Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Why do fans keep throwing things at artists during live shows?

From Bebe Rexha to Cardi B, the list of victims of this strange trend is growing. So why are fans behaving in this way when seeing stars live on stage?

Published: Aug 5, 2023 08:44:24 AM IST
Updated: Aug 4, 2023 06:59:12 PM IST

Why do fans keep throwing things at artists during live shows?American singer Bebe Rexha was seriously injured by a fan, resulting in her requiring stitches. Image: Photography Bebe Rexha / Instagram

From food to cell phones, trash, clothes and even ashes, artists have recently been on the receiving end of all kinds of airborne objects during their performances. While some react with humor, others are getting hurt by these flying objects. From Bebe Rexha to Cardi B, the list of victims of this strange trend is growing. So why are fans behaving in this way when seeing stars live on stage?

On July 29 in Las Vegas, American rapper Cardi B had the contents of a glass thrown at her while she was performing on stage. The rapper quickly retaliated by throwing her microphone back at the responsible party. Before that, in June, singer Bebe Rexha was injured when she was hit in the face with a cell phone. Less than a week after this incident, another singer, Kelsea Ballerini, was hit by a bracelet thrown by a fan, then Ava Max was slapped by a fan while performing on stage. Sometimes, the items thrown on stage can be surprising, to say the least. Pink, for example, recently received the ashes of a fan's mother while on stage and singer Lil Nas X was thrown a sex toy while performing at a festival.

Also read: Why are world leaders pleading to get Taylor Swift to tour their countries?

This trend, which has been going on for several months, is being fueled by social networks, as the incidents in question are then shared online, attracting millions of views. When singer Bebe Rexha's attacker was questioned about his phone-throwing, he confessed to the police that he had done it because he found the idea funny and added that it was a trend on TikTok.

On the artists' side, many have called on audiences to show more respect for the musicians they come to see, noting that this trend completely dehumanizes celebrities. Singer Charlie Puth took to the social network X to call for this "disrespectful and very dangerous" behavior to stop, urging fans to simply enjoy the music. At a concert in Las Vegas, Adele criticized the audience for seemingly forgetting the whole point of concerts, she told fans, not without irony, that: "I f**king dare you -- I dare you to throw something at me. I'll f**king kill you!" The "Rolling in the Deep" singer drew laughter from the crowd as she walked around the stage with a t-shirt gun, saying "stop throwing things at the artists, but you can shoot things at people."

Are Covid and social media to blame?

It's not uncommon for artists to receive gifts from their fans directly on stage. For Lucy Bennett, a professor specializing in fan culture at Cardiff University, throwing an object is a form of expressing "fan identity." She told the media outlet Dazed that "these are often communal forms of behavior that foster feelings of belonging in the fan community and allow people to perform and express their fan identity." However, in recent years, this kind of behavior has changed completely, and is even becoming dangerous.

Others suggest that this behavior could, in part, be due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, this succession of projectiles could be linked to a post-Covid surge in aggression. The stoppage of concerts due to the Covid-19 pandemic may have made spectators forget how to be respectful of others. Crowds are said to have become noisier, and even chaotic. Certain behaviors seem to frustrate people more easily, such as fighting for the closest view or fans singing along too loudly, explains NBC News. "It seems that -- for some individuals -- the notion of being there at a gig equates with physical participation, whether that is throwing something, or screaming, or engaging in a ‘stampede’ in a crowd," explains Lucy Bennett. Being in a crowd also affects individual behavior. "A large crowd offers anonymity. So the things that you might be thinking that you wouldn’t normally do, that would be against normal social values, are exactly the opposite in the crowd," David Thomas, a professor of forensic studies at Florida Gulf Coast University, told NBC News.

Also see: At the Glastonbury festival, music and its diverse spirit still shines through all the woke-ism

And in this sea of spectators, some might seek to stand out and attract their idol's attention, by throwing an object on stage, for example. Indeed, some fans might hope to have their favorite star film themselves on stage with their smartphone, in order to share this souvenir with the world online. Others crave some form of interaction with the artist. In 2022, the British singer Harry Styles reacted humorously, joking with the audience after someone threw a chicken nugget on stage. "Some fans experience a parasocial relationship -- a sense of knowing their favorite musicians -- even when they are one amongst potentially millions that follow the artist," explains Lucy Bennett. During a concert, that artist appears live in the flesh in front of their followers, "and there is a visible chance for a fan to be noticed, to attempt to make themselves more distinct in a sea of other fans, if only for a moment -- yet a moment that can be immortalized on social media and shared with many fans online." For this specialist in fan culture, these recent incidents involve "many elements coming together," including the absence of real-world concerts for many months and the rise of social networks, which encourage fans to share the perfect picture or video.

Faced with the recent spate of misbehavior during live performances, internet users are now sharing tips and tricks on social networks about concert etiquette in a bid to help improve behavior. These include, not throwing objects at artists, not spoiling the view of shorter people behind you, and not drinking beer in a mosh pit.