Do You Remember Your First Concert Experience?

Last week Washington Post contributor Theodore Johnson reflected back on the first concert he saw when he was 9 years old (The Fat Boys). He noted that due to Covid restrictions, this summer would a delayed first concert experience for a lot of young people.

Lest you think that my posts advocate for some niche arts and culture insider philosophy, Johnson, a retired naval officer and adviser to the New America think tank, writes much the same as I regarding the value of shared, in-person experiences.  He cites studies that have shown how people value collective experience concerts provide which is all the more reason to lean into those themes in marketing messaging.

And aside from how technologically advanced a major concert is now, I’m most struck by the diversity of the crowds. Maybe there is some social and civic magic to be found in our return to shared, in-person experiences.

Social scientists have identified four themes that help explain the attraction of concerts and the significance of attendance. The most prominent is the experience, followed by the engagement, the novelty and, lastly, the practical reasons.


Engagement matters. Ours is a society that requires frequent positive community participation if it’s to be resilient against the forces pulling us apart. Scholars have explored the impact of attending concerts, and they’ve found such benefits as an increased sense of belonging and improved well-being. Concert audiences “experienced feelings of togetherness,” researchers report. Sharing a love for something facilitates a path to connection.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


Leave a Comment