A Mobile Phone Ban At Gigs Would Be A Blessing In Disguise

Could a mobile phone ban at gigs work?

A couple of years ago, I went to see the Danish post-punk outfit Iceage play a gig. At the very front of the audience there was a man filming the performance with his phone. In the middle of a song, lead singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt took the phone off him and placed it on the edge of the stage, much to the fan’s dismay. Once the set had concluded, Rønnenfelt handed the device back to him in what must have been a profoundly awkward interchange for the fan.

As a regular gig attendee, this was a curious spectacle, yet several artists evidently feel the same way as Rønnenfelt did. Last year, Green Day encouraged their fans to refrain from using their phones with Billie Joe Armstrong saying “let’s have a human experience right now you can’t capture on a cell phone… a little more human contact is good”. At a gig in Verona, Adele called out an audience member, telling her “can you stop filming me with a video camera because I’m really here in real life”.

Some artists have gone as far as banning the use of phones at their concerts all together, such as Alicia Keys. In this case, fans were provided with special pouches that were locked with the phones inside and the fans carried the pouches around with them during the gigs. They had to go back to the entrance to unlock their pouches, if they wanted to use their phones. The company responsible for these pouches is Yondr who according to the website “gives artists, organisations and individuals the tools to create phone-free events and spaces”. The Lumineers and Guns n’ Roses have also used this technology.

Another company that seeks to help artists alleviate this phenomenon is Lively. This Seattle-based startup provides the audience with a high quality audio and video recording of the concert they attended on their smartphones, either for free or at a small cost. The app also doubles as a way for artists to showcase their live shows to others.

The fact that such technology is in demand indicates that there is a growing discontent among musicians when they gaze upon in the audience a sea of faces, ghost-like, illuminated by their screens. And who can blame them? There is something awfully dismal about people dishing out money to watch a gig through their phones when the awe inducing feature of the gig is to see the band or musician play with your very own eyes. It creates a disconnect between the entertainers and the fans.

While it would be unusual to impinge on the free will of people in what is considered a relaxed, casual environment, a ban on recording with phones would really be a blessing in disguise for most fans. After all, what is the cause for the increasing use of phones at concert? It is part of our tendency to record and archive events in our life and share these positive experiences with others; a feat rendered possible with digital media. When we visit the great sights and landmarks of the world, do we fully take in the beauty of these places or do we just take a picture and move on? I suggest the latter inclination is more prevalent.

But recording at a gig seems even more futile. What are the chances of us re-watching this video multiple times to remind us of this great gig? They are unlikely. The sound quality will most likely be choppy and accompanied by cheers and separate noises. Unless you were fortunate to be up around the front of the crowd, the view of the band playing will be obscured and barely visible in a granular 4K video.

Drake once rapped “I’m living inside a moment, not taking pictures to save it”. Concert-goers should follow suit and they will give themselves a more memorable experience.


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