Smartphones are a blessing and a curse to music lovers across the globe. On the one hand, they have given us a near unlimited access to just about every song ever recorded, even rarities and hard to find releases — from obscure Jay Z mixtapes to original, not re-released Frank Zappa albums. We receive instantaneous news, streaming and the ability to carry our entire music collection in our pants pocket rather than in crates and boxes.
At the same time, smartphones have produced a new, infuriating breed of concert-goer. Apart from the drunk idiots who absolutely insist on pushing everyone out of their way to get to the front and the incessant talkers, there is no one worse at a live show than those who watch most of the performance through a phone screen. Even worse, people will often be exhibiting two, if not all three of these behaviors at once, making those constantly taking pictures and video even more aggravating.
Note that I am not talking about those who want to snap a quick photo and then put their phone away. Having a picture to show your friends how close to the stage you were or the stage setup is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. It is those who feel the pressing desire to document every second of a concert that are a bane on audiences. It is incredibly distracting to have bright screens bobbing up and down near you face (especially in dark, indoor venues), akin to having a small, brightly-lit companion that instead of yelling at you every few seconds is trying to block your view to get that “perfect angle” for a shot.
Not only is this a problem for other members of the audience, but it is extremely rude to the performers as well. Why would you pay good money to see your favorite band, only to watch most of the concert through a small screen? Some artists, including Prince, Beyoncé and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, have even started requesting that the audience either refrain from using their cameras, or give them an opportunity at the start to snap a few photos before the music begins.
This is a completely reasonable request. You are not there to watch electronic screens, and they are not there to perform for a sea of smartphones. When we start spending more time looking at an image of the band than the band itself, the personal connection forged between the artist and the audience begins to break down.
The absolute worst of the worst — the most evil of concert attendees — are those who take photos or video and then post them to social media during the show. Seriously, we have enough hipsters, 15-year-old “punks” and backpackers listening to a certain artist or seeing them live into a sign of status. You do not need to post your low-quality images during the show. Snap a photo or two, maybe take a video, even write a 140-character update before the band takes the stage. But for the love of all that is still good and just in this musical world, wait untll you get home to upload your media online.
Unless you are very lucky, most of the photos and videos will not turn out amazing anyway. Why add to the ever-growing pile of crappy concert videos on Youtube?
Let the professionals handle it.
Lastly, I encourage everyone to tone down on the smartphone use because you will remember the concert better. This might seem a little counterintuitive at first. Won’t taking a picture help you better remember a moment later on? Turns out it might not.
Studies being conducted at Fairfield University are pointing to the conclusion that seeing an experience primarily or strictly through a lens can impact on the formation of our own memories of the event (you can read more here). This means that you might not want to take a video when your favorite song begins. Instead, watch the artist perform and you will most likely remember it better the next day. Or, since zooming-in seems to better preserve memories, you might want to focus on only one part of the stage, though this will probably result in a blurry, dark picture anyway.
The best concert I have ever attended was at the Sports Coliseum near USC, where, for about three hours, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band held the audience captive. While a few smartphones popped up here and there, the majority of the audience, my friends and I included, were too riveted by the music to even consider taking our cameras out. As a result, it is the concert I remember most vividly, and to this day those of us who were there can talk for hours about what we witnessed.
I would encourage everyone to do the same. Take a few photos, then put the phone away. What is ultimately more important — watching and hearing a band play your favorite song live, or watching a video of the performance later that is more nausea-inducing than Cloverfield? You be the judge.
Jack Butcher is a senior history major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @WklyJButcher.