A Recipe for Consent Culture at Concerts
Have you noticed that certain behaviors – grabbing strangers, getting too close to another person, and other forms of physical contact – that would be unacceptable if they happened on the street are somehow considered acceptable when they happen at a crowded concert?
People treat these spaces as though they have different rules when it comes to consent, but that’s just not true.The #PositiveChange campaign at Brown University used an easy to recognize symbol to encourage students to practice and honor consent, respect, and bodily autonomy during the annual Spring Weekend concert series. The campaign was intended to address violations of consent during the weekend and make the experience happier, healthier, and safer for students of all identities, including those who do not drink or hook-up.
About the Chef
I’m Molly. I’m a Midwest transplant to the East Coast, where I recently graduated from Brown University with a degree in History in Education Studies. I will be continuing my work as a Peer Education Specialist at Brown University. Besides my activism, I enjoy watching football, powerlifting, and and curating my lipstick collection. Learn more about my action and my work with Breakthrough here.
- A distinctive image: I created our positive change symbol using shapes that many people would recognize: the Greek letter delta, which symbolizes change in math and science, and a plus sign.
- Temporary tattoos and stickers: You’ll need an easy way for anyone at the concert to declare themselves as part of the campaign! T-shirts, condoms, and resource cards are optional, but can also help spread your message.
- A table or booth: Optional, but helpful, because it gives you a home base at the concert, and makes it easier for people to find you!
- A team of volunteers: I suggest aiming for 3 or 4 people per three hour shift – for a weekend-long festival, that could mean 20 or more volunteers!
- Social media presence: A Facebook event, an Instagram hashtag, a Snapchat geo filter – the more, the better!
- Funding: I knew that I would need some funding support for all the materials I needed to reach students at the event, so I developed relationships with administrators and concert planners and delivered a proposal for funding. I received a considerable amount, which meant I could make all the temporary tattoos, stickers, and other materials I needed. If you don’t have funding (or as much), think of alternatives – focus on only digital campaigns or huge graphics to go on the stageTV or use skin-safe paint opposed to expensive tattoos.
This project took four to six months of preparation time, because I worked closely with so many partners in the campus community. Working with the official organizers is very time consuming, but can amplify the impact of your action. If you’re not working with official organizers, your action will need less preparation time.
You could do this action during a single concert, in which case it would take just one day. Or you could run it during a festival weekend, which could be two or three days.You could also run additional events before the concert(s) to build excitement and support – it’s up to you!
- Identify the event Positive Change will target (up to 1 year in advance)
- How many students do you want to reach? What communities on campus – athletes, student groups, Greek Life, cultural groups, etc? What kind of event will it be? Who oversees the event and who might you need to coordinate with?
- Connect with event organizers as early as possible, and aim for them to see you as a partner in creating a better concert.
- Start reaching out to your friends as early as possible and try to identify at least one person who is willing to co-lead this project with you. It’s a lot to do alone.
- Set training dates, shift schedules, and other time commitments as early as possible, so that volunteers know what they’re committing to.
- Share a volunteer statement and tip sheet with volunteers. Ask them to commit to being sober and professional during their shift and remind them that they are ambassadors for Positive Change in their daily lives. Your volunteers are still students, and that means they might want to drink, flirt, or act in a way that might be seen as inappropriate while they’re on duty. It’s important to make clear guidelines for behavior, especially when this is such a sensitive issue.
- Outreach to administrators and other gatekeepers (4 or more months in advance).
- Start talking to the relevant administrators as soon as possible. Aim to get their support! Let them know what you will be doing and what, if anything, you will need.Try to get a meeting, and prepare a full presentation.
- Are there any school rules, policies, or liabilities you need to be aware of?
- You might be able to get funding from administrators! Make sure you have a budget prepared, just in case.
- Media outreach (1 month in advance).
- Get in touch with any and all school publications – let them know what you’re doing, and why.
- The more press you can generate for your campaign the better! Will a school paper publish an op-ed, or a student radio show interview you before the concert?
- Student group outreach (4-6 weeks in advance).
- There are many students groups that might be interested in this project. Reach out and let them know what you will be doing. Ask if they can provide volunteers, help distribute materials, or if they want to support the campaign by participating in a photo campaign or releasing a statement. Don’t limit yourself to just the likely partners – give everyone a chance to be involved!
- Individual students may also be interested. A Google Drive interest survey is helpful to release via social media.
- Social media pre-campaign (4 to 6 weeks in advance).
- Develop your social media strategy. Consider making a Facebook event or page, which allows people to say they are “going” to Positive Change. Do you need a hashtag? Do you want to submit a geo filter to Snapchat? Now’s the time to work out these details!
- Once you launch a social media page or event, keep it updated regularly to build excitement.
- Order swag: stickers, tattoos, t-shirts, and more! (1 month in advance).
- Make sure to give yourself plenty of time!
- Shipping and printing times vary by item, and a longer timeline can reduce costs.
- Consider buying in bulk to reduce costs – sometimes twice as many stickers will only cost a little bit more.
- Campaign launch! Release a cover photo, photo campaign images, and group statements (7-10 days in advance).
- Start getting people excited! Have people change their cover photo saying they support positive change. Share images of people supporting the campaign. Let people know where they can pick up their own stickers. Make sure to post at least once a day!
- Don’t have have an active school newspaper, or one that you feel comfortable enough releasing a statement from or doing an interview with? Look for other outlets, or release a statement yourself through Facebook.
No big concert weekend at your school? Focus on homecoming, a big sports event, or even graduation.
- Do your research on what problems need to be addressed, as this can vary. Reach out to a wide range of students and conduct interviews to identify what they see as the major problems with the event you are targeting. How might Positive Change be able to address these?
- Make sure to work with folks who are already involved on this issue!
- Offer a training to volunteers and other interested folks to make sure they are well-versed in Positive Change and active bystander intervention tactics.
- If you are targeting a concert, consider leaving notes for the artists.
- Check out an example here.
- Seek feedback after your action – especially if you plan to repeat it the next year!
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