Concert etiquette has always been sort of a contentious topic. Even in Western classical music, there are several variations of what is acceptable and what is not. I would like to explore what is acceptable for performed music in the context of India.

To get the easier things out of the way first, it is of course not acceptable to use cell phones inside concert halls (yes, that includes any form of light and sound coming from the gadget).

Second easiest thing — I think it is fair for the artists to expect movement of people into/ inside the concert hall shall be restricted to between songs/ sections and during breaks. This means if the concert had begun and the first song item is 60 minutes long, you cannot go in until after the song is over. Even if you purchased the most expensive ticket of the day and even if you are a VIP of some sort.

Third easiest thing — if you have a condition — temporary or otherwise — due to which you will make bodily sounds (sneeze, cough, yawn, burp, fart, yada yada yada) that might be heard in a hall with pin-drop silence — it is your responsibility to make sure you are not. If you cannot meet this condition, you should never enter the concert hall. Even if you purchased the most expensive ticket of the day and even if you are a VIP of some sort.

Now begins the more complex rules.

Kids — I can find myself arguing that kids should be allowed and again that kids should not be. The argument for pro-kids is that — if I cannot take kids, how do I nurture the interest? The anti-kids argument is easy — they are uncontrollable, they have their needs, they need breaks, they cry etc…The best mid-point for this discussion is that there should be kids-friendly concerts — concerts specifically allowing kids.

Applause — Why do people applaud? I can bet at least 50% of all applauses are made — not to appreciate the performers, not even to praise the music — it is done merely as a proof that they recognize the music. If there is a particular high-point or an extremely skilled note the performers reached, we applaud to say “we get it”. And most performers like this — because — after all — what is music for, if it cannot bring out the emotional connection between two people? But the other side to this is that applauses take away the concentration of the performers and sometimes deafen the listeners from another skilled note the performers might reach in the next 5 or 10 seconds. That is why some famous performers like Pandit Ravishankar specifically ask the audiences to hold their applauses until they deem it well-timed.

The other side’s argument include:

  • “music is just for entertainment….so let’s do whatever we like”.
  • “I purchased the ticket…so I am a customer…I can walk in any damn moment I want”.
  • “I am going to applaud when I feel like it, after all, what is music for?”.

These issues go to the fundamentals of what music means to the person, and for which there are no universal answers.