Audiences clapping along to music


Hello, how are you?

(Don’t answer that out loud – I can’t hear you)

Well, it’s been a while. Between Christmas infiltrating my life with its tinselly tendrils, and my place of employ working me harder than a ex-Radio 1 DJ’s defence lawyer, I have been neglecting my blog of late. But you know, during this brief sojourn away from t’internet, it struck me that it may very well be the case that I have mellowed. See, there used to be things that wound me up so frequently and incessantly that hitting my blog and venting about it was more a necessity than a hobby. During the admittedly short time I was abstaining from this sort of catharsis, I could have sworn a feeling of belligerent acceptance was slowly washing over me – that yes, sure, there were still things in life that bothered me, and the majority of people were still insufferable twats, but that it might not be that big a deal. That I should just ignore it. Tolerate it in my own, jaw-clenching way. Tut at most. Certainly it wasn’t worth writing about, anyway.

Then I sat in an audience full of fuckwits who insisted on clapping along to every single piece of music performed for them, their fat stupid faces erupting with glee as they tried to keep time, and… well, here I am again.

Clapping should have two main functions in life: you do it quickly to show your appreciation for someone, or you do it slowly to get someone off the stage. Doing it rhythmically is something that should really be reserved for entertaining a small child.

I have paid good money to sit in this auditorium tonight and listen to something that simply cannot be replicated by even the most sophisticated  sound system: live music. Whether it’s classical, acoustic, electronic, whatever… hearing it live, in person… the sound waves carrying from the instruments to your ears… it’s magical. Unless 5,000 other people are smacking their palms together because they’ve collectively identified the time signature AND WANT EVERYONE ELSE TO KNOW IT!!

Like a sexually transmitted disease on campus, it starts with just a few but spreads alarmingly quickly. Maybe it’s the fear of looking like a killjoy, or perhaps the followers irrationally want to prove that they possess this skill too? Buggered if I know, but the one thing I do know is that once someone starts, and starts confidently – that “I’m not stopping clapping even if no one else joins in, so you better join in or I’m going to look like a plonker and you’re going to feel awkward” kind of confidence – most people are helpless to resist.

WHY??! You’re ruining the one thing we’re all gathered here to enjoy! Is it a communal thing? Do you want to share the joy of this performance with the others present? Does the act of thwacking your hands together simultaneously with hundreds of other people make you feel less isolated? Less alone? For those brief minutes when you’re drowning out the professionally-played music with the aid of a bunch of strangers, do you feel at one with society? Does the inevitability of your own death after a life of labour and loss momentarily vanish from your mind? Or are you just bewilderingly beguiled by the ability of your hands to make a loud noise at equally proportioned time intervals? Judging by the joyous yet vacant look in your eyes, I’m plumping for the latter.

These people, when they’re sitting at home and fancy listening to some tunes, be it on the radio or from their own personal collection… Do you think they sit in their armchair and clap along? Of course they don’t. BUT THAT’S EXACTLY THE RIGHT PLACE TO DO IT! Where their demonstration of bimanous dexterity doesn’t infringe upon people that, I don’t know, might just want to listen to the fucking music! But no. They save it for the one and only time that I’m going to see these musicians play live. Thank you. Thanks a lot.

Is it a coincidence that the people who are most delighted to start clapping along to a hitherto delightful piece of music are usually the ones that can’t even do it properly? I mean, it’s not that hard. Identify the beat, the rhythm, the time signature, and make sure your infantile sound effects hit at the right time. But you can’t even do that right, can you? Look at you go, clapping at entirely the wrong pace, coercing the whole audience into doing the same because the sound of your mistimed collective clapping is now drowning out the actual rhythm being played, making the whole thing even more tortuous for the audience members with taste and manners.

I honestly don’t know how the celebrities taking part in Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing with the Stars for my international readers) can remember their routines and hit their marks when the studio audience has decided to make their task infinitely more difficult by collectively clapping out of time to the song they’re dancing to.

So, here is my heartfelt plea: please stop it. Do something that advertises your eagerness to engage with the music but that doesn’t detract from it. Sway. Nod. Fucking air drum, I don’t care. But for the love of Grayskull, please don’t initiate the creation of an unneeded, unwanted and unmelodic percussion section.


  1. as an orchestral musician i would like the ‘clappers’ to know that the exchange between conductor and musicians at the outset of your self proclaimed part in the work (which, surprisingly, doesn’t appear in the score) is not one of love and endearment…it’s confirmation of war..

  2. This made me laugh so hard! It’s like they’re a load of seals. Do seals clap? I don’t know but when people start clapping, I want to start making seal noises. It’s brainless!

  3. A.

    Love your voice. And yes, gleeful people can be rather annoying.

  4. You are my new hero…

  5. KiwiAlice

    Oh, this drives me up the wall. And the absolute WORST time for people to clap along? When they are supposed to be APPLAUDING. When the amazing performers are all coming on stage to receive applause at the end of a show, and these muppets are just clapping along in time to the music. THIS IS NOT THE SAME THING #rage.

  6. Paul

    I like the reference to clap and STI in the same post

  7. Andrew

    Loved every bit. I had to Google ‘hate people clapping’ when watching Saturday Night Takeaway. Made my blood boil. Embarrassed to even admit I’m watching that. Bunch of invalid uncoordinated seals.

  8. Reblogged this on Sean Writes Stuff Much and commented:

  9. Jennifer Evans

    I loved this, and I couldn’t agree more! I thought I was the only one who hated it when people clap along to songs until I heard Adam Levine on The Voice (USA) tell an audience that they were the worst clappers he’d ever heard… and I like to think that he really wanted to say, “Quit the f—ing clapping during the song, dammit!”, but that the most he dared to say was that they sucked at it. Then I thought it was just me and maybe him… so nice to know there are lots of us!!

  10. christopher wilson

    If you went to a black venue, they will Wait till after a performance before clapping. It was have to be something different in the performance for them to clap before the show is over.

  11. They should have announcments at all concerts before the show that if anyone claps during a performance they will be kicked out for lack of appreciation.

  12. Peter Corridan

    I agree with you, because you can’t hear the music and it should be banned and offenders asked to leave. It always spoils the performance especially when it costs you £100+

  13. I completely agree with you! At my school concerts, it is SO annoying that about one person just starts clapping. I totally agree with you that it “Like a sexually transmitted disease on campus, it starts with just a few but spreads alarmingly quickly.” That describes it so well. I can’t even HEAR what the people/person on stage are singing! The people that do it don’t even clap to the exact rhythm, or synchronized together at all, and it’s loud and it’s so damn annoying. I wish clapping during performances were banned.

  14. Steven

    As a musician I can say that I find audience clapping at live shows ignorant, disrespectful and downright annoying.
    I must say that reading the above article had me laughing so much I almost passed out. Brilliant but Oh my god! How bloody true.
    To be honest, I am staggered that at shows like strictly or the Palladium, the warm up team doesn’t stop the audience doing this. They must lose thousands of viewers like me because of it.

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