Be It Resolved: “Mobile Phones Should Be Locked Up at Concerts”

All concerts are now a sea of glowing screens as people chose their phones rather than risk being bored for a nanosecond by what’s happening onstage. This greatly pisses off the performer. Should locking up mobile phones at concerts make for a better experience for everyone? Would this protect us from ourselves? Medium has this story.

In its online version, the Post story carried this headline: Alicia Keys is Done Playing Nice. Your Phone is Getting Locked Up at Her Shows Now.

Really, though, this has nothing to do with “nice.” This is about artists setting the terms of engagement for a performance. Which is their right. We probably don’t think of it that way, in part because the Internet and smartphone technology has fundamentally altered the dynamic between artist and audience. Not just in terms of copyright abuses, which remain a huge problem, but also in terms of attention abuses. Which are more insidious, more accepted as part of the new digital lifestyle, and thus harder to control.

The concertgoer arrives at the venue expecting to be able to film whatever’s happening on stage and share it, divert her attention away from the performance to live Tweet about it — or, for that matter, order paper towels for next-day delivery. In a very real sense, On Demand culture exists in opposition to the precious and often fragile culture of a live performance — where, at least in the ideal, everyone has a stake, and as a result becomes involved in the outcome. It’s like an energy circuit: When magic happens, it is usually at least somewhat proportional to the attention investment. Live music is a shared experience.

Performers talk about the strange sight of walking into a darkened arena and seeing thousands of people with their faces lit from below by the screens of thousands of phones. In that moment, they confront a seemingly insurmountable obstacle: Prying the audience’s attention away from the precious glowing miracle slab that connects us to the world, and claiming the focus for what’s unfolding on the stage.

Read more here. (Via Bobby)


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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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