Somehow, your fantasies have come true. The clouds have parted, the cherubs have fucked off because they’re not who you paid to see, and you find yourself actually coming face-to-face with the object of your musical affection. “I can’t!” you cry to your friend as you squeeze her forearm right on her camera strap bruise. “I’ll just babble and sound like an idiot!” Rest assured, music fan, you can actually talk to a musician and not explode into a cloud of goose feathers and pheromones. Just try to keep a few simple things in mind, okay?
– They’re only human. Yes, they may be surrounded by the shimmering aura of the Chosen, but they are actually people. They eat, they drink, they sleep, they occasionally procreate (probably not with you). Talking to strangers can be just as awkward as approaching someone you admire, but at least you have a starting point. Just be genuine and show your appreciation, and unless you’re dealing with a total asshole or end up speaking another language, it should go fine. Just don’t try to push your tongue between their lips because that is not a good way to single yourself out.
– Respect personal space. If you see a celebrity in the street, it’s okay to say hi. It goes with the territory, and they’re not obligated to do anything in return. If you’re triangulating their location via a map and their Twitter information from the past thirty minutes so you can confront them at the next stop sign they encounter on the road, you really need to slow your roll. Know that being in the same place doesn’t mean you’re there, together, sharing, oh my god look at us we’re friends. Likewise, try not to trample other fans because you NEED an autograph before they jump into a white van and retreat into the disappointing night. It’s just not polite, and a shoving frenzy doesn’t exactly invite someone to relax and mingle.
– Strength in numbers. It’s better to make a friend rather than an enemy of the person next to you. Combining your awesomeness, you have someone to take your photo, hold your stuff, and generally back you up so you don’t spit out a proposal or rudely ask where the hot guitarist is hiding out. Also, having friends nearby means that if the person next to you is obnoxious, you can come up with all sorts of clever ways to start your own miniature war against an enemy that does not recognize the declaration. Bonus: bone up on The Art of War! My college roommates used to hang excerpts of this tome in our sophomore bathroom, and it clearly changed my life. I’m sure Sun Tzu was great fun at parties.
– Be prepared. If you’re waiting outside, dress warmly. If you want something signed, bring a Sharpie. If you want a photo, stop ruining the world with your Instagram shots that have minimal lighting before you add your awful filters anyway. Being prepared gives you something to do while you nervously wait, and it makes you look attentive and special later on, just like you so obviously are.
– Gifts are good…sometimes. Life on the road can be challenging, so sometimes a nice book, a CD, or just a chocolate bar is just what someone needs for a quick lift. Homemade crafts can be sweet. Just know your boundaries. Unless they express undying devotion to baked goods, you should probably steer clear of actually offering them freshly baked treats from your own home. After all, would you eat a cookie that someone handed you in the street? Oh, you would. Well. Awkward. Anyyyyway. Don’t spend too much money, and don’t expect something specific in return for your effort. It’s a gift, not a bribe.
– It’s not a contest. Feel free to share a little about yourself. If you had your life changed by a song in some way, sometimes that’s great to share because really, what’s more empowering than saving a life? Just don’t make it a competition. Spending the most money, logging the most miles, having listened for the most years? Those things don’t matter. Someone will always outdo you, but that doesn’t make them better. Can we not be one encouraging, nurturing society that wants people to go after what we want? No, because we’re selfish human beings. Shit.
– You are lucky OR you have not been rejected. Look, not every gig gives you a chance to meet your idols. Do you realize how incredible it is to go to a concert and hear the songs you love, live, in person, with all the beauty and flaws and chaos and unpredictability of the present tense? I grew up in West Virginia, and the only tour that blew through my hometown when I was growing up was 98 Degrees. Needless to say, I did not attend. Live music is powerful and a privilege. Sometimes shows go badly, but it shouldn’t be because they didn’t play a specific song, your camera batteries died, or you didn’t get a hug after the show. These things are superfluous, and it’s no slight to you if your Future Husband doesn’t come out to meet you even though you’ve been waiting two hours in the rain. You still got to experience something that 17-year-old me would have killed for, and even if it only happens once every two years, that adds up. You’ve paid for entertainment, so enjoy yourself, make some friends, make some goddamn memories. And if you get a really great photo and an autograph, well, then you can high five that image of yourself for years to come, baby.