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What puts students off live music?


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Most gigs are relatively painless and they are often hugely enjoyable experiences, but they can occasionally be time-consuming and unjustifiably expensive, even for the most dedicated of fans. We’ve compiled a list of some of the factors that make people stay at home and offer ways these problems can be overcome.

Image credit: Pixabay

Inconvenient travel

Often the bigger names only go to larger venues and more populous cities, which restricts the type of people who can make their limited tour dates. Those attending from smaller cities often have to travel hours in advance in anticipation of finding the venue in time and taking account for possible transportation delays. Not only do attendees living further afield from the venue have to arrive early, but they often have to leave early as well and miss out on some of the best parts of the gig, including the encore. Venues can sometimes be detached from train or coach stations, making them difficult to find, particularly if they are situated on the outskirts.

If you find yourself based in a city other than London, Manchester or Glasgow, a solution might be to take advantage of the many smaller acts putting on shows in easily accessible locations to undergrads with limited time and budget, such as student unions or local clubs. In terms of rail travel, flexible tickets could also be worthwhile in case of any last-minute delays. 

Financial obstacles

The BBC reported last year that the average ticket prices for large arena gigs have doubled since the late 1990s. With lofty costs, gigs can often deter those interested – in particular, those who also have to dish out for transportation costs. Even smaller aspects to gig-going, such as the price of merch, CDs, or drinks can all put you at risk of going over your budget. At least merch is optional. It’s a choice for fans to purchase as both a memento and a demonstration of gratitude to the artist, and you can often buy a badge or a tote bag rather than go all out on T-Shirt for £20 if you want to support the creation of the next album. As an alternative to the steep prices asked for by the big names, you can focus on budgeting for a couple of smaller gigs. This will enable you to see a wider range of different artists, instead of blowing your live music fund on one subpar arena show.

Time-consuming gigs

Occasionally the venue will fail to post set times for a gig or leave these so late that it becomes impossible to plan your evening accordingly. Support acts can become more prolonged than anticipated, dragging out the total length of the gig and sapping energy levels.

There is also the risk that gigs can also be postponed or cancelled last minute due to illness or even technical issues. Although there is generally no compensation available for those who have already paid for transportation, cancelled gigs are generally refunded and it is possible to purchase ticket protection if you think there is a chance you won’t be able to attend, which is a worthwhile as a safety net and only costs a small amount.

Additionally, students or young people with jobs have to hope the gigs can fit in with their free time outside work - luckily, most gigs are in the evening and are easy to arrange. However, dates during the week can be less attractive if they drag on past a certain point for those in full-time employment. Numerous tour dates in larger cities could also be a way to get around this, giving people the option of different dates to choose from.

Phone waving/Instagram warriors

Audience members attending gigs, particularly larger names, often feel the compulsion to film and take photos of the majority of the gig. This can be a deal-breaker in the worst cases. The psychology behind it seems to be a desire to link the artist’s performance to their own self-image as a fan on social media, but the reality is that this can ruin the experiences of others whose views are blocked by cameras and phones. Whilst taking a photo at the gig can often be a positive means of remembering the moment and in moderation, it seems pretty acceptable, it can be disruptive to smaller gigs and should probably be limited to an extent. Last year, Jack White banned phones at gigs altogether to create a "100% human experience” and he reassured fans that photographs and videos would be available from an official photographer. 

Lack of inclusivity

Despite the best gigs' ability to produce a sense of togetherness and unity, not all gig environments are inclusive to everyone. People who go to gigs alone can feel out of place, more self-aware, and insecure in an environment like this where there can be many large groups. Particularly in standing areas, there can be more overcrowding and loudness of both the crowd and the highly amplified music itself. This is overwhelming for some and can be a deterrent. Members of staff are often detached from the crowd itself, meaning there is a lack of support for dealing with unsavoury behaviour. Abuse and assault become more difficult to police in disorienting, close quarters. The Guardian reported that two in five of all women under 40 attending music festivals had been sexually assaulted or harassed, based on a 2018 YouGov poll. The wellbeing of both wheelchair users and the impact of strobe lighting on neuro-divergent people are also in many cases unaccounted for. 

Despite this, improvements are being made to gigs as both venues and promoters attempt to make gig environments more comfortable and inclusive. Lewis Capaldi has launched a LiveLive initiative to help those who experience anxiety or concerns about attending shows. This provides both an email address for help and a qualified team at the gig itself to assist with these issues, alongside an “escape room” as a sanctuary for those who feel uncomfortable.

Reported by Clash Magazine, Capaldi said: “I really wanted to put something in place to help those people feel comfortable and offer them support to allow them to experience the shows”.

Many venues are also working with a charity called Attitude is Everything, which aims to improve deaf and disabled people’s accessibility to live music events. It also works with deaf and disabled artists and professionals, making the live music industry more open to a wider range of people.

In sum

Live music is one of the most sought-after experiences for students, but there are numerous factors to consider before purchasing a ticket. These include planning travel, finance, getting friends together around the date, and pressures of a loud and often claustrophobic environment. Despite affordability and convenience remaining obstacles, venues and promoters are generally moving towards better accessibility and creating a more inclusive environment at live music events across the UK, although there is still some way to go.

Lead image credt: Pixabay

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