Cell Phones Don’t Ruin Concerts, People Do

June 7, 2013

Our smart phones go everywhere with us. They open up a world of possibilities, allowing us to email, text, post, read, watch, listen, record and photograph. We even use our phones to talk to each other once in a while.

But there are a few occasions when we need to disconnect in our always-connected world.

One example is the live concert experience. For a few years, there’s been a movement among some musicians trying to get people to put away their phones during shows. It gained more steam recently when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs posted messages at the entrance to their gigs asking fans “Please do not watch the show through a screen on your smart device/camera. Put that shit away as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian.” A picture of the sign was tweeted by SPIN, which helped spark a serious debate on social media.

You don’t necessarily think about phones being a detriment, but I’ve been experiencing it first hand more and more. Fans have gone from snapping a couple photos to holding their phone above their head with both hands and recording video of the entire set.

It’s a bit frustrating to stare at the back of somebody’s elbows for three straight songs rather than the lead singer. I’d much rather be kicked in the head by a wasted crowd surfer.

But an obstructed view is not the only issue. If people are focused on trying to capture the perfect photo or video, which is almost impossible because of the stage lights and all the jostling, they’re missing out on fully enjoying the music. And there’s no doubt the atmosphere can be dulled by a distracted crowd.

Prince is taking things to another level on his current tour, by banning cell phones in the venue. I saw him a few weeks ago, and security was patting down every fan on the way in — not for weapons, but phones. And pre-show announcements warned that people would be tossed out for violating the policy. We all thought it was silly, but I didn’t see one cell phone the entire night. And guess what? The experience was better because of it.

An all-out ban on phones at shows is going too far. But I think we could find a happy medium. Go ahead and use them during a set change. Take a photo or two to commemorate if you want. Then put your phone in your pocket and don’t think about it again until after the encore. I bet you’ll find the show more enjoyable — unless you can’t see the stage because you’re looking through a sea of phones.