Listen up, music fans: Shh!

Fans at a rock concert lift up the time-honored salute to rock. Another rock tradition, the radio promo month of "Rocktober," is involved with a legal battle with the Colorado Rockies.


Tess Vigeland: Experts tell us that spending money on experiences will make us happier than if we spend it on things. Experiences, after all, create moments and memories that can last a lifetime. iPhones only last until, well, the next version comes out.

So take a vacation! Or splurge on some concert tickets! But wait -- about those tickets. New York Times columnist Ron Lieber has a few words for his fellow concert-goers.

Ron Lieber: I was really looking forward to a lovely John Prine concert on Governors Island in New York City a few weeks back. I couldn't wait to hear one of my favorite songs, "Lake Marie."

It was a perfect night with the Manhattan skyline in the background. But instead I heard this:

(Music screeching to a halt.)

Okay, that's just a sound effect, but that's what it felt like: a show marred by bad fan behavior of all kinds. The talking, the singing -- it was a veritable catalogue of obnoxiousness.

I know it's only rock 'n' roll, but I don't like it, given how expensive tickets have gotten. Average prices are now about $60 for the biggest acts, up about 20 percent from five years ago, according to Pollstar.

It's bad enough to have to pay a lot for tickets, but then you throw in child care, food and parking, and it becomes an event that easily can swallow up hundreds of dollars. So, please, on behalf of all concert-goers, consider a few basic rules.

First, don't talk. Who are these dingbats who pay all of this money to come to a show and talk over the music? Do you know what that sounds like? It sounds like this.

(Clip of folks talking over "Lake Marie.")

Yes, it is annoying. Brief questions about the song name or the time signature are fine, but keep it short and to the point. And if you don't care about your fellow concert-goer, at least think about the musician up on the stage trying to perform over the chatter. And no, this rule is not suspended during opening acts, no matter how lousy.

And finally, don't croon. No one from "American Idol" is here to discover you, and we did not come to listen to you sing. Unless you can sing on key. And in harmony. Do I make the cut?

(Lieber singing over "Lake Marie.")

And if I don't, well, imagine paying big bucks to sit next to me at a concert as I warble in your ear. No fun, right?

Because I can't be at every show to enforce these rules, I'm counting on all of you to take up this cause. The artists and the venues ought to weigh in too. Why not print your own rules on your tickets if you want to avoid arguments among your patrons?

Yeah, it's probably not very rock 'n' roll. But we fans would like it a lot more if we could hear just a little bit better.

Vigeland: Ron Lieber writes the your money column for the New York Times.

Log in to post13 Comments


I've been to hundreds of live music shows in various size venues since the late 70's. From REM at the Cat's Cradle to U2 on their recent tour. I've seen a definite change in crowd behavior. There is now incessant chattering at full-volume instead of speaking in hushed tones. If you're into the band's music you don't need to be talking non-stop. Shut up and groove, dance-whatever. I just don't want to hear a drone from the audience. I want to hear the band. Do you socializing before the band takes the stage. If you gotta talk go the tavern next door.

I recently spent $200+ to bring a friend who was new to country music to the Brooks & Dunn farewell tour, a very important concert to me as I'd never gotten to hear them live. Our evening was ruined by the jackalopes in the row in front of us who sprang up the minute the opening act started and didn't sit down until their pals arrived with beers partway through the main act. I didn't spend that much cash to look at four people's bottoms, and we didn't want to ruin the evening for the people behind us by standing to see over the bum-shakers. And their incessant shrieking meant my friend came away with ringing ears and a poor opinion of the music I'd hoped she'd enjoy. Another live concert? No way, not unless the humans attending agree to show a little consideration for the people who politely ask them to shake their booties elsewhere than our faces.

you sound like someone who would rather be home in your own controlled "home theater" environment. you can't expect other people to behave according to your criteria. people go out because they want to be around other people and if they want to sing along? why shouldn't they?!?

i've been a musician for decades. people singing along is a wonderful thing. otherwise, stay home and listen to the disk.

John Prine is a very talented and enjoyable folk/country singer-songwriter but hardly "rock and roll" in any conventional sense. If you went to see him play in a symphony hall maybe you have a better argument for shushing the crowd. Otherwise you sound like a fastidious fuddy-duddy. If there's no screaming and there's no attitude, it's not exactly rock 'n' roll now, is it?

Well, you are the perfect customer for a listening room: a place that actually does have some rules that are enforced (usually by the audience themselves). And contrary to what some are saying here, that doesn't mean total quiet; it means audience participation is focused on the music, and respects the artists (the artist and audience are engaged in a form of communication). There are such places (even for rock bands, who do feed on the audience), but they are a rare thing. And take it from a former owner of such a venue, they do not make money; which is why there are so few of them. But, I'm afraid you are just expecting too much from the average venue. In general, people don't like to be held to rules when they are out for entertainment; and many times aren't really that interested in the actual music. Find yourself a good listening room, and then go there often enough to get them to invite the bands you like. Musicians love these sorts of places; you might be surprised that you can get some fairly big names, if they know there is an audience that really listens.

Wow, I'd hate to get stuck next to you at a concert or ballgame. Bands feed off the energy of the crowd. Please, do us all a favor and listen to your music in the antiseptic confines of your home. I don't go to rock shows to get scolded or be a walking ad for an Emily Post course. Thankfully, for most of us, a rock show is a little more visceral--the way rock was meant to be.

I've of two minds about this; Jackson Browne sings, "People you've got the power over what we do/You can sit there and wait/Or you can pull us through/Come along, sing the song..." and I can't imagine sitting through a Stones concert or not singing Jimmy Buffet songs I "know by heart." That said, I recently had the misfortune of sitting next to a boozy, out-of-tune gal at a Crosby, Stills, & Nash concert, who insisted on singing every song, including those she didn't know. I figured it was a Karmic correction for when I did something similar at a Gordon Lightfoot concert 30 years earlier. My belated apologies for that one (Vanderbilt Memorial Gym, Nashville, ca. Nov 1978).

I totally agree with this article! If you want to get drunk and talk...go to a bar! Have some courtesy for those of us who came to experience the music. I'm not opposed to socialization, just don't be so loud and obnoxious that you hinder other people's good times.

With the exception of a few classical gigs that I've played, I'm usually happy to see people talking to each other, singing, lapping, etc -- it means they're engaged and comfortable.

Let's put it this way: If you're at a show that involves lyrics in your own language sung over music that's less than 50 years old, it's probably safe to talk, no matter what this (ahem) business writer may perceive as hard and fast rules of etiquette.

He has at least said one thing that I agree with: If there are house rules, follow them. They supercede my preferences or those of a random (repeated throat clearing) business writer.

People like you made this era 'the time of no-community/isolationism'; communities let the noise happen, isolationists do not.


With Generous Support From...