Spoiler Alert: Has Social Media Killed the Surprise Effect at Concerts?

We’ve seen it time and time again: when a global superstar goes on tour, the videos immediately go viral after their first date. Some of the most memorable moments from these legendary world tours are instantly ‘spoiled’.

Taylor Swift began her Eras tour in Glendale, Arizona, surprising concert-goers by diving under the stage floor while overhead graphics projected her swimming before appearing in a brand new outfit. A recent video by @cruzboy909 has garnered 5.6 million views, while @domcielak’s video from a different angle has now garnered 5.5 million views.

I’m not a Taylor Swift fan and wouldn’t be on the tour, but being halfway across the world and having access to a TikTok algorithm, I knew exactly what was happening throughout the show.

Unlike movies or TV shows, spoilers for concerts on the internet tend to be unavoidable. The nature of social media algorithms means fans of any artist will continue to be fed content from their favorite artists whether they choose to or not. It’s almost impossible to resist years of data suggesting a user is a Swiftie or part of the Beyhive. Rather than simply doing a social media detox for a day or two before catching the latest episode of a TV show, fans often have to wait months or years for their favorite artist to land in their town.

Similar iconic moments were also spoiled as Beyoncé’s entire Renaissance tour went viral after their first date. Her setlist, tech-inspired outfits, a nod to Lil Uzi Vert’s viral dance Just Wanna Rock, a remix of Kendrick Lamar’s Alright, and more became the topic of conversation in group chats around the world thanks to vertical videos.

After the early stages of Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia tour, fans had an inkling that she would be dedicating her track “Good In Bed” to a lucky fan member before posing perfectly in the middle of a runway. At her show in Sydney earlier this year, many fans moshed around the area where Lipa would be performing the track hours before she appeared on stage, scientifically tracking the distance from the platform to the main part of the stage to find the perfect angle to obtain. Others held up signs urging them to dedicate “Good In Bed” to them.

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The content is king: How have concerts changed since then?

Concerts are no longer just musical experiences. Mosh pits and barrier spots are now content hunting grounds, making show-goers the most powerful tools for marketing contemporary global tours.

Fans can get to the heart of concert moments faster than any other method (like a traditional newspaper review). Fan videos have a more varied and faster effect than carefully curated content from artists and more likeable and powerful than concert reviews from established editors.

This has profoundly changed the relationship between artists and their fans, as the interaction between them goes well beyond what happens in the arena or stadium. The audience isn’t the 40,000 people in the stadium, but potentially the whole world if a viral moment happens.

This dynamic between artist and fan has transformed the concert experience, as many fans now crave the attention of their favorite artists to capture and claim their own potentially viral moment.

Harry Styles now devotes an entire segment of his show to reading fan signs. Whether this is intended to feed potentially viral moments from the artist’s side is unclear, but this format ensures Styles fans make the most provocative mark possible to get his attention. The competition for the most outlandish and eye-catching sign peaked at his show in Sydney, where one lucky fan had Harry Styles announce his baby’s gender to the 80,000 fans in the arena, but also to 5.1 million people via her TikTok.

The 1975 also incorporated recurring viral moments into their sets. At one concert, a fan threw a pack of menthol cigarettes onto the stage during the intro of their track “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME”. Matty Healy hilariously responded with a heavy autotune in his voice: “Don’t like menthol.” After the original video went viral (with over 3.4 million views), fans began chanting the now-famous slogan to Healy as the track began playing. Since then, Healy has been expected to use his auto-tuned voice for comedic effects, and fans have continued to capture the moment throughout their recent world tour. Whether it’s asking security to help with “Someone Fell Off,” saying he feels like a “young thug,” or shouting out to fans for their “shit spots” backstage has apologized, the segment has become so iconic that one user, @guybeinadude, rated it and received over 1.8 million views.

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If you’re looking for a more direct way to go viral after a concert, a Taylor Swift fan shared a tutorial on how best to record the Era’s Tour given the lighting and stage. The video, titled “Top 3 Filming Tips for the Eras Tour,” urges fans to “capture the best memories ever.” The final tip is to keep an eye out for “unexpected moments” so fans can secure their own totally unique viral moment.

The rise in crowds trying to capture concerts and thereby experience their own moment of viral fame has led to a renegotiation of the concert experience. As relationships shift within these concert dynamics, fans are also more desperate than ever to objectify artists in their videos, rather than musicians presenting the artistic works they’ve worked hard to realize for years.

When fans go too far…

While artists like The 1975 and Harry Styles have seemingly, consciously or unconsciously, responded to the hype, others have felt the brunt of their objectification. Notably, early last year, Mitski released a statement via her social media describing this change: “I feel like I’m part of something bigger. When I’m standing on stage and looking at you, but you’re looking at a screen, it makes me feel like those of us on stage are being taken as content and consumed, rather than being allowed to share a moment with you.

She continued, “When I see people filming whole songs or whole sets, I feel like we’re not here together. That applies both when I’m on stage and when I’m in the audience at shows.”

“I love shows for the sense of connection, the sharing of a dream, and the reminder that we simultaneously have a brief, wondrous moment in life before our paths diverge.”

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While some fans have managed to capture their viral moments at concerts, others have crossed the line between artist safety and comfort. Steve Lacy, an artist who has benefited significantly from TikTok, was pelted with a camera in the middle of a show. It was clearly an intimidating act to have an object thrown onto the stage. Lacy angrily responded, “Yo, please don’t throw shit on the frigging stage” before exiting the stage.

After the altercation, he released a statement reflecting on how he felt objectified in that moment: “I’m a real person with real feelings and real reactions. I am not a product or a robot. I am a human. I will continue to do my best.” Everyone at these shows. Please come with respect for yourself and others. Please thank you for loving us.”


Have spoilers ruined concerts?

Despite those spoilers and the concert dynamics noticeably shifting thanks to the algorithmic powers of social media, it’s impossible to truly destroy the feeling of being in the same room with your favorite artist. The undeniable energy, decibel blast, community spirit and sheer adrenaline of going to a concert can never be recreated with a camera lens.

However, many people do not have the opportunity to see their favorite artists live. Concerts are inaccessible to many fans for a variety of reasons, whether it’s not being comfortable in concert environments or not being able to access a show due to their location. Concert videos and fans sharing their experiences online allow these fans to be part of the dialogue and soap opera that depicts a mega pop star’s world tour. They are invited to the discourse and can join online communities of fans who share their love for an artist.

These concert experiences are now also offered in a limited form to people who cannot attend the concerts.

No matter how perfect a concert video recording, people will continue to flock to shows from the likes of Harry Styles, Steve Lacy, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé. Artists who have embraced the new format will benefit the most.