The summer of 2023 made one thing clear: Concerts are back. This summer, it was nearly impossible to scroll through social media without seeing content centered on one of the many blockbuster tours that swept across the United States.
Social media, however, has changed the way that society perceives concerts. Concerts are no longer one-off events to be excited for, but statements of social status. Concerts have become less about a shared love of music within a community and more about capturing the perfect video or picture to make others jealous.
The roots of this issue can be traced back further than 2023. Harry Styles’ Love On Tour, which began in 2021, saw fans dedicating days to camping outside of the venue in order to be the closest to the stage, with some returning directly to the general admission line after the concert for a second night. The social media presence of Love On Tour sent a message: there is no point in going to a concert if you aren’t able to flex your great seats and larger-than-life concert experience online.
Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour furthered the change in concert culture. While Ticketmaster’s failure to adequately manage the high demand for the tour likely played a role in the competition to acquire tickets, social media also contributed to the pressure many felt to show off their highly coveted Swift tickets.
At my Eras Tour show, I first realized the scope of this social media craze. Sitting in my coveted floor seat, I listened to a mother try to convince her teenage daughters to be excited for the show, struggling futilely to get them to look away from their phones during the last set. Further, I watched as my entire section sat for the majority of the Folklore set of the show. I remember asking myself: Shouldn’t the floor be where the biggest fans are?
The answer to that question is no, not in today’s world. Concerts have become a symbol of status and wealth. A photo on the floor at The Eras Tour in a custom-made outfit made a statement: You made it to the event of the summer. There was an aspect to the Eras Tour content that wasn’t about celebrating Swift’s career—it was about proving that you were able to participate in the tour.
These issues are present not just at the big stadium tours but at smaller shows too. The concert camping that characterized Love On Tour has become the new social norm even for smaller shows. Getting the perfect video showcasing one’s spot at the barricade has come to define the success of people’s concert-going experiences.
I am not trying to say that concerts should be a cell phone–free zone. I have my own post showing off my Eras Tour outfit and a few hundred videos in my camera roll documenting the experience. But we as a society are losing focus on what a concert should really be about—a shared love of music.
Pre–social media, concerts used to be a space that celebrated the music that brought people from all walks of life together. People were connected by finding common meaning, whether it be comfort or joy, in a song. As concerts become increasingly about asserting social standing, this concept falls on the back burner.
It is unlikely that concert-goers will see this new mindset change any time soon as new age concerts have become extremely profitable—and not just for those in the concert industry. Many fashion brands have profited off fast concert fashion by producing clothes in a certain style to give consumers the perfect outfit for a one-time event.
Our feeds will probably always be flooded with concert content and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. But the current culture—largely created through social media—of extreme competition to prove that someone had the “best” time at a concert is detrimental to the concert experience. A celebration of music and the shared joy it brings can and should exist in the social media space. In fact, it is exactly what we need.