Why Musicians Don’t Like Going to Concerts (Unless They Are Performing)
March 26, 2015
A co-worker of mine knows I’m a musician. This morning, she asked me if I heard about the Lollapalooza lineup that was just announced. She seemed surprised when I mentioned that I generally don’t go to concerts.
Giving you an accurate and well-rounded answer deserves a long conversation but here’s a bunch of thoughts. Basically, the biggest reason is… I don’t enjoy them. I love live performances (musical theater, especially) but the traditional concert format rarely pays off for me. I’m not the only one, either. A guitar teacher of mine once said, “Concerts? I wouldn’t cross the street to see myself play.”
Annoyances of being in a concert audience
There are a myriad of reasons why I don’t enjoy them as an audience member (correlation with drinking and smoking, lots of standing, crowds, waiting in lines, not being able to talk, not being the center of attention, subjecting myself to OPC (other people’s cleverness)).
The polite and true answer is I genuinely prefer to be a part of music making. I see myself as a musician and songwriter, all the time. When I see other people playing, I spend a good chunk of the time wishing it were me instead or at least wishing I were up there with them.
If it was a movie, sure, I can enjoy that because I can comfortably take on the role of an audience member. Theater is the same thing. I don’t see myself as a movie maker or a stage performer so I don’t get that same “me instead of them” gut reaction. I can enjoy the hell out of academic talks, inspirational speeches and magic shows for the same reason.
The impolite answer is, in most cases, you end up judging the band for their shortcomings in skill/style/approach/equipment. If the act does somehow exceed the impossibly awesome vision a musician has of themselves, it would no doubt be a depressing experience. Of course, I wouldn’t know. It’s never happened to me.
Either way, once you’ve been the one up there, it’s kind of ruined from the other side.
Denying the truth
I tried to deny the reality of how I felt about going to concerts for years. I’ve been to hundreds of concerts. I’ve seen big name festivals and artists I admire, even musical heroes. Spent thousands of dollars, collected ticket stubs and road tour t-shirts. My feelings about who I really am were just confirmed with every attempt. Of course, not everyone is supportive. People assume I’m agoraphobic or a cranky old man. As I’ve said though, it’s not all events. Just concerts.
I do make rare exceptions though. The size of the venue or crowd is inversely proportional to the likelihood that I would willingly attend. In other words, the smaller the better. Second, if I personally know someone in the band. I will try to support people I know within reason (and reasonable distance).
So, I’ll close this post the same way I closed the email wrote to my co-worker. I’m glad she asked and I hope my readers can enjoy an honest answer.