No matter what kind of concert you’re attending, seat placement always plays a crucial factor. No matter what your priorities are at a concert, seat location will always add or detract from what you’re looking for.
Some folks make lifelong memories from watching their favorite guitarist up close, in the front seats. Others have terrible experiences with seven-foot strangers and drunk neighbors, sitting in the nosebleed seats.
However, there are two things we do know for certain; “Best” seats can be hard to define since everyone’s expectations are different – which isn’t a bad thing by any means! But thankfully, definitive “BAD” seats are easy to find.
While I can’t guarantee you won’t have an obnoxious drunk next to you, I can give you these excellent tips for seats to consider and seats to avoid, no questions asked.
Table of Contents
- The Best Places to Sit in a Concert, Depending on Preference
- The Absolute Definitively Worst Seats to Avoid at All Costs!
- Miscellaneous Advice for Picking Seats
The Best Places to Sit in a Concert, Depending on Preference
While there are no definitive “best” seats out there, these seats will deliver an excellent concert experience.
If You Want Awesome Visuals and an Interactive Experience: Front Row Seats
If you want to see your favorite band as closely as possible, then front-row seats will be your best pick. The close proximity means you’ll be able to see everything they do, but there’s more than just that.
Depending on the band, front-row audience members get to interact with the band. In venues where the “front seat” area is actually just open standing space (called “center stage”), you can experience some energetic dancing and interactions with other fans.
There is a big downside to front-row seats though, and that is their sound quality. According to industry standards, venues point their speakers towards the center of an audience.
As a result, you won’t get great audio quality in the front. Instead, it’ll sound slightly distorted since you’re hearing the audio travel “backwards” towards the stage again.
Even if you’re close to the stage, you won’t hear the actual instruments very well, since they’re plugged into the larger PA system. You definitely won’t hear what the band members are hearing either, since they have in-ears or monitors.
If You Want Sound Quality: “Off-Middle”
“Off-middle” sounds confusing, but it’s actually very simple to understand! If you’re looking at a map of the venue seats, off-middle will be anywhere directly to the right or left of dead-center; not too far from center though, just a smidge.
You might be wondering why it’s best to sit slightly “off” the middle. After all, it makes sense to think that the middle seats will get a perfect mix of all the music, since the speakers are facing them.
However, this isn’t the case. If you’re in the direct middle, most of the sound waves will hit some obstacles before getting to your ear. These can include the crowd, camera crews, and plain-old building architecture.
If you’re off-center, then you’ll be nearer to the speakers. Less distance means a straighter, less-obstructed path to your ears. It’s simple, but it works!
But just like everything else in life, there are downsides too. Because you’re in the middle of the audience, you won’t get the best visuals. Plus, you’ll have to get around a lot of people to get to your seat.
Still, for most people, the superb sound quality is well worth the drawbacks.
If You Want Lots of Bass: Dead-Center
We mentioned above that the dead-center isn’t the best for overall sound quality, since most soundwaves will bump into plenty of obstacles before getting to you.
But if you want bass, and don’t mind lower sound quality, then the middle will work best for you!
It’s actually really simple! Because bass notes make bigger waves than any other notes, they can cause physical vibrations in their surroundings.
Physical vibrations will still carry, even if sound suffers. Furthermore, since all the speakers face dead-center, all the bass waves will meet there too.
There can be other places to feel good bass too, besides dead-center. If you know where the sound mixer is, get a seat in front of them. Since the signals originate from their equipment, you’ll get the bass where its power is strongest.
For the Best “Compromise” of All Worlds: Balcony Seats
Balcony seats might be pricier than others, but the price is well warranted for what they offer. To be honest, “compromise” might not be the best word here, since it usually has a “less-than-spectacular” connotation.
In reality, the sound and visuals in most balconies are fantastic! Sound and visuals may not be as spectacular as off-middle or front-row seats, but they’ll still be very good.
Because they are away from the crowd, balconies literally “rise above” the crowd noise. Lots of times they have special speakers that point towards them.
Additionally, they are strategically placed to provide good views. You may not be six feet away from Keith Richards, but you won’t have seven-foot giants blocking your view either!
However, here are a few things to note: first, balconies will be more expensive. Second, if there are multiple levels, try avoiding the second and higher – sound quality can suffer that high up.
The Absolute Definitively Worst Seats to Avoid at All Costs!
Hopefully that overdramatic title got your attention! The “best” seats in a venue can vary from person to person, but bad seats are pretty much universally bad. Thankfully, they’re easy to spot on a seating chart!
Yes, yes, I know – those cheap tickets can be tempting! However, the reality of back seats’ problems might convince you otherwise.
Since they’re in the back, back seats are farther from the action than anywhere else in a venue. As I like to say, there is a “sea of literally everything” between you and the band, and the music.
Besides the entire audience, there will be lights and camera crews obstructing your view of the stage. In really bad situations, the band members will look like miniature matchsticks.
Even worse, the music you’ll hear will be echoes from the speakers, not the authentic sound. Since the best sounds are directed towards the center, you’ll be getting the secondhand reverb and tinny frequencies that “happen” to bounce in your direction.
Lastly, you’ll get the chaos of the crowd noise mixed in, for good measure: yelling, talking, drunks, the whole deal.
By the Wall or Under Balconies
You know the weird echoes you get when you’re in a tight space, like a cave or closet? That’s what happens to music when you sit directly by the walls or under balconies.
Instead of being in the direct line of the sound waves, you’ll get the “box-y” reflections of unbalanced sounds all around you. The closest speakers will have the worst distortion, while the farther ones may get drowned out entirely.
It probably won’t be as bad as the back row. But still, the jarring reverb of walls and balconies makes these seats decidedly frustrating to sit in.
No matter how “cool” it is to sit near loudspeakers and live out the YOLO mantra, sitting near loudspeakers just isn’t that great. More volume does not mean more quality. More importantly, it’s unhealthy for your ears.
We obviously need things to be loud enough to hear all the details. But when music gets too loud, it can overwhelm our senses in a detrimental way.
Plus, when you sit really close to one speaker, you get a terribly unbalanced mix of the concert. You may get all the drums you could ever want, but miss the bass and guitar entirely. You just won’t be getting the full experience.
Miscellaneous Advice for Picking Seats
The information above will give you enough detailed information to make an informed decision about the seats you pick. However, here are some extra tips that can help if you make some generalized decisions.
- If you can’t find any of the best seats listed above, here’s a good budget compromise: find a seat several rows behind the front row that’s directly to the left or right of the middle. In this way, you can still get some good sound and visuals without being in the front or just off-middle.
- Front-row people tend to get excited and stand a lot. If you find a seat that’s one or two rows behind, assume that you’ll be behind people who are standing. If that bothers you, then you might want to sit farther back.
- Ticket prices usually rise for close proximity and better visuals. While these are good reasons for premium tickets, they don’t always take sound quality into consideration. My point? – don’t assume that more money equals better sound quality.
- This fact isn’t really about seats at all, but is still interesting! If you prioritize sound quality, then outdoor concerts are better at night than at day.
Seat placement can make or break a great concert experience, so taking the time to pick seats is well worth the effort. A single concert may not be the highlight of your life. But if you’re spending a lot of money, and you spend it strategically, then it can certainly become a treasured memory!
Once you’ve decided on a seat to claim, it’s time to pull the trigger and buy a ticket!
Try and buy it as early as possible. If you join a fan club program, you can get discount tickets before they’re available to the public. Also, buy it at the end of the business day – sometimes companies will lower their prices on premium tickets (a sold ticket is better than an unsold one!)
And with that, you’re one step closer to a fantastic concert experience! Until next time, enjoy your musical journey, and always, ALWAYS have fun!