Smartphones are now part of our everyday life. It gets more and more challenging to spend time without compulsively check our notifications or without taking pictures of what we are eating or of the place we are visiting.
When it comes to concerts, it is hard to fight the temptation of taking pictures and videos of our favorite artists.
In particular, young people in a live music setting tend to spend more time with their phones in their hands rather than enjoying the moment. It is not unusual at hip-hop or pop concerts to see oceans of young kids with their phones out. It can get almost impossible to see what’s happening on stage, due to that sea of smartphone lights.
While in other kinds of concerts, where the demographic is a bit older, the chances of living a similar experience drop, our tempting smartphone is always there, ready to ruin the atmosphere created by the music.
How do phones interfere with the smooth running of a concert?
First of all, they can make artists on stage uncomfortable. On top of that, the habit of taking videos at concerts can cause copyright issues or even financially harm the musician.
The presence of live footage on YouTube for free, for example, could affect ticket sales in some cases. In addition to that, the wild sharing of concert snippets on social platforms doesn’t guarantee a fair recompense for the connected copyrights.
Most of the time, however, your smartphone won’t harm the artist on stage, but the concert-goer right beside (or behind) you. It could even harm yourself!
You have probably spent a good amount of money to see your favorite artist or band. Finding yourself in a sea of smartphones, rising from the hands of your fellow concert-goers, can get really frustrating.
While some artists, such as Lana Del Rey, use this “smartphone fever” at their advantage, taking selfies with their cheering fans that will effortlessly increase their social media presence, some other musicians are not as happy to see their audience more focused on a phone than on the music.
For example, the former White Stripes frontman, Jack White, has repeatedly stated that smartphones are an unnecessary burden in our life. He also decided to ban their use at his concerts. The English pop star Sam Smith adopted the same policy.
Even the hip-hop legend Kendrick Lamar, who appeals to a very young demographic, has recently banned any photo or video-taking at his concerts. His management wisely understood that having uncontrolled videos or pictures of the shows online was not an incentive to ticket-buying. Quite the opposite, actually.
At this point, you could object: what if I take pictures and videos just to preserve the memory of a great night? What’s wrong with this?
It all comes down to common sense…
Of course, we all like a souvenir of a beautiful experience, but if we film most of the concert and spend our time there facing our smartphone rather than our musical hero, are we really going to remember that as a great night?
Putting a smartphone between you and the artist on stage is like watching a video on YouTube, something you could have done in the comfort of your home, without spending money on a ticket.
A live performance is something unique, something you cannot recreate on your technological devices. You might be able to record a song being played, but, while doing so, you will have missed the present moment, something that will never come back.
Going to a concert should be a mindfulness exercise: understand how a live performance can never be exactly repeated or reproduced and enjoy it fully.
On top of that, the artist needs to establish contact with the audience to perform at his or her best. Feeling the energy of a crowd is way more encouraging than seeing thousands of lifeless smartphone lights directed at you.
Musicians such as Jack White and Sam Smith, but also comedians such as Dave Chappelle, adopted a special product to prevent their audiences from using their phones at live events. It is a particular pouch you must put your phone in before accessing the phone-free area of the event. When you reach the area, the pouch automatically locks, preventing you from the temptation of checking your notifications or taking pictures of the show.
If you need to use your phone, you can simply walk out of the phone-free zone and the pouch will unlock. Pretty clever, right?
But there is another side of the coin to consider…
Established artists can afford to ban phones from their concerts because they are already well-known and popular.
Emerging independent acts, however, might benefit a lot from having videos of their performances spread across various social network profiles. It would be a free advertisement, but at what price?
To fill the gap between the need for being present and the desire for a souvenir of the concert experience, some apps flourished on the digital market. StereoCast, for example, was founded in 2015 to provide attendees with an instant download of the live recording of the concert.
Apps like StereoCast seem to offer the perfect balance among contrasting needs and considerations.
Can mobile phones ruin concerts?
Probably not. However, they might make concerts a bit less enjoyable, especially for the bunch of people in the audience more interested in experiencing the moment rather than broadcasting it.
At the same time, it might be a bit extreme to force the slice of the public too attached to their phones to let go of them.
For these reasons, it is necessary to persist in finding new solutions to balance these different needs and points of view, while keeping a simple golden rule in mind: don’t let your freedom interfere with someone else’s freedom. In other words, don’t let your smartphone ruin the experience of your fellow concert-goers. And your own.