FAQ: How Long Do Music Concerts Usually Last?

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Quick Answer: It can vary greatly depending a variety of factors, but a standard music concert generally lasts between 90 to 150 minutes (1.5 – 2.5 hours)

Many bands have made their mark in the annals of musical greatness with their live performances, and for many, going to a concert is a paramount experience, one that is often planned extensively for, travelled far to, and paid significantly for. If you look at most tickets, you’ll notice that a seemingly important piece of information is usually missing:

Just how long is the concert going to be? If it starts at such and such time, when is it going to end exactly?

The answer is that concerts often don’t have a hard-set end time, and their length can depend, sometimes greatly, on a variety of factors. Here we’ll discuss what influences concert length, and how long certain types of concerts tend to be, to give you a rough idea of what to expect when you go to one.

When and where is the concert?

These are the two practical logistics that will typically impose pretty strict timeframes on a concert. If a show is on a week day at a lower key venue in a location with a legal noise ordinance that comes into effect at, say, 11pm, and the show starts at 8pm, then you can be quite confident the event will end within three hours. Venues are pretty scrupulous with adhering to any legal rules because the punishment for violating them can be severe.

On the other hand, If it’s a larger show in a more insulated location on a weekend night, there’s a good chance a concert could go on pretty long into the night. Bruce Springsteen and Grateful Dead, for example, have played shows on multiple occasions that have lasted well beyond four hours.

Who is playing?

This probably matters the most after any hard logistical restrictions per the above discussion. Some bands are known for very consistently following a standard setlist format, whereas others are known for the opposite: being kind of loosey-goosey and not afraid to go a bit all over the place, which can make concerts run quite a lot longer.

What is the musical genre?

Certain genres and types of concerts tend to be more rigid than others. Classical concerts; with a traditional orchestra, choir, and such; tend to follow a pretty standard format of 1 – 1.5 hour first part, ~15 minute intermission, .5 – 1 hour second part.

More modern music, rock concerts especially, tends to be more “loose” and casual. You might see a random improvised and/or extended ~10 minute guitar or drum solo on an otherwise three minute song. Or you might see some fan interaction and inclusion.

Freddie Mercury, one of the all time great performers, does an impromptu sing along with the crowd before ‘Under Pressure’
Led Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham was known for his extravagant drum solos that sometimes lasted upwards of 15-20 minutes

What kind of show or tour is it?

If a band is on an extensive tour with a packed schedule with a lot of concert dates, and they’re promoting an album, chances are they’ll stick to the album or a specific set list from it. It’s possible that between actually playing, setting up, getting ready, tearing down, packing back up, and driving to the next location, everything is planned very meticulously to the hour, or even possibly more specifically than that.

In that case, it’s important that the entire operation stays on track and doesn’t fall behind, so the actual concert might be on the shorter side of 1.5 -2 hours.

On the other hand, if the concert is more a one-off event at a famous venue, something like Woodstock or Red Rocks, and maybe they’re filming and recording it to release a live album, this is when you start to see bands playing with a more tangential style that goes on for a long time. Here you might see concert lengths of 2 – 3 hours, possibly significantly longer.

Are there multiple groups or acts in the lineup?

A concert will often feature another band with an opening act before the main band, called the headliner, starts to play. An opening act will usually last around 30-45 minutes, possibly longer in some cases. Opening acts might detract time from the headliner, but almost certainly never in a perfect 1:1 ratio, else people would be understandably upset that they’re not totally getting to see who they paid for play.

A concert with an opening act will usually last at least 2-3 hours.

It’s possible that a headliner has more than one opening act, but this usually treads into a more multi-form style where there isn’t really a “main” performer, so the concert time might not be much or any longer.

Some long-form concerts, often called “festivals,” will feature several to tens of bands, with multiple acts playing at the same time in some cases, and are meant to be a full day event. Many festivals span few to several days, for example the infamous 9 day Burning Man event.

a flyer for a full day long concert festival

Example of a flyer for a full day long festival concert (image credit: Trillectro)

Conclusion

Concert length can depend significantly based on a variety of factors: when and where it is, the band/group that’s playing, the genre of music, the kind of show or tour it is, and whether or not there are any openers or additional acts.

That said, if you’re paying for a headliner band and the event isn’t specified as a shorter format, it’s reasonable to expect at least around one and a half hours of playing time, though many bands will often play longer than that and closer to 2.5 to 3 hours, and sometimes even longer than that, though that isn’t so common.

If the concert ticket or flyer doesn’t have a time allotment, your best bet is to just search for “[band/tour] concert length,” or “[venue] concert length,” as some popular concert locations do also have fairly consistent time allotments.