AUSTIN, Texas -- With the rock world's premier event SXSW to begin this weekend in Austin, even long-time concertgoers might ask: What is the etiquette for a rock concert?
"Live music may seem like the last place to invoke modern rules of etiquette. But that's simply not true," said Sharon Schweitzer, a corporate Etiquette & International Protocol Consultant and president of Austin-based Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. "We have all seen bad behavior at a concert. Or, even, worse, we've been the victims of bad behavior. Who hasn't had their evening ruined by loud talkers at an intimate show? Or been embarrassed by an inappropriate public display of affection by the couple sitting next to you when the band plays their song? Or been jostled by a latecomer trying to cut in line?"
If rock concerts are the one place on earth where it is okay to let your hair down in public, then why is there a need for manners?
"Even the greatest performers cannot compete with the stranger next to you who insists on shouting every word, sloshing beer, and falling all over those around them," the Texas protocol expert said.
Here are six etiquette tips based on interviews of performers, musicians and audience members:
1. Boundaries ~ Stay Off the Stage: Please do not throw or put anything on the stage. This includes your body, your loved one, drinks, purse, camera, etc. If you try to climb on the stage, security may remove you. The show may be delayed, which is unacceptable ... even if it is your birthday!
2. Band Property: Please do not remove music sheets, musical instruments, or any band property from the stage. The performers need these items. At times, during practice, a performer may set an item down and fail to retrieve it from the stage. As much as the performers adore fans, they did not leave those items as a gift for the audience!
3. Respect the Opening Band: The opening band is touring with, or was approved by the main performer. Refrain from shouting down or booing the opening band. It takes courage to get on stage and play for an audience that does not know your music. Be appreciative.
4. Organize Your Personal Priorities: Arrive early to find parking and take care of your personal needs. Use the facilities so that you do not disrupt the audience around you numerous times during the concert. Avoid documenting the entire concert on your iPhone, held aloft, in someone's line of vision. If the band plays another encore while you are on your way out, please do not come to a standstill in the aisle. Move on or go back to your seat.
5. Concert Position: If a large capacity concert is general admission and you arrive early, do not leave in the middle expecting to get your front and center spot back. If you want to be up front during the entire concert, you must arrive early and stay put. If you arrive late, do not expect to be able to elbow, nudge, and push to the front by saying "excuse me." The people at the front are there because they waited for hours to acquire that coveted spot. When it is crowded and you are returning with a few beers, please take a sip beforehand, so that the beer goes to your tummy and not down someone's back.
6. Copyright: Do not record the concert on your mobile device. Not only does this break the law, it also interferes with other people viewing the concert. Aside from being impolite, security personnel could confiscate your recording equipment.
"When everything goes well, the music coming from the stage can lift your spirits and make you forget your surroundings," she said. "The audience has a role to play and the audience has significant responsibility for the success of the experience. Let's work for our title as Live Music Capital and promote the best concert experience possible!"