Concerts Just Don't Do It For Me, & Here's Why

Photo: Photographed by Samuel James
I'm not ashamed of my musical tastes, but I am fully aware that they could be, well, cooler. I've never been the person one can talk to about the merits of the latest Childish Gambino album, or the one to recommend an indie band that is definitely the next Death Cab For Cutie. (Is Death Cab For Cutie even cool anymore? Were they ever cool? Please sound off in the comments, because I have no idea.) That means the artists I love tend to be big-name acts — and their shows are events, rather than "gigs" at hole-in-the-wall bars in Silverlake. Unfortunately, these days, concerts of that scale kind of suck.
I still have fond memories of arena concerts from my youth — some of my favorite musical memories include seeing Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, and Demi Lovato in the flesh. In high school, when I got into the pop-punk scene (reminder of how cool I was/am), I relished taking the train into Manhattan for shows at Webster Hall. (RIP, old friend.) Maybe it's just the cloud of nostalgia, but I remember those experiences as relatively low-key — and affordable, considering my high school self was paying for them.
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So, what happened? These days it seems that you can't see a bigger-name musical act without dropping a small fortune. To see Ed Sheeran at Staples Center in Los Angeles, for example, you'll have to shell out $117 — minimum. Drake, $139. To stand in the crowd as Harry Styles performs sans One Direction, you better have at least $207 in the bank. (And impeccable timing, considering how quickly his tour sold out.) You can blame ticket scalpers for jacking up the price of concert tickets, of course — and, yes, there are certainly steps being taken to prevent someone from swiping up tickets for resale — but that doesn't change the fact that many concerts will seriously eat into your paycheck.
It's not surprising that music festivals are becoming increasingly mainstream. Spending the weekend at events like Coachella and Bonnaroo is expensive, but when you consider how much you would have to spend to see all the artists on the lineup, it's actually more economically sensible than paying for all of those tickets individually. Of course, "economically sensible" doesn't mean everyone has the luxury of dropping two grand to go desert camping, even if it means seeing Lady Gaga fill-in for Beyoncé. Music festivals are also not for everyone: seeing so many artists in one place is amazing, sure, but it's also a music marathon that often ends with you sleeping in a tent amidst a crowd of thousands.
Of course, it's not just the price that makes concerts — at least, ones for bonafide celebrities — a less-than-ideal experience. The rise of stans means that, no matter how early you get to a general admission show, there's always someone who has stood in line longer to get to the front rail. Anyone who has ever watched footage of people losing their shit over The Beatles knows that there have always been these fans, but social media now has the power to connect them en masse. This isn't a complaint, really — just because I won't forego sleeping in my own bed to wait in line for my favorite artist shouldn't prevent others from doing so — but it does mean that, for the more casual fan, a good spot in the crowd is a bit trickier to obtain.
Maybe I've become an old lady at 25, but all of the hullaballoo surrounding concerts has made me wonder why we're so eager to see our favorite performers live in the first place. I don't find myself connecting more with an artist's music when I hear it live than when I listen to it on Apple Music — in fact, it almost feels more personal to do the latter. To be able to hear "Sign Of The Times" crystal-clear, rather than through the filter of screaming fans singing along, feels like I'm actually listening to what Harry Styles (and his team of A-list songwriters, because come on, I'm not totally naive) has to say.
Passing on concerts in recent years have made me appreciate the dance party. Sure, Beyoncé has never made an appearance at Beyoncé Ball at the Echoplex in Los Angeles, but her fans certainly do. The difference is, there's no competition to race to the front of the DJ booth — because, umm, why would you need to? Lemonade sounds just as sweet blasting from speakers as it does Bey's mic.
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It would be wonderful for concerts to come back to the masses, but until they do, I'm going to be over here with my headphones in my ears — and $207 in the bank.