April 7, 2023 | ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | By Katie Rowley

As an avid music connoisseur, I have regularly attended concerts since the age of twelve. My very first show was a small, pop-punk band called All Time Low. And in the years since, I have attended both very, very small shows as well as stadium tours for artists as big as Harry Styles.

Going to witness live music grew to be one of my favorite activities. Dancing in a room full of people there to support your favorite artists and hear your favorite songs: what could be better?

But, since the pandemic and the years following, I have observed that concert culture concerning queuing, buying tickets, and general etiquette has drastically changed.

The first show I attended as we emerged from the COVID-19-induced live music hiatus was Harry Styles Love on Tour: Denver on Sept. 7, 2021. The show was the second stop on his seemingly endless Love on Tour run and, coincidentally, the day before my birthday.

I had general admission pit tickets and was determined to get as close to the stage as possible for a potential Styles interaction. So, I did what any normal fan would do and showed up at the venue at 7:00 a.m., spending the entire day sitting under direct sunlight on burning hot concrete with 300 or so equally passionate fans.

I ended up in the second row from the stage, and Styles wished me a happy birthday. Truly my peak.

Two months later I flew to Tacoma, Wash. to see Styles. Hoping to get a similar interaction, I planned on showing up to the venue the morning of the concert, but Styles’ concerts had grown in popularity since Denver and, despite many venues’ no camping rules, many fans had begun spending the night outside the venues to get closer to the stage.

So, by the time I arrived to queue, around 6:00 a.m., the line had already amassed over 500 people. I was able to skip ahead with some friends and ended up around 200th in line. After waiting in the expected Washingtonian rain the entire day, I ended up in the fourth row from the stage.

Camping for Styles’ shows has only grown exponentially in popularity in anticipation of his performances since Tacoma. Camping for any artists, regardless of their popularity or the size of the venue, has increased significantly since the return of live music.

Since seeing Styles, I have found myself at many concerts for smaller, indie artists, including Jawny, The Greeting Committee, and Ella Jane. The question of when to show up plagues my friends and me. We want to get a spot close to the stage, but are we willing to sacrifice our entire day? Is this artist even worth camping for?

Taylor Swift recently began her Era’s Tour, and, despite the lack of general admission tickets, people have been camping overnight, instead of trying to score a closer spot to the stage, to purchase her merchandise for the shows. These insane lines prompted Swift’s team to limit the amount of merch people could buy.

Speaking of Swift, the process of actually obtaining tickets to see her, and other similar artists such as Boygenius, Noah Kahan, and Styles, has only gotten worse since the revival of concerts.

As someone who tried and was unsuccessful in scoring tickets for all of the artists mentioned above, either I needed four different presale codes to get ahead of the inevitable scalpers, or the ticket site (not naming any names…) gouged the price and added so many extra fees that I couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars for one ticket.

And, if you can get a ticket to see your favorite artists and it doesn’t cost a fortune, concert audiences seem to have drastically changed.

Before the pandemic, I had numerous wonderful concert experiences: meeting people who were as big of fans as I was and feeling free to enjoy the music. In the last two years, the shows I’ve attended have been filled with judgment from other fans, a lot of standing around throughout the entire performance, and utter disrespect for those performing and the ambience around them. The energy just seems off in my experience, and I am not exactly sure why.

The pandemic affected the live music experience when it disrupted many artists’ tour runs, but I doubt anyone expected the long-lasting consequences that isolation would bring to the music industry.

The real question is what do we do now? Keep paying exorbitant amounts for shows that lack the entertainment and energy of those pre-pandemic? Or do we put a stop to these ticket prices and long lines and disrespectful audiences and bring back the pleasurable concert experience? And how? I wish I knew the answer. 

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