For Ethics Dunce Madonna: the Concert Performer’s Eight Duties

In London, we had Bruce Springsteen, playing so long for his audience and fans that his performance went past the curfew. In Paris, we have Madonna, stiffing paying customers who paid top dollar (“top euro?”) with a 45 minute appearance that was late getting started because the Material Myron couldn’t bother to get to her own concert on time.

Pop and rock music fans have long been more tolerant of unprofessional performers than their parents and grandparents, and to some extent they have created a tradition of tolerance to this kind of blatant disrespect and arrogance that is self-perpetuating. The betrayed fans in Paris rioted over Madonna’s inexcusable conduct, which is a bit much, but still: she disappointed and robbed them. 45 minutes of a star attraction isn’t fair return on tickets that many patrons slept in the street to acquire. Madonna owes everyone a refund, and apology, and a pledge to honor her duties as a performer from now on. For the benefit of her and the shocking number of other singers and recording stars who disappoint and abuse paying concert-goers this way, here are what those duties are, and their underlying ethical foundations:

  1. Show up on time. (Respect, Responsibility)
  2. Know your lyrics and choreography. (Competence, Diligence)
  3. The show must go on, unless the show is all you and you are not in shape to perform at a professional level. (Responsibility, Trustworthiness)
  4.  Be sober, be alert, be healthy, be in possession of your wits and the talent people are paying to experience. (Competence, Fairness, Respect)
  5. Look and act like you want to be there and are having a good time, whether you are or not. (Respect, Caring)
  6. Do your best to meet your audience’s reasonable expectations. A performance of less than an hours is not a concert. (Trustworthiness, Fairness)
  7. Be professional, which means that entertaining the audience is what matters, not your comfort, profit or convenience. (Competence, Diligence, Respect, Caring)
  8. If you fail to deliver the performance the audience had right to respect, make appropriate amends. (Accountability, Fairness)

In most professions, these are the kinds of professional wisdom veteran practitioners teach to the young stars coming up the ranks. Only in pop music, apparently, do so many professionals come to believe that success and fame justify behaving less professionally the more experienced they are.


Facts: Hollywood Reporter

Graphic: Love Nuke

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at



10 thoughts on “For Ethics Dunce Madonna: the Concert Performer’s Eight Duties

  1. When I was an undergrad, Herbie Hancock was booked for an on-campus concert. His contract, he told the crowd, specified that he had to play for an hour. He did. Exactly, And stopped in mid-song at the appointed time.

  2. I remember a concert by the Fifth Dimension which I attended held at UNC back in the early 70’s. One of the quartet was ill and couldn’t perform. The other 3 outdid themselves, and it was a wonderful concert.

  3. This reminds me of the Metallica/Guns N’ Roses tour. In Montreal (I think), James Hetfield, the lead singer of Metallica got roasted by some of the pyrotechnics. Metallica couldn’t finish their set, but fortunately, there was second headliner Guns N’ Roses that could step up and give the fans their money’s worth….until Axl Rose decided his throat was sore, and pulled his band off the stage. A riot ensued.

    The story does have a positive note though. Despite having a guitarist/singer who could not physically play the guitar, Metallica picked up and continued the tour anyway. Hetfield could still sing, and they found a roadie who could play all his guitar parts.

  4. It’s now being reported that the riot had nothing to do with the length of her show, all of her shows are apprently short, but was started by a group of hooligans who came their specifically to do so.

  5. I am reminded of the time when renowned author Saul Bellow (though I never liked his work) was invited to speak at my college in a series on the future of politics, religion, and the arts. Bellow began his speech by saying he hadn’t had time to write anything, but would read a speech he gave the year before at NYC. Half the audience (I was one of them) got up and walked out. The school was embarrassed, but Bellow, that egotist, deserved it.

    Your rules for artistic/performance behavior apply in many other milieus as well.

  6. I learned early-on in my theatrical education the answer to this question: who are the most important people in any play?

    ANSWER: The audience.

    That applies to operas, musical, ballets, CONCERTS. Who does this Madonna think she is, somebody more important than her audience?

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