The important role of an audience member in live music settings

As the festive season draws nearer, the gig guides get longer and the aroma of great times now lingers in the air. This is the season to let your hair down and enjoy the fruits of your labour by spoiling yourself with some good live music. And with that comes an often understated yet critical responsibility of being a quality and cultured audience member. As much as one would like their favourite acts to bring out their best when they get on stage, we too have a part to play in making the show[s] a wholesome experience, not only for ourselves but for our fellow audience members as well.

So, whether you are a veteran in the world of arts or a newly certified groovist, here are some pointers to help you enhance the live music experience and become a responsible audience member.

Study the venue beforehand

Now, before you run off at the sight of the word ‘study’, allow me a few more sentences to show you how this implies an easy task that can be completed within five minutes, over a water break if you will.

There is a distinct difference in the mannerisms required for a show held at a theatre vis-à-vis at a stadium for instance. Theatres and similar venues are more controlled indoor set-ups and thus require that you be mindful of every sound you make because it has the propensity to disturb those sitting around you from the actual show. It is best to save the catch-up sessions with old friends for after the show – trust me, the tea will spill just as well then. Outdoor venues are more relaxed but even then, don’t forget to give the act on stage your attention. It is easy to get lost in your own festivities that you end up treating the act like background music – don’t do that. Give them some love even if you’re mostly there to busk in the sun.

Be on time

Do I need to say anything on this one? It really is self-explanatory. Be on time. Actually, be early, please! It is disruptive to the audience and to the act when you arrive late, especially at an indoor venue where a whole row of people has to get up to accommodate you. To those who show up an hour or two late, please comment and let us know why. There are venues that are strict on time and I personally commend them for it. Now, I know some of you will state that shows don’t start on time and thus there’s no reason to be on time. Granted, there’s a lack of respect for time from the acts as well but that’s a conversation for another piece. For now, let’s focus on you being on time.

Participate in the moment

Whether you wanted to go to the show or were forced to because you are the designated plus one, the point is you are at the show now and it’s worthwhile to make the best of it. Pay attention. Pay attention and you’ll be surprised by how much you hear and learn. Putting on a show is no easy feat and you get to appreciate the nuances if you give it time and attention. Knowing one song by an artist is a great way to get you to the show, but once you’re there, take the opportunity to explore the music, you might just leave with new-found favourites. Don’t sit there waiting for the one song you know because that’s when you’re likely to become disruptive. Participate in the moment. The artist brings the song but the song will only move you if you allow it to.

Be responsible with your recreational drinks

Live music is good times and by virtue of that, there will be alcoholic beverages on the scene. What’s important is that you know your limits and play within your parameters. That way everyone gets to enjoy the show from start to finish.

Switch off your flash

In the age of smartphones and social media, proof of life and attendance rests on photographic and videographic evidence, and we get that. But please, for the love of peace, switch your flash off unless the artist on stage instructs otherwise. Only the act on stage needs the spotlight, the rest of the audience is happy to sit in the dark and enjoy the show. And since we are talking about phones, refrain from this new-found habit of video calling people to show them the show. Rather take a video and send them that. Oh and did I mention that you should ensure that your phone is on silent? Yes, silent not vibrate because some of our phones sound like humming bees when on vibrate and that’s disruptive.

Give artists you don’t know a fair chance

This is more for the shows with extensive lineups. When you are at a show that has many acts, give them all the attention and support they deserve. They may not be your kind of vibe but respect and honour the effort and courage it took to get on that stage in the first place. You will see your headliner but in the meantime give the other acts your support, it goes a long way and you may just discover new artists to add to your collection.

By applying these pointers we can cultivate a cultured audience which makes for a wholesome live music experience for all in attendance. Music is meant for sharing and it is our collective responsibility to make those spaces conducive for all participants. We’re a gifted nation musically, now let’s be an exemplary nation in its consumption.