The Great Cell Phone Debate

Pat A Flafla

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At this point it's not reversible. We're a cyborg species now. Phones are artificial appendages or organs. And if your argument against is that they aren't implanted, try telling someone to leave it at home and go on a weekend road trip without it.
 

Whitten

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It is actually not an old folks groan. It is a genuine debate about whether watching a show through a cellphone screen is the best use of a $100-$300 ticket.
Plus the musician's perspective that it changes the show. No one is living in the moment. We all know our gig is going to live forever on Youtube.
 

vintagedrummersweden

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I've already written about my experience at a Rolling Stones show.
On the other hand, at the Aviici celebration the other year the ocean of lit cellphone flashlights became a great part of one of the songs. And the flashlights are better than lighters, at least from a fire hazard perspective...
 

853guy

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I just don't understand the mindset of watching a whole show through your cellphone when the artists are physically RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. Is it SO enjoyable to re-watch a concert on your phone, that you would forfeit the actual live experience of being in the moment? Also, YOU paid for a ticket. Why do you feel the need to give a freebie to your friends on Facebook?
Are they always "right in front of you"?

I've been front row many times, with Pantera being the most memorable for all sorts of reasons. Great view, terrible sound (mostly guitar straight from the cabs).

I've also been in the middle of 60,000 people standing at U2. Great sound, couldn't see a thing over all the other people (I'm on the short side. Best sound is almost always in front of the sound-desk).

I've been up in the first tier, off to the side of the stage (John McLaughlin) and right in the middle at the back (Shellac and Primus). Great sound, but both times, was sat behind people who insisted on standing and/or dancing (and being very, very drunk).

And I've been at the back of arenas (Metallica, Mars Volta, Mastodon, The Strokes). Sound and view was terrible. The band look like ants and the sound arrives two seconds after every hit. Usually the guy sitting next to me is louder than the band. The light show and massive stage screens are at best an entertaining diversion, and at worst, a melange of poorly-timed edits of the band interspersed with first-year film school graphics.

Classical concerts have faired better, since they've generally been unmiked (expect for soloists) and were composed specifically for the dimensions of the venue. Chamber recitals in smaller rooms are often the most immediate in terms of sight and sonics. Choirs in cathedrals are often always excellent, unless you're sat behind a pillar.

Probably the best ever view and sound I had was after I met Adam Nussbaum in an elevator, who was in town for Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. I was working as a porter at the hotel, and I asked if he was looking forward to the show. He said sure, and asked if I was coming, but I had a night shift. So he invited me to the sound check. There was just me, the sound guys, and the band. I sat in row E, maybe ten meters directly in front of the band, and experienced them playing two songs in complete and utter in-the-moment immersion.

That, of course, is the exception.

Most other concerts, gigs and shows I've attended were a series of compromises between view, sound and crowd antics (i.e.; being smashed in the head by Doc Martens-wearing stage divers and losing my glasses - again, that Pantera show). This includes shows where I've been stage-side as a guest or a musician. And all the above examples are before people started taking their phones to concerts.

Very, very rarely ever have I had an unobstructed view and pristine sound quality. That's the nature of live music in large venues (and often, in small ones).

If a phone helps me to capture an experience that overcomes many of the real-world problems that exist in many venues, aren't I then getting my money's worth? If my phone allows me to zoom into the performers, and capture a view my eyes can't, aren't I simply using what exists at my disposal to enjoy the experience to the best of my ability? And if I can do that without compromising other people's view and impinging on their personal space, what harm is being done exactly?

Yes, social media and phones in general come with severe downsides.

But personally, I have absolutely zero interest in policing other people's individual freedom of choice of how they use a technology to enjoy a public space, unless it presents a danger to others. And I have even less interest in being policed, especially when we're not talking harm but simply avoiding someone getting hurt feelings because I'm not enjoying things in the same way there are.

I don't have a huge problem with people who record a few video clips, and use it for their own personal viewing, but I definitely have a problem with "live streamers" who have their phone trained on you all night long, streaming to Facebook Live. We had someone come up at the end of a recent performance and proudly proclaim, "I streamed the whole (90 minute) show!" Of course I couldn't say what I wanted to say, which was: "Congratulations, you just "shared" something is not yours to share, without our consent or blessing".

I asked our agent if we could enforce a policy of "no audio or video recording". She said we could ask, but that we would be putting the venue staff in the position of enforcing it. Ideally, we should have control over what gets publicly released, but it seems that ship has sailed, at least for now.
*There's no such thing as a right if that right cannot be consistently enforced. If a band insists that no-one be allowed to film the show because it's their right to not be filmed, then they must also be prepared to police the enjoyment of others, and deal with the consequences.

A person who's paid the ticket price to gain entrance legally, and then buys the overpriced t-shirt has already given the band everything the band can expect Again, there's harm and there's offense. A band/venue can police the former when it pertains to the individual and those around them on the grounds of safety. But good luck policing the latter.

Best,

853guy

*Edited to remove the personal pronoun. My post is not aimed specifically at drums1225, but to explore the concept of the reinforcement of rights, and whether that is practical, achievable, and desirable.
 
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swarfrat

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The phones are *mostly annoying. But I've seen people filming with iPad's at concerts - and that absolutely blocks people's views.

My favorite: Third Day concert around 2010. Someone was actually talking on their cell phone during a concert. Not filming, talking (I've never had a phone I could hear over that kind of racket) Mac stops and pulls the guy up, asks to see the phone. "Hello - this is Mac Powell. Yeah. We're kind of in the middle of a concert here.."
 

musiqman

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Im quite short so my view is blocked most time in general, but phones don’t help either.

I really hate them there and will do a lot to have them out of my view.

I didn’t pay to watch other persons phones, and applaud artists who block them from their events.

Go watch a frkn dvd if you want to watch an artist on a screen.
 

Pat A Flafla

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There are venues I refuse to do with the Rush tribute anymore because the phone zombies have no discretion, and run right up next to me if they can to get the best camera angle for maximum internet validation from people on the internet they'll never meet in person. I would gesture madly while playing, tell them to stop, and THEY WOULD SAY NO. It was more distraction than I could manage while trying to not suck at playing classic drum tunes (apparently now for the permanent record). There I was, trapped in a performance while they used my amygdala as a punching bag, shoving my fight-or-flight higher until I started getting confrontational with them in the breaks. I was eventually going to break a phone so I quit the band for a while, rejoining under the condition that we only play venues wit at least 20 feet between me and the nearest phone. It's still really annoying (and a downer for me--I'm offering them a shared exclusive experience; they're rejecting that in favor of meaningless footage), but at that distance at least it doesn't hijack my amygdala.
 

ThomasL

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It is actually not an old folks groan. It is a genuine debate about whether watching a show through a cellphone screen is the best use of a $100-$300 ticket.
Plus the musician's perspective that it changes the show. No one is living in the moment. We all know our gig is going to live forever on Youtube.
My tongue-in-cheek comment was not about your original post, but towards the "I will never own a smart phone comments".

More seriously, the issue is of course not the phones, but the people who (mis)use them. For many people, it seems to be more important to show off on social media than to enjoy things in real life.

Bootleg recording has existed as long as there has been recording devices. The difference is that everyone is carrying one now, and that the videos are distributed globally and not traded in small circles like before the internet.

I usually go to jazz concerts and clubs where a few people might be discretely taking video from their seat.
 

drums1225

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If a phone helps me to capture an experience that overcomes many of the real-world problems that exist in many venues, aren't I then getting my money's worth? If my phone allows me to zoom into the performers, and capture a view my eyes can't, aren't I simply using what exists at my disposal to enjoy the experience to the best of my ability? And if I can do that without compromising other people's view and impinging on their personal space, what harm is being done exactly?
If you're using your phone as "binoculars", without obstructing anyone else's view, no harm no foul. However, many people are recording and/or broadcasting video without express consent of the artist. Like I said, recording or even live streaming a clip of a tune isn't a capital crime, but when people are shooting the WHOLE show or large portions and broadcasting it live, I can't see any reason why it should be viewed as acceptable. It's not.
But personally, I have absolutely zero interest in policing other people's individual freedom of choice of how they use a technology to enjoy a public space, unless it presents a danger to others. And I have even less interest in being policed, especially when we're not talking harm but simply avoiding someone getting hurt feelings because I'm not enjoying things in the same way there are.
As a performer and bandleader, it's not about hurt feelings; it's about having control over your own content. Bootlegging (which is what it is) is certainly not anyone's "freedom of choice" or right, and never has been. The fact that nearly everyone now has a tiny HD video recorder in their pocket doesn't change that. This is all just part of the post-Napster mindset that music is, essentially, public domain, which I reject. That said, the horse is clearly already out of the barn. Is it a battle I want to fight? Not necessarily, but I won't be convinced that I'm the bad guy if I don't want anyone livestreaming my performances without consent. The content is not theirs to share.

*There's no such thing as a right if that right cannot be consistently enforced. If a band insists that no-one be allowed to film the show because it's their right to not be filmed, then they must also be prepared to police the enjoyment of others, and deal with the consequences.
I don't see how an artist objecting to unauthorized filming and livestreaming of their gig is "policing the enjoyment of others". It's policing their own content, and controlling who gets to present or distribute it publicly, if anyone. If someone can't enjoy a concert without filming it, that's their problem.

A person who's paid the ticket price to gain entrance legally, and then buys the overpriced t-shirt has already given the band everything the band can expect Again, there's harm and there's offense. A band/venue can police the former when it pertains to the individual and those around them on the grounds of safety. But good luck policing the latter.
Buying a ticket or paying admission to a live performance entitles one to a live performance, and nothing more.
 

853guy

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If you're using your phone as "binoculars", without obstructing anyone else's view, no harm no foul. However, many people are recording and/or broadcasting video without express consent of the artist. Like I said, recording or even live streaming a clip of a tune isn't a capital crime, but when people are shooting the WHOLE show or large portions and broadcasting it live, I can't see any reason why it should be viewed as acceptable. It's not.

As a performer and bandleader, it's not about hurt feelings; it's about having control over your own content. Bootlegging (which is what it is) is certainly not anyone's "freedom of choice" or right, and never has been. The fact that nearly everyone now has a tiny HD video recorder in their pocket doesn't change that. This is all just part of the post-Napster mindset that music is, essentially, public domain, which I reject. That said, the horse is clearly already out of the barn. Is it a battle I want to fight? Not necessarily, but I won't be convinced that I'm the bad guy if I don't want anyone livestreaming my performances without consent. The content is not theirs to share.

I don't see how an artist objecting to unauthorized filming and livestreaming of their gig is "policing the enjoyment of others". It's policing their own content, and controlling who gets to present or distribute it publicly, if anyone. If someone can't enjoy a concert without filming it, that's their problem.

Buying a ticket or paying admission to a live performance entitles one to a live performance, and nothing more.
I don't have any issues with the points you've raised. In fact, I wholly support your moral right to want to control your content.

But that's wholly different to being able to enforce that right.

"Viewing it as unacceptable", "rejecting" it or "objecting to it" is not enforcement.

And clearly not enough to stop hundreds of thousands of videos appearing on YouTube daily of live gigs from major acts who have air-tight publishing deals to control their content, racking up views, clearly not in control of their content and who's recording it and distributing it.

So again, we come back to enforceable rights. You have my sympathy, but again, how I feel won't help either.

In theory there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

Best,

853guy
 

tempobob

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Phones on gigs made people less engaged into music. Soon we, musicians, in order to get full experience - will have to wear goggles emulating enjoying crowds...This is crazy
Ironic, but not such a bad idea. The jokes on them. We could even program standing ovations.
 

JazzDrumGuy

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I've been to a lot of concerts. I take my cell phone and sometimes I'll take pictures and a little bit of video. I certainly don't have my phone up for the entire set because I'm too busy air drumming or guitaring. I do it for the memory of a killer solo or record something said by the artist to capture the experience. These days, there's better video and audio out there most of the time.

Not only am I a musician, I'm also a fan and it's a very special thing for me that a huge artist like Ringo, McCartney, the Stones, Rush, Police, etc. and I are spending an evening together.
 

BennyK

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Isaiah Berlin explored positive and negative freedoms in his 1969 essay ," Two Concepts of Freedom " . Freedom from... freedom to ... became central to his thesis .

It's on the internet and you can text your friends all about it .
 
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MortSahlFan

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I wonder if there is anyone out there who records the entire show thinking, "Man, I can't wait to go home and watch this on a 4" screen with awful audio!"... I know someone who did this when we went and saw Roger Waters' "The Wall" and it was very distracting to me. I asked him years later, and he didn't even have the video anymore.

I'm guessing all the light(ers) annoy the performers, or make them self-conscious. It's a bad representation when you possibly see your own gig online and know it was a LOT better in reality. There's so many other distractions at concerts, that I don't plan on seeing any more concerts. People's phones going off, or people talking loudly since the amplifiers are loud, trying to get their friend to listen on the phone -- I've heard it all. And then you have the beer barkers, etc.. I'm the type of person who doesn't even like talking during a song. I think the audience should respect for the performer or go far away that you're not bothering other people, because I've also seen and heard people yelling at each other for being too loud.
 

BoomBoom

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Although I enjoy having access to these live concert videos, especially during the pandemic, I would never spend 2+ hours as a concert attendee video recording the entire event on my phone or other device. When I record something on my phone, my attention is focused on getting everything on the screen and keeping my hand still
When you're capturing the moment, you're missing the moment.

The main thing I don't like about it is it's very distracting to those of us trying to actually watch the concert.
 
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BoomBoom

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On a much much smaller scale, my folks live more than an hour away and don’t often get to see my kids gig with their sibling band.

My folks ask me to send them videos of the shows from my phone. I’ll usually do snippets here and there (and then post the snippets here as well), but I want to watch them in the moment and take it all in, trying their best to interact with crowds, chuckling to myself given their inherent shyness.

I don’t fault folks for doing it. But it’s just not for me. I’d rather remember the experience than a recording of something I didn’t get the full opportunity to experience.
Go old school and set up a video camera on a tripod somewhere and hit record and enjoy the show.
 

BoomBoom

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Or even just walking around staring at their phones and worse still, driving.
While driving is bad of course. The one that breaks my heart though is when I see parents with young kids with their head up their cell phone. Not only are they missing a once in a lifetime experience, they're telling their kids that their cell phone is more important than they are. Sad.
 

Whitten

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So again, we come back to enforceable rights. You have my sympathy, but again, how I feel won't help either.

In theory there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

Best,

853guy
You are kind of arguing a different point. Sure, it's impossible or near impossible to enforce a ban on cell phones at gigs.
A few performing musicians here (like myself) are just pointing out it changes the show. Knowing your show s going to be all over Youtube the next day changes your playing. Performing in front of a wall of iPhones and NOT engaged, smiling people, changes the show.
That is all.
With most serious gigs employing huge screens I find your need to use a cell phone to zoom in on band members a bit odd.
 

cochlea

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When you're capturing the moment, you're missing the moment.

The main thing I don't like about it is it's very distracting to those of us trying to actually watch the concert.
I also find it very distracting when others around me sing along with the performance, but that's a topic for another thread.
 


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