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Tickets: Situational Reasonableness

The other night, I went to Rod Laver Arena to see Black Sabbath on their final tour, The End. It was epic. So awesome. And it was great to see a diverse crowd of metalheads, families of several generations, older couples in the “smart casual” dress (that looked so out of place next to the metalheads, to be honest!) and middle aged folk who had grown out of their rebellious youthful phase but wanted to see the band of their childhood/teenage years.

Sabbath rocked so hard.

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But my night was almost ruined by people complaining. The situation was sorted out, thanks to the help of a wonderful security guard, but it did give me inspiration for a new blog post:

What is “reasonable conduct” for various ticketed events? 

What things should people bear in mind before complaining about someone else’s conduct? 

Or to be put it more plainly: if you are complaining about someone standing up and rocking out at a rock concert, are YOU the problem instead?! 

So this was my situation: I couldn’t afford to buy tickets when they went on sale, and only had sufficient funds to do so a few weeks before the gig. The only tickets left were in the upper levels of Rod Laver Arena.

“That’d be fine,” I thought. “I mean, last time you saw Black Sabbath at Rod Laver, you were up at the back of the Arena, and had a ball. You could see clearly*, and everyone was rocking out, standing up. It’ll be fine.”

* being a shorter person means that most of my gig experiences are enjoying the band while looking at someone’s shoulders and head. 

Except that this didn’t happen. I was amused watching people flood into their seats before Sabbath took to the stage: a hugely eclectic variety of people had come to the show. There were lots of metal heads, like me, clad in black jeans and black band t shirts, tattoos/piercings/make up/spiked hair/long hair marking our inclusion in this community of metal fans and determination to look slightly different. But there were far more ‘normal’ people – older men in smart casual chinos and a dress shirt, families where several generations from 70-7 had all come to the show, middle aged folk who presumably had rocked out to Sabbath back in the day and had come to say goodbye.

This seemed cute and fun, until Sabbath took to the stage. Then it became a royal pain in my arse.

You see, I’ve been to lots of arena rock gigs. Green Day, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Black Sabbath in 2013, plus Soundwave and other festivals, smaller gigs in other venues like HIM, Apocalyptica, and Dan Sultan at the HiFi Bar, Trivium a few nights before this gig at 170 Russell, Nightwish at the Palace Theatre, Dresden Dolls at the Forum, Pulp, Rob Zombie, and New Order at Festival Hall. I consider myself a veteran of rock gigs over the past 10 years and am comfortable that my behaviour was within the parameters of permitted behaviour for an event like this.

In all of the gigs I mentioned, including the ones at Rod Laver or another arena (Green Day, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath) all or most of the audience had stood up when the main band took to the stage, and rocked out standing in their allocated seat. Headbanging, dancing, grooving, having fun – all as you would expect to do at a gig. So that’s what I set about doing as soon as the opening notes of Black Sabbath boomed through Rod Laver Arena, trembling the walls with that doomy tritone that defines an entire genre of music.

Except… I was the only one standing. And the people behind me got angry. So I said “Stand up! Have fun! Dance! Rock out! The arena is sloped – if you stand up, you’ll see over me.” They kept complaining, so I said “ugh” and moved to the aisle, and continued rocking out standing to the side of the seats, away from anyone who “couldn’t see.”

Except they kept complaining. Yelling at me that I was breaching the conditions of my ticket. (No I wasn’t.) Yelling that I was being selfish and unreasonable. (I was behaving in the way a reasonable person would expect to behave at a Black Sabbath concert.) Yelling that I needed to sit down. (There is actually nothing on the tickets or conditions of entry to this event that said you had to remain seated.) Yelling that I needed to sit down or they’d get security. (Be my guest!) Yelling that I should have bought a General Admission/Floor ticket if I wanted to dance. (You expected to sit down and not move at all at a rock concert?! What the hell?!)

So by this point, I cracked it. I told everyone who was yelling at me that they were incredibly stupid to have spent close to $200 on tickets to see Black Sabbath if they had no interest in the band or rocking out to the music. I made it clear I would not sit down, and that I would go elsewhere in order to enjoy myself in a fashion appropriate to the type of event it was. (I might have said all of this less formally and with more swearing. My bad.)

And that I did. I went and stood to the side of stairs, out of the way, being careful to keep myself and my bag/jacket out of the way of other people, and continued to rock out. There were others near me doing the same thing, similarly forced out of their allocated seats by people who didn’t understand that standing in your allocated spot at a rock concert was completely fine and within the conditions of the tickets.

Security kept telling us to go to our seats (key phrase here: ‘go to your seats’, not ‘sit down’. Security had no concerns at all about the people standing in their seats.)

The music was so loud that it was impossible to explain what had happened, so I motioned to my phone and began to type a note to explain what had happened to them. This is what I wrote.

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The security guy I showed this to read it, nodded sympathetically and said “so you want to stand and dance? Do you want to go to the floor?”

“Oh god YES. Thank you!”

“Look: if this solves a problem, I have zero problems giving you a wristband. If you’re happy to go to the floor, I can make that happen. It solves a problem without fuss.”

I mean, it then took me a lot of running up and down stairs to figure out how to get to the floor, but 3 songs into Black Sabbath’s set, I was finally sorted. I was in a position where I could rock out to my heart’s content, and enjoy the show. And I did. But…

As I looked up from the floor to the seated areas of Rod Laver Arena, it was stark just how few people were standing. When I was at the same venue for Sabbath in 2013, or Metallica in 2011, everyone had stood as far as the eye could see. But this time?

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Seated politely like they were at an Andre Rieu concert. It was so awkward to watch Ozzy and the band try to encourage activity from the crowd – “are you having fun?” or “can I get a yeah?”

People were loud, but there were only patches where people were standing and dancing. At a music gig where it was reasonably expected that people would stand and dance. And in that photo, if you squint at the top right, you’ll see a patch of people standing and dancing and having fun. Everyone was happy. Security weren’t trying to get people to sit down – security didn’t care if you stood and danced. So I felt vindicated (and still angry) that I was forced from my seat by people who felt that the appropriate behaviour for a rock concert was to sit quietly like I was at a funeral.

I fumed about this a lot on the night, and tweeted furiously about how disappointing it was to see a stadium full of people who had no clue about what was reasonable behaviour at a rock concert, or what the situational conditions of your ticket might be. When I stormed off in a huff from my allocated seat, I saw other people who wanted to stand and dance being shushed and told to sit down by other people who, as a very broad generalisation, hadn’t been to a gig since The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan.

This whole brouhaha reminded me of another common problem where there is a misunderstanding of ticketing conditions: football.

I’m an active supporter of football – proper football, “soccer” to some of you heathens. Active support involves standing, chanting, waving flags/banners, and generally having a good time. Thanks to work between supporter groups and clubs or the FFA, there is a reasonable understanding of what “active support” means when it comes to selling tickets to games, and what behaviour is appropriate and permitted. Short version: flares and projectiles are always banned, but standing wherever you want rather than in a specified seat is fine.

Yet… this is always a problem at some games. I can’t speak for other clubs, but Melbourne Victory have got the active support thing nailed. It expressly states on the tickets for North End and South End (the active areas) that standing is permitted, movement is allowed and active support is encouraged. Similarly, when tickets for national games with the Socceroos go on sale, the active home fans ticket allocation has similar conditions – including a prompt before buying the tickets that “you are buying a ticket in the active support end. Do you accept and understand that you will be in an active support crowd?”

While thanks to the behaviour of some dumb hooligans, the North End is more strictly policed, for the South End (where I stand) things are pretty chill. Security at AAMI Park and Etihad Stadium understand that once in the South End, a ticket holder is unlikely to go to their allocated seat, and instead will find a spot somewhere in the area and stand there. No one gets too hoity toity about “you’re in my seat!” and, especially at AAMI Park, security will direct someone complaining about this to just stand somewhere else rather than make a big deal of it. (There’s also tolerance of fan policing of behaviour – so people explaining to the complainer that this isn’t how it works here is tolerated by security.)

But at Socceroo games? Sadly the message hasn’t got through. I don’t know why there is a difference, when it’s the same stadiums and the same security. I can only presume that it’s down to the briefings the security guards get from management before the event. I know that Victory has put a lot of effort into ensuring security staff are appropriately briefed for how to handle fans with a minimum amount of fuss and a maximum amount of good experiences for all. That doesn’t seem to have translated to Socceroo games.

There’s always some idiot who turns up halfway through the first half and complains…

“You’re in my seat!”

There are plenty of spaces available elsewhere, just stand there. Why do you need to stand here? To be close to the action? There’s actually a vacant seat or ten in the front two rows. Why not go there?

“You need to sit down, I can’t see.”

This is a standing area. If you want to sit, why don’t you go to those vacant seats in the GA area, just there?

“I’m getting security!”

Knock yourself out mate. You are the one in breach of the ticketing conditions for this area.

Or my favourite, “If you don’t move I’ll thump you”

What a wonderful example you are setting for your child. Perhaps next game you could set the example for your child of arriving on time for kick off, enjoying active support, and not being violent?!

Yes, these are all examples of behaviour I have witnessed in active support areas. As with the Black Sabbath example, the complainer has taken their understanding of a ticketed event and transposed it to the situation, oblivious (or wilfully ignorant) that their understanding of the ticketing conditions is not accurate for this situation.

What point am I trying to make with all of this?

Simple: the idea that “I bought a ticket to this seat, and I will sit here and everyone will sit around me and we will all behave in the way that I think people should behave” is fundamentally flawed.

People need to consider the situational context of their tickets.

Are security at a rock concert actually going to tell people who are dancing to sit down? From experience: no. Absolutely not. Only if you are dancing in the aisles, then they’ll tell you to go and dance in your allocated seat. But will they do anything about you standing up? Nope. It’s a concert. People are expected to dance. If you are standing in front of seats allocated for people with a disability and blocking the view for people who may not be able to stand up, then yes, you will be reasonably asked to move or sit. But everywhere else? Stand up and enjoy yourself.

Now, does that expectation change according to the type of music concert that it is? I say it does: that the ticket conditions depend on the situation.

Consider these examples:

  1. Metallica
  2. Andre Rieu
  3. Hilltop Hoods
  4. Iron Maiden
  5. Hugh Jackman sings Broadway hits
  6. Edinburgh Military Tattoo
  7. The Sound of Music arena spectacular
  8. Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performs Beethoven at Hamer Hall
  9. KISS and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Of these events, which ones do you think it would be reasonably expected that people stand up and dance? And which ones do you think it would be reasonably expected that people remain seated at all times?

From experience: Metallica, Iron Maiden, there is no security that will tell you to sit down. Based on photos shared on facebook, it seems Hilltop Hoods are the same – wall to wall people standing at Rod Laver.

However if I stood up and danced along to Hugh Jackman? I would expect to be told by security to sit down. Similarly, at an ordinary MSO concert it would be proper etiquette to remain silent and seated, but when the MSO teamed up with KISS to perform an arena show it was expected that the KISS army stood, danced and had fun.

Conditions of behaviour change according to the situation, and it is unreasonable to force someone behaving in the way reasonably expected at that event to comply with your narrow definition of ‘correct,’ especially when the ticket itself is SILENT (i.e. has nothing written on any conditions about standing/seated) as to the correct behaviour.

Moral of the story? An awful concert experience can be saved by friendly and helpful security guards, but why go to a rock concert if you plan to act as if you are at the MSO?!

 

 

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Author:

Lawyer by day, knitter by night, with random geek-related theory crafting at all hours.

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