Etiquette for Attending Live Music Events

live music

I have been in countless live music settings, both on stage and in the audience, and have been dismayed at the boorish behavior of many.  Noisy patrons are rude and inconsiderate toward their fellow patrons. Not to mention, it is deeply disrespectful to the musicians. But hey, they’re getting paid, right? I suppose so. That’s not my rant today.

There is really just one basic rule: do not interfere with others’ enjoyment of the music. Here are some simple guidelines:

  • If you are in a noisy bar/club where the music is loud and raucous, you can be loud and raucous, too. People are laughing, talking (yelling, even), or dancing, go ahead and let loose. You won’t be interfering.
  • If you are in a bar or café where the music is soft and intimate – a solo, duo, or small ensemble performing lighter fare – keep it down. Quiet conversation is fine, but use what your mom called your “inside voice.” Some people are there to listen to the music.
  • If you are in a concert setting, whether a symphony hall or an intimate afternoon recital, you should remain silent. Even talking quietly to your friend or checking your phone will diminish the experience for others.
  • Background music: If the live performers are providing “background” music, go ahead and socialize in a manner appropriate to the venue and just let the musicians do their thing. When is it background music? You’ll know… a party or reception where the gathering is focused on food, drinks, and conversation, or a hotel lobby, a shopping mall concourse, etc. Note: Background music is always instrumental. If a performer is singing it is NOT background music. There is no such thing as vocal background music.

Again, your one guiding rule: gauge your social behavior on the level to which it may interfere with others’ experience. It seems like this should go without saying, but based on my experience in live music settings it most certainly needs to be said.


Charles Bursell MINI Profile Pic 

Charles Bursell is a writer, performer, host and commentator heard nationally on SiriusXM, National Public Radio, and The Pacifica Radio Network. He currently hosts the podcasts Stream of Consciousness Talk Radio Theatre and Conversations With Charles Bursell. Both shows, and more, can be found on several platforms, including Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and

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