As smartphone giant Apple patents a way to block iPhones’ camera functions in venues and technology start-up Yondr gives artists the power to completely lock away fans’ phones during a show, the hot topic of cell phone usage during a concert surfaces again.
Rock band Disturbed chastised a fan for texting from stage (which later ended in an apology, as the woman was checking on the well-being of her child). Adele called out a fan for recording her. (Which we can watch, because of course another fan was recording the whole thing - note the irony.) Peter Frampton took a cell phone from a couple and threw it to the back of the stage when they wouldn’t stop taking photos after being asked not to.
There is certainly a feeling of, ‘Let’s go back to a time pre-mobile devices when we live in the moment.’
As long as we can also go back in time when concert tickets were far more affordable, I think most people would gladly hop in a concert time machine.
Ticket prices have steadily increased over the years. Beyonce’s selling some expensive Lemonade this year, so bring plenty of coin to the stand, averaging $297 across the markets. Want pit tickets? Get ready to shell out $950. (I’m not picking on Bey— I happily paid more money than I ever dreamed to see her because….Queen Bey.)
She’s certainly not alone in charging big money for decent seats- it’s become the industry standard for arena and stadium shows. As the rest of the music industry revenue sources drag, live show revenue has become more important than ever.
As a result, concerts are no longer a past-time: they are an experience. They are a vacation. Sometimes they are the event a family has saved for all year.
And herein lies the problem. What do you do on vacation? You make memories. You take pictures so you have something to show your friends and family.
And for some people, that moment is too expensive or unbelievable not to capture. After paying hundreds of dollars to attend a show between tickets and hotel, standing in line for hours to get inside a venue and purchasing expensive merchandise ($75 for a sweatshirt? Not unless the artist sweat in it first), they are being told they can't use their phone to take photos, video or in some cases, simply text how eff-ing good the show is. Mostly with the argument that it's a "distraction."
The truth is, there are things far more distracting or insulting than someone wanting to remember this moment. (Buzzfeed has even conveniently compiled a list of the 17 Worst People You Find at a Concert, in case you need a reminder of what you’re missing out on.)
It’s not that I don’t think cell phones can’t be distracting. Everyone’s been behind the asshole with a giant tablet recording the entire show. But more often, I’m simply next to people who haven’t stopped talking (loudly) since they showed up late and spilled beer on the entire row as they scuffled to their seats in the middle of the best song of the set.
To the younger artists who may consider a cell phone ban, they could be missing out on the promised land of free publicity. Organic, word-of-mouth peer-to-peer connections creating the most authentic grassroots campaign is exactly what most artists want. More than that, it’s what they need to survive in this throwaway climate. And according to a study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a whopping “89 percent of live performance fans conducted mobile activities in direct relation to performances they have seen in the past six months.”
That’s a lot of people to tell to be quiet.
Marketing and publicity teams spend countless hours coming up with fan engagement opportunities, because it has become abundantly clear that the artist’s relationship with their fans can be key to longevity.
Taylor Swift, who is 2015’s highest paid musician, is a prime example of fan priority. She sends her “Swifties” Christmas gifts, hosts concert after-parties strictly for her hand-chosen fans, shows up unexpectedly at fans’ weddings, paid a fan’s student loans and even had listening parties for 1989 with her fans at her house. Swift got her start via MySpace and uses social media to constantly communicate with her fans, liking fans’ posts on tumblr and Instagram. Her interaction is sincere, unyielding and open. There’s no ban of photos, recording or texting at her shows. And that’s ok, because if you’ve ever attended a Taylor Swift show, you realize her fans have a respect for what they feel like is a personal relationship with the star and (mostly) act appropriately.
She’s not asking for respect. She’s earned it.
Rude people will always be rude people, whether they are texting, taking endless selfies, talking incessantly, starting a drunken fight or hatefully elbowing their way to the front. You can’t fix stupid, as someone’s mama always used to say. But hopefully someone can find a way to solve the war of artist versus cell phone and the extremes it entails.