Concert etiquette: 12 things you need to stop doing at gigs

Marc Stapelberg

WE are entering the new normal territory for music concerts.

Increasingly you're patted down or electronically screened before you can enter an arena.

Most large concerts have already phased out backpacks, Ariana Grande this week banned any bags (including handbags) and cameras.

It's very difficult to argue with that.

But while we're overhauling how we get enter concerts, is it also time for a refresher on what happens once the band starts? Here's a little gig etiquette refresher.



Picture this. Guy Sebastian is playing a Melbourne pub show earlier this year. His fans were pumped to see him in an intimate setting.

Two twenty-something girls are chatting before he took to the small stage. Fair enough, gigs are social events, people have gig buddies they might only see every now and then.

These two girls just kept on talkin' and talkin' through the songs, the gaps between the songs and then even the slower songs where their inane babble wasn't being helpfully drowned out by the volume.

Even Julie Bishop-style laser stares from people who paid to hear Guy sing not some gig neighbours chat shit didn't work. They got the royal 'shush' and finally stopped being selfish and were shamed into silence.

Go to the outside bars (or a back corner if it's a smaller venue) if your crucial conversation really can't wait. It's especially bad at gigs by the less rockin' artists out there - the clink of bottles and glasses in a bar can't be avoided, but an artist shouldn't have to tell a crowd to STFU.

In the UK some venues have signs saying 'If you're here for a drink and a natter with your mates you're in the wrong place' or 'If you talk while the artist is playing you'll be asked to leave'. Yes, it's come to this. Gigs shouldn't be libraries, but time and place for talking people.

If you're seeing an artist like Guy Sebastian at a small venue, have the courtesy to shut up when they start playing.


One benefit from a no-bag policy? At a Neil Diamond show a 50-something lady was filming most of the ol' crooner on her fresh new iPad.

Just taking a few pics with my iPad!
Just taking a few pics with my iPad!

The A4 sized one too, with a nanna cover flapping around. Thus causing an eclipse for the people behind her for several rows.

One of whom politely had to point out that they'd prefer to watch the show through their eyes not her iPad. She reluctantly acquiesced. If only artists released live documents of their concerts that were professionally recorded.


Sure, go ahead and switch your camera to selfie mode and film yourself and your lagered up buddies singing along to You're the Voice.

But when you're waving your phone in the air like you just don't care spare a thought for those people behind you who probably do care.

They don't need to have their view blocked by you doing it for each Farnsey hit. Because he's got a lot of them.

Filming one drunken singalong will probably suffice, hey? Remember the days when we didn't need to document having fun to have fun? Good times.


There's a big divide on artist policies on mobile phones. Some bands love the instant publicity. Some new bands need it and retweet it.

Rock grump Don Henley banned fans from using their phones during an Eagles Australian tour, saying he didn't want them "turning it into their own photo session". He was also twitchy about content ending up on YouTube because "Google don't need more free content".

Tina Arena told fans who wanted a pocket souvenir to film the first song, get it out of their system (it's become a habit to pull your phone out when a concert starts), then down phones and live in the moment. "Plus you know it's just going to look and sound shit anyway." The lady speaks the truth.

In the US there's now a contraption you're handed on arrival that effectively locks your phone in a case which you hold for the duration of the show.

If there's an emergency, you zip outside and your phone comes back to life. Plus, unless you're in the front row, or some amazing once-in-a-lifetime duet is happening, do you really need to film the whole thing beyond the initial post to let all your social media followers know you're at the show and stir up a bit of coolness/jealousy?


This one's more tricky. There is no hard and fast rule here. Some seated shows (usually attracting a younger demographic) see everyone on their feet from the get-go.

Go with the flow or stare at someone's back. Then there's the concerts where people don't stand up until The Hit, at which point they bolt up like they're in a toaster, then sit back down.

Most people are respectful of the fact that the person behind you also wants to enjoy the show, which you need to weigh up with your need to stand and sway if the audience haven't taken a communal stand.

Some venues have fun-police security who take the option away and make people use the seat they paid for - often leading to artists overruling them.

Adele actively told fans at her Australian shows that they should stand for the fast songs because she hasn't got that many of them. Treat others how you'd want to be treated if you don't want to remain seated.


You know that person who stands up when everyone else is seated and then turns around and gestures to everyone else that they should also be standing up like they're disrespecting the artist by not jumping to their feet?

Yeah, don't be that person. If you want to lone wolf it, knock yourself out.

Dance like no one's watching (even though we can't miss it) don't seek validation. Like you, how other people choose to enjoy the music is up to them.


Yes, the band is going to play the big hit you're yelling out for, usually towards the end. That's how these things go. They haven't forgotten. And no, that obscure unreleased song they played once in rehearsals five years ago probably isn't on tonight's setlist, but we all know you're a big fan. Now, zip it.


No one paid to hear you sing that lovely Michael Kiwanuka song at the top of your flat, soulless voice. Yes it's a beautiful song, save your karaoke rendition for the car and use your inside voice.


Anyone else been to concerts where parents take their kids and use them as human bait to get pulled on stage. At one Robbie Williams concert a literal stage mum pushed past fans with a toddler hoisted above her hands hoping it'd get Robbie's attention. Same thing at Pink concerts. It's taking signs and flags to the next level. PS how do parents explain to eight year old girls at Rihanna concerts what S&M means and why she was grabbing her crotch so much?


Yep, sure, I'll stand up when you arrive 30 minutes late spilling your light beer while you block the view of people whose watches work. Or even better, no worries, you push your way to the front where people have had these spots on lockdown for hours. Even better if you're especially tall.


This has become a serious concern in the non-smoking era. In the good/bad old days passive smoking and stale beer filled the air, now another noxious gas can fumigate an indoor concert with nothing to mask it. The band dropping their hit or a trademark Calvin Harris drop isn't a cue for you to drop your guts.


Didn't think we needed to mention this, but as a recent court case in Melbourne demonstrated save your urination for a toilet, not down the back of someone's legs you filthy munter. You'll know when it's time to go to the toilet. It'll either be via your bladder telling you, or Elton John saying 'Here's five songs from my new album'.

Cameron Adams is a News Corp national music writer.

News Corp Australia

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