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Why is fan behaviour at concerts getting out of control?

In the last year or so, there has been a rising number of concert-goers throwing objects at artists while they’re performing. Some musicians are starting to retaliate – and can you blame them?

A video of rapper Cardi B throwing her microphone at an audience member while mid-performance is currently trending.

The ‘fan’ was attending her open-air performance in Las Vegas and had tossed a drink on her as she approached the edge of the stage. For retaliating, Cardi could face battery charges. Is this fair?

It’s debatable, because people have been throwing items onto celebrity stages for decades. The Beatles were once pelted with jelly beans, Ozzy Osbourne had a bat thrown at him (he bit its head off), and the lead singer of Guns & Roses was forced to duck from a flying beer bottle before threatening the person who’d flung it.

Of late, fans like to hurl their phones towards the stage amongst other random objects. This is occurring with a stark frequency, resulting in some artists getting injured, while others appear momentarily shaken before continuing with their set.

Many fans and celebrities agree that this disruptive and potentially dangerous behaviour is crossing a line. Let’s look at recent instances where this has occurred, discuss why it might be happening more often, and debate whether artists are in the right to strike back.

Last month, Bebe Rexha was hit in the face with a phone while performing in New York.

The perpetrator was promptly arrested and charged with two counts of assault. Stating his motivation for throwing the phone, he said he ‘thought it would be funny.’

Bebe was taken to hospital for her injuries, which consisted of a long cut underneath her eyebrow and a swollen eyelid. She later posted to TikTok saying ‘I’m good,’ making light of her black eye and bandage.

In London, a relatively harmless but weird exchange took place when P!nk performed in Hyde Park.

Halfway through a song, she was handed a plastic bag by an audience member standing near the front of the stage. It contained the cremated ashes of the fan’s mother.

‘This is your mom?’ she asked. ‘I don’t know how I feel about this.’ She gingerly placed the bag down behind a speaker and continued singing without addressing it again.

Days later, P!nk was presented with a huge wheel of Brie cheese. She held it close to her body and mouthed ‘I love you’ to the person who’d passed it to her, likely relieved that the gift was not the cremated remains of a total stranger this time around.

Harry Styles is also no stranger to having items thrown in his direction.

He’s endured everything from flowers to water bottles to chicken nuggets to Skittles, the last of which he told fans not throw because one had hit him directly in the eye.

Still, during a show in Vienna last month, Syles was hit in the face by a large object. He kept his back to the audience as it happened, but spectators said he looked shaken and continued to clutch his face throughout the rest of the performance.

Fellow UK-born star Adele stepped up to address the recurrence of invasive fan behaviour in front of her audience in Las Vegas.

‘Have you noticed how people are like, forgetting show etiquette at the moment? People just throwing shit on stage, have you seen them?’ Waving her T-shirt cannon around, she continued, ‘I f*cking dare you. Dare you to throw something at me and I’ll f*cking kill you.’

Rihanna also set a solid boundary with fans when an object flew by her and onto the stage. ‘Don’t throw any shit up here or I’m leaving. I love your gifts, just make sure you don’t knock my people out,’ she said.

Though most celebrities have taken tossed objects on the chin (or face, really), Cardi B isn’t the first star to take offence.

Kid Cudi abandoned his recent Rolling Loud set after the crowd to stop throwing bottles on stage, and when someone threw their disposable camera at Steve Lacy during a concert last October, he smashed it before leaving without finishing the show.

In a now-deleted Instagram post, Lacy wrote: ‘I don’t believe i owe anyone an apology- maybe i couldve reacted better? sure. always. i’m a student of life. but i’m a real person with real feelings and real reactions. i’m not a product or a robot. i am human.’

He’s right. In any other scenario, somebody throwing something at you would be considered aggressive rather than affectionate. So why do fans think it’s okay to do this to their favourite artist?

Well, there was a time where performers –Travis Scott, Drake, and Billie Eilish being a few – had picked up smartphones thrown on stage and started taking selfies and videos with them.

These clips went viral online, assuring people that the fan was reunited with their personal device. Is it possible that these playful interactions have transformed some fans into feral, clout-seeking concert-goers?

It’s appears that – for those who throw stuff on stage – seeing their favourite musician in person is not enough. They instead demand to be noticed, so they try to bridge the gap by throwing things. They want the rush that comes with causing the artist they adore to react to their existence.

In this way, fanbases are becoming entitled and perhaps even deluded. Many have forgotten that musicians are simply doing their jobs by performing. With album sales and streams losing relevance regarding profit margins, artists rely heavily on album tours to earn money.

That said, all you have to do is imagine showing up for a shift at a restaurant where customers throwing their napkins and plates at you. The first time, you may be so caught off guard that you don’t know how to react.

But if it happened again, you might just to turn to the cash register and hurl the card machine in their direction.

The pressure-cooker that results from these demanding relationships is best exemplified by the deteriorating relationship between Doja Cat and her fans.

Doja’s rapid trajectory from Soundcloud rapper to mainstream popstar appears to be taking a toll, as expectations from her international fanbase continue mounting beyond what she can tolerate.

She recently took to Instagram Live to address the parasocial relationship her fans have with her.

‘I’m not your friend. I make music and you like it. And if you don’t like it, cool. Great. I don’t give a sh*t.’ she said firmly. ‘I’m not [making music] because you like it. I’m not doing it so that you like me. I’m doing it because it’s fun.’

This Instagram Live followed a series of tweets penned by Doja, in which she told her fans to delete their stan accounts and stop glorifying her. She subsequently lost 200k followers overnight, which she reiterated did not matter to her.

It’s surprising that we haven’t seen more celebrities take this stance, but it wouldn’t be radical to assume that many have thought it without being bold enough to say so.

Unfortunately, it seems that many fanbases are forming an unhealthy and false sense of closeness with their favourite celebrities. This only seems to be intensifying due to social media, which gives us the illusion that we’re closer to these people than we really are.

They’re not our friends. They’re working. Throwing an object on stage is not the same as playfully throwing a pillow at your bestie while watching a film on the couch.

It’s just weird, rude, and maybe even disrespectful. So cut it out!