Concert etiquette: why are people behaving badly?

A recent spate of bad behaviour at concerts and shows has led to questions about audience etiquette and why it seems to be changing. 

Several artists have been forced to deal with bizarre and sometimes dangerous behaviour at their events. P!nk, Bebe Rexha, Ava Max and Kelsea Ballerini are among those who have been subjected to violence or strange fan interaction in recent weeks. 

Elsewhere, there are concerns about the conduct of theatre-goers. A Manchester performance of the stage musical “The Bodyguard” was cut short by “unwanted crowd participation”, said the BBC. It added that “the issue of audience behaviour – especially since the pandemic – has been thrust into the spotlight”. 

‘Have concertgoers lost their minds?’

“Is everyone OK?” asked Harper’s Bazaar. “Because judging by the frankly bizarre occurrences featuring in the news cycles of late, we’re not so sure.” 

The magazine asked “have concertgoers collectively lost their minds?” after the spate of attacks, reckless behaviour and disruption. 

An audience member was banned from the Royal Opera House in London last November after they “began to heckle” a young singer performing an aria, said Classic FM, leading to discussions about theatre etiquette.

And in April, “violence broke out” at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, Euronews reported, with the “ejection of audience members” for unruly behaviour. Members of the audience began singing over the lead’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You” during a performance of “The Bodyguard”.

“Idiot fans” is how Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield described the concertgoers who physically assaulted Ballerini, Rexha and Max in separate incidents. “It can’t be overstated how much this sucks,” Sheffield wrote. 

Some artists are keen to take a stand when it comes to fan behaviour. Adele had some “strong words” for fans who may be thinking about throwing items on stage at her Las Vegas residency, said Deadline: “Don’t do it.”


While throwing items on stage has a precedent that can be traced back to the 1960s and Beatlemania, some believe these incidents have recently become worse – for a variety of reasons. 

Eminem’s 2000 hit “Stan” famously explored the one-sided relationship between an obsessed fan and his favourite artist, which ultimately ended in tragedy. But it also gave rise to the term “stan” within popular culture – “obsessive, sometimes violent superfans”, said The New York Times, many of whom are “malicious in defense of their idols”. 

For some, this so-called stan culture has leaked offline, and now appears to be to blame for the increase in run-ins between fans and celebrities at live events. 

Incidents such as these are “blurring the line between online and real-life boundaries in an increasingly dangerous way”, said Justin Kirkland for the Daily Beast. He suggested those who “act out in these ways believe they’re entitled to it”. 

In The Atlantic Arthur C. Brooks suggested this online behaviour is leading to worrying “parasocial relationships” in real life, one-sided connections with a celebrity someone doesn’t really know. At the “deepest level” this can be “dangerous”, Brooks added. 

“Things have got so much worse since we came back from lockdown,” Kirsty Sedgman told BBC Radio 4’s “The World at One”, attributing fan “ferocity” to a desire to be seen, among other issues.

“There’s an upscale in what I call don’t-tell-me-what-to-do-itis,” the cultural studies researcher at the University of Bristol told the programme. “This sense that if the social contract has been broken, I should be able to do whatever I like because I’ve paid so much money.”

Taking this into account, once drugs and alcohol are also thrown into the mix, “you’ve got a concussion-worthy concoction”, USA Today suggested. 


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