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Concert etiquette: 18 courtesy tips for attending popular performances

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Public decorum may be the norm at fancy orchestral events, operatic performances, and other highbrow events, where people tend to be on their best behavior. However, all bets are off, when it comes to more casual large-scale concerts at spots like Grant Park, Ravinia Festival, or the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

From summer’s open-air music festivals to year-round indoor performances, popular concerts tend to bring out the best and the worst in people. Perhaps a few common-sense etiquette pointers are in order.

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18 etiquette guidelines for popular concerts

Consider these practical pointers of politeness, based on common complaints from concertgoers.

1. Leave the luggage.

Bulky bags, backpacks, and totes are tough to manage at crowded concerts anyway, but they can be particularly cumbersome in stadium or bleacher seating areas. Besides, many of the larger concert venue and stadium locations require attendees to pass through security checkpoints upon entry, making extra parcels somewhat inconvenient.

2. Be on time, especially if seats/spots s have been saved.

Is anything worse than arriving promptly and waiting for a concert’s start in a venue with general seating or lawn facilities, only to have latecomers stumble in all around you? And what about all those folks who place coats, blankets, or other items on whole rows, hoping their friends will show up?

3. Be clean.

Mudfests may be popular for obstacle runs, spring scout campouts, and even certain sorts of health spas. But crowded concerts are another story. The famous Woodstock was over a long time ago. Dirty and grimy may not appeal to those sharing close spaces with one another at a popular concert.

4. Wear appropriate apparel.

Shoeless, shirtless, or even scantier? Maybe a crowded concert isn’t the place for that. And flip flops can be downright dangerous in a mob scene.

5. Bring picnic/eats, if allowed.

Box suppers, catered concessions, and do-it-yourself al fresco fare is all the rage at many top concerts. From picnics to tailgate gatherings, the food can be a highlight, if folks follow the rules.

Certainly common courtesy ought to hold folks back from spraying shaken beer or soda cans or champagne bottles. Other folks may prefer to shower at home.

6. Bug spray before.

Insect repellant is a must for outdoor concerts, but politeness means applying it before the place is wall-to-wall people. Sharing is generous, but not involuntarily.

7. Sit, stand, or stay.

Sure, concertgoers may mingle and visit with friends before an event starts. Some may toss a ball or flying disc in the park or parking lot. Others might bounce a beach ball around the stadium. Still, once the performance is underway, practical etiquette points people to their seats or standing areas.

8. No texting.

Just like at the movies, concert events may be most enjoyable when fellow audience members are not texting (or even talking) on cellular phone devices. OK, so folks may urge an encore at the end by waving lit cell phones (as people used lighters in days gone by). But that’s another matter altogether.

9. Use facilities, not nature.

Does this personal hygiene guideline go without saying? It should.

10. Don’t tramp on others’ blankets/spots.

In lawn seating events, it’s best to try hard not to step on other people’s mats, blankets, or areas., if one must walk around the grounds a bit.

11. Keep it PG rated.

This matter of concert etiquette is best left to the imagination.

12. No filming.

Pirated videos of live concerts and other performances are generally prohibited and downright impolite. Parents might film their own kids in a school concert or play, but taping a show put on by professionals is pretty much taboo.

13. Turn devices off.

Plenty of people willingly silence cell phones and other personal electronic devices during performances. But many may forget that the mere blinking can interfere with others’ enjoyment of a concert.

14. Save the flashlights.

A portable flashlight or battery lantern can be extremely helpful, when it’s time to find the car after a concert. But it’s mannerly to switch it off during the event.

15. Can the tunes before it starts.

Picnickers, tailgate party hosts, and other concertgoers may enjoy their own music (perhaps on portable devices) before a concert. But these should shut down when the warm-up act takes the stage. It’s only polite.

16. Clap at appropriate times.

If audience participation is warranted, courteous concertgoers will applaud at suitable moments.

17. Respect smoking rules or laws.

Perhaps surprisingly, many people still light up in the middle of a concert audience, even if designated smoking areas are required.

18. What about singing and dancing along?

Is it rude for concertgoers to stand by their seats (or even on their seats) during a performance/ What about dancing, clapping along, or singing with the band? This may be a moot point in a particularly loud event. But otherwise, it all comes down to consideration for others – like any etiquette matter.

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