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INSIDE OUT: The Art of Being a Good Audience

Don't be that guy (on his phone) at a recent Rise Against show. (Photo: Arlene Brown)

Don’t be that guy (on his phone at a recent Rise Against show). (Photo: Arlene Brown)

INSIDE OUT is a look from within the Music Industry.

{Editorial note: this editorial opinion piece reflects the views of the author alone}

When you buy a ticket to a show, there’s an expectation that you’ll get your money’s worth, the artist will play your favorite songs, be in top performance form, entertain, and give you the ultimate fan experience. But, did you know that the performer also holds an expectation of you, the fan?

Performers have put in endless hours of sacrifice, rehearsal, money, and miles to entertain their fans. They’re excited to be in your city and club. As a touring act, they roll into town on fumes from the show the night before on little sleep, cigarettes, and Red Bull to give you what you expect and deserve, and to make sure you don’t leave disappointed.

Your local headliners often put together a bill with bands they like and respect. It has become a disturbing trend for fans to just show up for their favorite band or chat in the room when their band is not onstage. What they may not realize, is that they are disrespecting a band who has rehearsed and is excited to play for new fans as well as old, and their fans have paid to see and hear their favorite band. They are robbing them of that experience, as well as disrespecting your favorite band who put the bill together. As a fan, you should listen to all the bands on the bill. How do you like it when other band’s fans talk and disrupt the fan experience you paid for? You bought a ticket for a three-band bill, so give your kind attention to all of these hardworking bands.

If it’s your band’s CD release party, they’ve put a lot of thought into their opening and direct support act. This is a big night for them. Some have planned for months, so please show respect for the bill they’ve put together with bands they thought you would like. If it’s a CD release show, make sure you bring some cash (not every band uses a Square) to pick up the new CD and accompanying merch. This is how a band makes their money, not on your ticket. Bands outlay a lot of money on recording, CD design, duplication, and merch, and it is their hope to recoup their expense. They’re counting on you to pick up something at the show.

2014.02.21: The Head and the Heart @ The Paramount Theatre, Seat

Be more like these The Head and the Heart fans enjoying their show at The Paramount Theatre. (Photo: Jason Tang)

Suggestions for a Successful Show Experience

  1. Host/MC/comic opening the show, you set the tone of the show. You must be able to read your audience and adjust accordingly. You control the room, pace, and flow.
  2. If the sound level in the room is high and they’re talking over you, then an occasional STFU might be in order. You need to let the audience know what the performers are going to give them, and what you expect back from them.
  3. If you are a headlining local band, send the lead singer out to tell the fans before the show “We want to thank you for coming out, we personally put together all the bands on the bill, and we’re excited. So, we ask that you give them the same kind attention and energy you give us.”
  4. If fans don’t comply and get too chatty, before the next act, tell them to either give their attention to the artist or please take their conversation out into the hall or outside bar.

Clubs need to take more responsibility. At a good comedy club, if patrons talk or are unruly, they’re given one warning and then asked to leave. It’s disrespectful to the performer and disruptive. Would you allow someone to disrupt your sales presentation or speech at your job? I think not. Performing is a job, and artists need to be treated with the same business courtesy. I would like to see clubs follow the comedy club rule. Fans will become better fans when they know what is expected of them and the consequences of bad behavior. Missing their favorite band that they paid for one time might be enough to make them realize that the club means business, and security will not tolerate disruptive behavior that ruins it for their other paid guests.

One of my favorite venues is The Triple Door because I know I will always have a great fan experience. Fans are respectful, and there is no disruptive chatter. Why? Because the venue will not allow it. Seattle Living Room Shows operate in a similar fashion. Besides bringing in great acts, the show is controlled. The Watt Sisters are very vocal about no chatter and giving full attention to the artist. Kristen Watt has no problem telling fans to be quiet, and asking for your attention, or postponing the next act until order is restored, if needed. I believe that is one of the reasons their shows sell out. I read testimonials on their web page, and time and time again an artist or patron commented, “people were not only there, but listening.”

2013.01.05: Mary Lambert, Chandra Johnson @ Seattle Living Room Shows

Be more like these fans respectfully watching and listening to Mary Lambert at a Seattle Living Room Show. (Photo: Jason Tang)

Fan etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO: Give bands your kind attention and show appreciation by applause. Somehow, it’s a bit of a lost art. Applause lets the performer know you’re digging what they’re doing and artists feed on your enthusiasm. The ol’ “what you give out is what you get back” does apply.
  • DON’T: Be overly chatty, and constantly texting during the show, especially you are if in the first few rows. Don’t have your phone ringer on, or take a call in the middle of a show.
  • DO: Wait until the photographer gets their shot or, if it’s a videographer, until the end of the song. Professional photogs are very aware of not getting in your way and most songs are about 3½ minutes so they won’t inconvenience you for long. They will do their best to stay out of your sight line to get what they need and not disrupt your experience, so please give them your courtesy. Walking in front of someone who is filming ruins the song being filmed, making it unusable and the artist may have asked that person to film a particular song for them, so you’re really giving a big FU to that artist. Contrary to belief, walking in front of someone’s camera or sticking your mug in front of their lens is “not” funny.
  • DON’T: Spill your drink on, push, or surge forward crushing photographers or other fans. Photographers have expensive equipment, which is their livelihood. You might just consider going around them from behind or stand to their side for a moment until they’re done and out of your way. I’ve heard many stories of fans pushing forward to where the photographers have no room, spilling drinks on them, and preventing them from doing their job. The barriers are there for everyone’s safety and protection. You may fall (I’ve seen it happen), and get seriously injured or worse yet, fall on an innocent fan causing injury. SMI Photographer, Mocha Charlie, also brought the following tragic incident to my attention that happened to an innocent fan this year at a concert in Redmond. Don’t think it can’t happen to you or someone you love just like this unsuspecting fan.
2012.09.03: M83 fans bum-rush security @ Bumbershoot - Mainstage

Don’t be like these disrespectful fans who bum-rushed KeyArena security at Bumbershoot after they stopped allowing people on the floor. (Photo: Jason Tang)

  • DO: Be respectful of the artist’s safety. They want to be safe and they want you to be safe too. They’ve hired security and believe it or not, security is not trying to ruin your experience. They’re concerned foremost to protect you and your friend/family and make sure you have a good time. I’ve done concert security and security is your friend. They will rush to help and protect you and you should go to them if you need help or witness any incidents that compromises anyone’s safety and could halt the show or cause the artist to leave the stage.
  • DON’T: Try to jump on stage. If the artist wants you up there, they’ll signal security to bring you up. It’s scary for a performer when a random fan jumps onstage, and it’s dangerous. You can hurt someone in your adrenaline-induced state, trip on cords, unplug equipment, knock over mics and other equipment, which could injure the artist, you, or fans and security on the floor. Plus, it’s scary for a performer who doesn’t know if you are there to harm them or not. Especially in this day and age.
Vans Warped Tour 2015 @ White River Amphitheater

Be more like these Vans Warped Tour fans and experience a show in the moment. (Photo: Mocha Charlie)

  • DO: Drop your garbage in the appropriate containers. Be a great fan and just throw your garbage in the containers provided for you. A venue notices which artists have great fans and it reflects on the artist. Venues are more likely to welcome an artist back when the fan/venue experience has been a good one. I can’t believe I even have to mention that, and it’s not just the kids who are the offenders.
  • DON’T: Bring your iPads. Nothing is worse for a fan than a bunch of giant screens blocking their view. I got a report that iPad offenders are the 21+ crowd, who tend to feel entitled, with little care or respect as to who they’re affecting. Consider just shooting a song here and there instead of one after another. Also consider going to the back of the room or move to a side wall so not to block others view. Again, give and take and everyone is happy. SMI Photographer, Mocha Charlie, told me she’s not against fans holding up cellphones, because if a ton of them suddenly go up, it’s a cue as to the popularity of the upcoming song or a tip that something special might happen, and she’ll want to make sure she’s ready to capture it.
David Endicott - Bad Fan tablet - Robert DeLong show at Squamish Valley Music Fest 2015

Don’t be that guy (taking photos with an iPad at a recent Robert Delong show). (Photo: David Endicott)

With clubs closing and declining show attendance, I challenge club owners to ponder the fan experience and what is lacking that might be keeping fans and their dollars away. Bid Farewell: Why Millennials Are Abandoning The Nightclub Nightlife published Oct 12 at www.insidermagazine.com, addresses this issue. It’s an interesting read as to the state of today’s audience.

Times are changing, and clubs must abandon old practices and take a hard look (before it’s too late) at their demographic, where they are spending their money, their hot buttons (ambience, food, drink specials, happy hours, special events, lights/sound, etc.), and move away from standard three- to four-bill shows. The article states that Millennials want an experience, and I believe it’s not just the Millennials who want more bang for their buck. Intimate chatting coves where patrons could drink and talk without the hustle-bustle of the main bar would be popular. The chatting needs to be taken out of the showroom, so if you don’t want them to leave, or be asked to leave, give them a dedicated, comfortable place to do it where they’ll continue to spend money, but without distracting other patrons who have paid good money for the music and don’t have to compete with the voice levels in the room.

Clubs, consider instituting a HOST for your shows. It might just be an employee who is great with people who can handle the duties or, like many comedy clubs, have a pre-recorded pre-show announcement made stating the rules. You can make it fun, use local celebrities, make it tongue-in cheek, but get the point across. You might tell them, “look around the room and note your nearest exit because if you’re disruptive, those are the exits we will be taking you out. See the big guy at the door? (he waves) He’s a professional tour guide who will be only too happy to personally show you the door.” Over the last few weeks, I read two separate Facebook posts about two of our top clubs who allowed a patron to verbally shout out and disrupt and disrespect an artist during her show, and nothing was done. Fans were put off, but this patron was allowed to stay in the room and continued to talk loudly during her set. That needs to stop.

I want to see the scene flourish, I myself have cut back on the amount of shows I go to for the very same reasons. I work hard all week and I’m tired when I get home. If I get myself all cleaned up, buy a ticket, drive into the city, pay for parking, dinner and drinks expecting to have a good time, I’m angry if someone ruins it.

We’re the City of Music, the world looks to us to set trends, not follow them. Let’s be progressive and start taking measures to bring back the Art of Being a Good Audience. I believe once we institute it, we’ll see a growth in attendance and other cities will follow suit, and it will become the new norm and everyone will benefit.

So, club owners, who will step up and give it a try?

Robin Fairbanks has spent 30+ years in the Music Industry in many capacities. Working in the Seattle music scene since 2006 as a Manager/Booker, she’s known for her ethics and artist development skills. Robin has guided the careers of many, but most notable as the former Manager of Seattle Garage/Blues band Fox and The Law for 3.5 years. Robin has spent the last 2 yrs consulting with Artists who seek her help as a Music Consultant and Publicist with Setlist Music Solutions LLC. She also gives of her time as an advisor to Seattle Wave Radio, an Internet music station where she helped shape its sound as the ROCK Channel Music Director for 2+ yrs upon its launch in 2010 and where you’ll find her music blog, “Bird On A Wire“. In 2014, Robin also worked as a Contributing Music Writer for Guerrilla Candy.