Last week, the Guardian's Film&Music editor had a gig ruined for him by people rabbiting on. But why do some concertgoers insist on chatting through a performance? Our prof has a theory ...
I think @indiegodess should address this RT @GdnFilmandMusic: Why do people go to gigs to talk?
From Valerio Berdini (@liveon35mm )
Audiences go to gigs not just to listen to music. In my studies of audience behaviour, I found patterns of who talks, where they talk and why. The space occupied by audiences at gigs can be organised into three zones based on distinct types of activities found in each. Zone one, closest to the stage, is the most complicated in terms of physical engagement and has the youngest audience members. The second zone begins about a quarter of the way back into the venue. Interpersonal distances are greater and the audience older. Zone three, at the back of the venue, features the most varied activities and is where the music industry professionals stand ? as well as those who don't like the show.
Talking in venues follows a predictable pattern. Speaking occurs in a cline with the least talking in the front and the most in the back. Those closest to the stage rarely talk. They pay most attention to the band and the phones and cameras they use to document the performance. Moving further back in the venue, talking increases with the majority of chatter in the rear by industry professionals and those who don't like the show. The range of professionals ? promoters, managers, agents, publicists, executives, journalists and musicians ? network at shows. This is not just in service to themselves, it accomplishes a great deal for the industry. These discussions help shape festival bills, get press or create company alliances. Or, if not, they at least nurture relationships between industry professionals.
Additionally, most industry personnel have attended hundreds, if not thousands, of shows. For them, shows even by the greatest of bands are predictable. They know if the house lights are down there will be an encore. They know this is the same set list as last night, last week, last month. Sometimes they might even know what the artist plans to say between certain songs. On top of that, industry personnel rarely pay. They go to see bands without personal cost, only potential benefit. It's why they are called liggers. A "lig" is an archaic term referring to a cover that hung from the king's bed. Therefore, those professionals are essentially hanging on to the seat power, which at a show is the band and music.
Most significantly, however, is the fact that going to a show is a social event. If you wanted to just hear music, why not plug into SoundCloud and put on your headphones? The gig transforms a fractured community of online, print and private discourse into one of face-to-face interaction. Fans find each other in activities that designate one as a member of the community ? and live shows are the pre-eminent event that accomplishes this. As more music connections occur virtually, direct contact is sought at shows. How are you supposed to cop off if you can't talk to someone new?
Talking varies not just in terms of space but during the set as well. Not everyone likes the band to the same degree, nor do they all like the entirety of a band's repertoire. Audiences with low thresholds for boredom often want to hear just the hits. They are uninterested in more recent songs or obscure B-sides. While they wait for their favourites, concertgoers turn to alternative forms of entertainment. This means talking, flirting, tweeting, getting a pint or playing Angry Birds. The quieter the band the more obvious these patterns are. Ultimately, talking at shows is a bit like watching someone play with their smartphone. It's irritating whenever it isn't you.