Concert goers should have the choice
If you’ve ever been to a concert or any live performance in the era of smartphones, you’ve definitely seen large crowds of concert goers using their phones instead of focusing on the artist. Some performers, such as Jack White, have had enough of this phenomenon, and are now using a service called Yondr to keep people away from their phones during shows. But this misses the point of attending a show.
Yondr requires concert goers to put their phone in a locked pouch. If at any point during the show you need to access your phone, you can take it back to the venue lobby to have the pouch unlocked.
It’s easy to understand what these artists are trying to say. They’re aiming to create a space for fans that focuses on experience and lets people live in the moment, rather than being lost in their phones, trying to capture a moment to save for the future. However, many fans using their phones aren’t trying to escape the concert, but simply want to enhance their experience by sharing it through social media.
While Yondr does offer “spaces for emergency calls,” that isn’t enough. Who really cares if people want to snap their favourite song, or post some pics on Instagram? Those moments don’t take concert goers out of the experience, but give them a chance to share that experience with others.
No one is arguing that performers can’t make requests. It’s entirely different if artists request that fans put down their phones. But all artists really should do is make their opinions known, rather than forcing paying customers to do anything.
Concerts and performances are an opportunity for people to engage with their favourite artists in person. In an age where most media can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home, let’s make it a space for people to engage with the music however they’d like, rather than forcing them to follow the guidelines laid down by artists. These concert goers paid money to be at the show, so they should have the freedom to experience it however they’d like.
We can have a larger societal conversation about how much we use technology in our day-to-day lives, and whether that removes us from actually experiencing life. The important part of that phrase, though, is that it’s a societal conversation, changing perceptions of what is appropriate behaviour. If we as concert goers decide that it’s not appropriate to use a phone at a concert, much like we have with movie theatres, then we can do that, but right now, we shouldn’t let artists tell us what to do.