Digital Dead Zones at Concert: This is a Problem?

Up until now, the big hue-and-cry about concert audiences is about how everyone seems to want to watch a show through their phones. But there’s a polar opposite side to the digital-devices-at-gigs story. From the New York Times:

If you can’t send a selfie from a rock concert or an NFL game, does it still count as being there? That’s more than an existential question as texting, tweeting, Snapchatting and Instagramming fans outpace—and overload—networks at public events.

At Lollapalooza this summer, four young women huddled amid the crowd, struggling with their phones. The cellular networks serving Chicago’s Grant Park, the site of the annual music festival, were swamped by the digital demands of roughly 100,000 fans.

“Instagram, Facebook , Snapchat, Twitter—literally any social media gets cut off at concerts like this,” said Mia Eriksson, a 21-year-old senior at the University of South Carolina. During a set by Calvin Harris, a Lollapalooza headliner, she and her friends used Snapchat to capture the DJ’s performance but most of their videos failed to upload. “It sounds whiny, but I want people to know that I’m there right then,” Ms. Eriksson said. “If I post a video at 9 a.m. the next day, no one really cares about it.”

From mega music festivals to high-profile sports matchups, live events have a parallel life online, thanks to the fans in the audience. But that has given rise to a maddening irony: The biggest events are also the most likely to dissolve into dead zones for data. That’s what happens when tens of thousands of people are trying to broadcast their minute-by-minute experience from their phones, overloading data pipelines that weren’t designed to handle high-volume traffic.

In a digital age where constant connectivity is seen as a given, fans take it as an affront if they can’t transmit selfies showing Justin Timberlake in the background.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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