Photo by Avery Heeringa

If you’ve been paying attention to any headlines within the last four months, you’ve undoubtedly heard criticism aimed at Ticketmaster and have heard about the Taylor Swift presale fiasco. But even before the Ticketmaster nightmare for Swift’s tour, ticket demand and prices seemed to have been on the sharp rise. What’s the cause of this increased demand for concert tickets all of the sudden? 

If you’ve ever been to any live music show, you know that there’s always a mix of die-hard fans and casual listeners looking for a fun night out. No one can realistically expect all attendees to have every word memorized. However, I can’t help but become a little irritated when I seem to be the only fan in my section that actually knows the songs being performed. It makes me wonder whether the attendees are actually there to see the artist performing, or if they bought tickets just to say they went. 

Taylor Swift and Harry Styles are both artists with more obsessive fans than seats available in any given venue. Over the last several years, Styles has consistently sold out consecutive nights at various arenas in an instant, only to have the entire concert end up broadcast on the internet from every angle. Many fans attending these shows have taken to social platforms like TikTok and Twitter to express their frustration with fellow concertgoers who seem to only care about getting “the best” snapshot for their BeReal or Instagram. The general admission pit at his shows seems to have become less of a space for fans to enjoy the show together, and more like the world’s hottest photo opportunity. It seems like everyone these days has attended a Harry Styles concert at the barricade – proven by well lit photoshoots as Styles performs onstage behind them. This prompts another line of questioning: are concerts still about the artists, or about proving to your followers that you’re the luckiest person in the world? 

At almost every concert I’ve been to, the start of show practice for fans is the exact same: lights go out, crowd cheers, and a sea of fluorescent LED screens shoot up into the air before the opening music can even start. I’m of course guilty of this, and am not saying I’m exempt from this practice. I’m a sentimental person and I want to be able to look back at these experiences for years to come. However, this doesn’t seem like it’s common practice for the concertgoers of today. Too often, a friend of mine will attend a show and I end up feeling like I’m right there with them as I watch 20 consecutive videos posted to their Instagram story. Isn’t there something special about having a unique video from your perspective that only you get to see? 

Taking this even further, I can't help but think that this obsession with capturing live music on cell phones speaks to the decline of respect for music as a whole. Music is more accessible than ever, which is a beautiful yet concerning thing. Log onto TikTok today and you can listen to pretty much any song that you can imagine. Even though I was born into the digital age that saw the internet boom, I still remember not being able to listen to songs for longer than the 30 seconds iTunes gave me before instructing me to send $1.30. The act of purchasing music in any format – vinyl, cassette, CD, MP3 – remains uniquely intimate. It’s beautiful that music has become so accessible for the entire population, but I think its effect has let many forget about the art of music itself. At the end of the day, if you want to consume good art, you have to pay for it. Same way you pay for a New York Times subscription for quality (hopefully) journalism. In the days of only hearing the viral 15 second sped up soundbite of a song on TikTok, I feel the need to remind my generation to keep the appreciation for the art of music alive. Not just appreciating an unofficial remix posted to TikTok by a 14-year-old. 

Because music is so accessible, I guess it really shouldn’t be a surprise that concerts have only become a means of showing followers that you saw the girl who had “that one TikTok song” live. There are obviously only so many tickets available for any given show, and there are only so many dates an artist can physically play. So, who “deserves” to go to concerts? Maybe there should be some system that grants presale access to fans that have been previously subscribed to artist’s newsletters. Or maybe there should be some verification that gives access to tickets for fans who have previously bought physical music, merchandise, or seen the artist in concert previously. This of course does leave the casual concertgoer out of the equation, and may not be an ethical system as it’s an act of barring certain people from tickets. But isn’t that what’s already going on with Ticketmaster’s “Verified Fan” program? 

Unfortunately, there really isn’t a one size fits all solution. We’ve reached a point in which the collective increase in FOMO (fear of missing out) and need to show off to social followers has driven the demand for and price of concert tickets to the point of near implosion. Remember to appreciate the art of music and live performance, and to consume it as the artist intended: with your eyes and ears open, and your phone out of your face. 

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