmaster fiasco — only certain people who have the money to go to concerts are able to, so they become a status symbol. Oftentimes, these people don’t even watch the shows or complain about not getting the seats they wanted. Just because someone has the money to attend a show does not make them fluent in the unspoken rules of concert-going or are even the biggest fans of the artist touring — it just shows they have the means to spend exuberant amounts of money.

While the pricing of tickets was on the incline before the pandemic, the prominence of the issue has risen since then. Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing and crazy service fees are feeding into the disparity between fans and artists and creating an even more unhealthy environment around concert culture. Bruce Springsteen, the person I credit for getting me into live music, even fell into the trap of the money and used dynamic pricing for his latest tour which alienated many of his fans who were unable to drop thousands of dollars to see him. Not only are select fans tainting the culture of concerts, but corporate greed and artists only touring for the money are ruining it, too — the pandemic was just the catalyst.

While this may just seem like a silly topic that a crazy concert fan wanted to rant about, the lack of community during concerts can have dire effects. Travis Scott’s Astroworld concert is the most prominent example, in which people were trampled to death because of a lack of respect and safety taken by the artist, his fans and the event planners. This is something that people need to address soon — if not, live music as we know it will cease to exist. 

Rachel Soloff writes primarily about the entertainment industry and how lame antisemites are. Write to her at RJS191@pitt.edu.

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