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The Dangerous Trend That Is Injuring Artists and Destroying Concert Etiquette

By Kristen Hawley | 08 August, 2023

Bebe Rexha, Kelsea Ballerni, Drake, Harry Styles, and P!NK. What do these artists all have in common? Obvious answer: they are arena-touring, Billboard-charting superstars. But the live music side of Twitter and TikTok know that these superstars, and more, are going viral not for their songs, but for being target practice for fans.

A seemingly recent, and might I add horrific, trend is emerging of concert-goers throwing objects - particularly cell phones - at artists on-stage. Some, like Drake, have been grazed in the stomach or called out the absurdity of throwing a vape on stage, but others like Kelsea Ballerni and Bebe Rexha have taken a phone to the face, causing a stop during their shows. Rexha needed stitches and had a bruised eye that she later joked about on TikTok to reassure worried fans.

BebeRexha gives a thumbs up in a selfie featuring her bruised eye
BebeRexha via Instagram

But where is this trend coming from? Many attribute it to the pandemic shut-down that halted live events, causing social norms - and specifically concert etiquette - to decline. Some also attribute the desire to be noticed by an artist. Let’s set the scene: Your adrenaline mixed with dopamine is pumping and a performer is right there, so close you don’t need the giant screen to see what color nail polish they have on. You think, “if only there was a way to get their attention?” Maybe if you toss your phone up on stage, they will pick it up and record so you can have a once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable video? Just for yourself… and also for millions of views on TikTok when you inevitably post it. No harm, no foul, right?

On one side, the trend is potentially stemming from an innocent idea gone rogue. In a more wicked tone, some concert-goers just lose respect for those around them. It’s been a long-standing issue with celebrities and artists as they lose their autonomy, the media and public treat them less like an actual human being and view them more as a thing or idea. There’s a sense that once someone steps into the limelight, that means they just signed themselves into non-stopping, non consensual public exposure and access. As if becoming well-known and regarded for your talents equals the loss of your humanity. The heart-breaking aspect is that they should never fear this with fans.

Fans should be an artist’s safe haven, not a potential threat. The fan-to-artist bond is personal, impactful, and most of all deep-cutting since there is nothing more intimate than the bond developed through art. A connection like that creates a sense of similarities or shared feelings even if lifestyles or experiences are different. But above all else, it creates the mutual understanding of “I watch your back, you watch mine.”

drake extends microphone to crowd with his arms spread wide
Prince Williams/ Wireimage via Billboard

The horrific Astroworld fatalities demonstrate artists need to have a higher awareness of what is happening in the crowd to protect and support fans. But, it’s also a two-way street. Fans need to look out for artists when they’re on stage because they can’t see everything. Live shows bring a community of people together from all walks of life and experiences who have a mutual love for an artist but concerts can only continue to occur if etiquette is maintained.

The challenge artists, bands, and their teams will face as ticket prices continue to skyrocket is fans becoming more on edge of angst and entitlement: “I paid this much, I should be able to do what I want.” Correct, you can do what you want at a show. Dress how you want, dance how you want, have fun how you want - but not at the expense of fellow fans’ and artists’ safety.

So where do artists stand now? Well, as Jason Derulo pointed out in an interview, the more these aggressive, attention-seeking acts happen, the more intimidated artists will be to step on stage. And who can blame them? So far it’s been bruises and stitches, but who knows how massive this trend will spread. Or what will be caused when phones escalate into larger, heavier devices being thrown while aggravation and stitches escalate into permanent injuries.

There are moments throughout our day-to-day life where we see strangers' kindness appear in many ways. Unfortunately, we see the opposite as well with people’s cruelty too. Whether these phone-throwing “fans” mean to cause injury or not, their actions will surely shape live music and an artists’ willingness and comfort on stage. Like a lot of large group events, where the flow and success of it depends on everyone acting like human beings, a few bad apples will spoil this bunch.


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