Today’s guest blog post is written by Tessa Retterath Jones, The Schubert Club’s Marketing & Audience Development Manager.
Top 5 Social Media Etiquette Rules for Live Performances
by Tessa Retterath Jones
Part of my marketing/audience development responsibilities at my job at The Schubert Club involve managing a group of 30 individuals in a program called “Theoroi”. These individuals are all in their 20s and 30s and the goal is to increase arts participation and appreciation among this age group. The group attends 10 performances across the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Each performance is different. One might be opera in a traditional concert hall, another might be Brazilian music in a hip jazz club. The idea is to give this group a large exposure to all kinds of different performing arts and let them decide what they like and dislike.
A big way this group helps with this arts-appreciation-among-youngsters goal is by using social media to spread the word. Each member in the group uses whatever social media mechanism they want to talk about what they just saw. The result is usually that their hundreds or thousands of online peers get curious and hopefully attend the same performance or a similar performance. So far from what we’ve seen with the program, it works. I hear from many members about how their post inspired three more of their friends to buy tickets to the same performance. This 20s and 30s something generation relies on and trusts peer reviews and it results in increased attendance at arts events.
But this raises an issue. The group is ENCOURAGED to use their phones to share on social media. This goes against the age old rule that your phone should be not only silenced during performances, but turned off and stored away. The fact of the matter is that this is just plain old unnatural for millennials to do. Millennials have a need to share what they are experiencing, and they don’t get a complete experience unless they do this.
This issue came up last weekend. The Theoroi group attended a chamber music performance. We were by far the youngest members in the audience. This isn’t uncommon at classical music concerts. As different members of the group took out their phones and snapped photos and tweeted between movements, I saw several evil stares from the rest of the audience and a few members were even asked to put their phones away.
If we want the arts to continue and we want audiences to regenerate, there needs to be some give with the use of technology. A millennial does not want to sit quietly for 2 hours. They want to live tweet the action. Send a photo to their friends. Follow the hashtag to see what others are saying about the experience. Current audiences need to understand this and be more accepting.
On the other hand, this group of millennial needs to follow some strict technology etiquette, which is why I’ve composed this list of the Top 5 DOs for using Social Media at Live Performances
1) DO make your screen as absolutely dim as possible. Nothing is more distracting than a bright light in a dark concert hall.
2) DO mute all sounds on your phone.
3) DO be courteous and mindful if you snap a photo during a performance.Obviously no flash. My rule of thumb is that you can have your phone out for a photo for THREE SECONDS. Holding your phone up in the air, waiting for that perfect photo opp is incredibly distracting to the rest of the audience. Take your photo as discretely as possible and then quickly put your phone away so you don’t pull anyone out of the performance. When you’re taking photos on your phone for the sake of social media, no one is expecting photographer quality photos. It’s about sharing the overall atmosphere which almost any photo will capture.
4) DO try to sit in an area where you won’t be distracting the rest of the audience. If you sit in the back of the hall or on the sides of the hall you likely won’t distract as many people if you take out your phone. Perhaps even ask the venue if they have designated “social media seats.” The answer will almost definitely be “no,” but hopefully this will become more popular as the demand for it increases.
5) DO be patient and courteous if someone asks you to put your phone away. Don’t argue, don’t roll your eyes, don’t refuse. Just do it.
Arts presenters and artists can also help ease the gap by changing their stage announcements from saying “no cell phones” to “please make sure your screen is dimmed, sounds are silenced and flash is turned off”. Having signage encouraging the use of a specific hashtag can be helpful and can even generate curiosity among those not otherwise social media inclined.
It all comes down to this: If we want young people in audiences, we need to be welcoming of their way of experiencing live arts. While concert etiquette can not be thrown out the door, the overall rules need to change to accommodate all.
Photo above: 2013-2014 Theoroi group at Wits at Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, MN