Smartphones at Concerts: How Some Artists are Dealing with Them

We’ve all been to shows where half the audience insists on watching the gig through their smartphones. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a little bit of video as some kind of souvenir, but even then you’re not in the moment. You’ve spent big money to be at the show. Why are you spending time recording lousy video and audio that you probably will never watch later?

Overlooking a sea of smartphones is annoying for the performers, too. takes a look at how some artist handle these situations.

In 2005, Bono asked fans to take out their cellphones at a U2 concert and hold them up high. “Make this place a Christmas tree,” he instructed, likening phones to a “modern cigarette lighter…but far more powerful.” But just over a decade later, phones have changed and so have artists, with many viewing the ever-intrusive devices as a nuisance that detracts from the purity of the concert-going experience.

Take a recent Ellie Goulding show in Manchester. According to a fan who attended the show, after a lengthy performance, Goulding “asked everyone to put their phones away,” user Ollie Crook wrote on Reddit. “No phones for the last song. Just faces, hands and happiness. And if we stuck to the rule we may get an extra song.”

But the request was roundly ignored. “Three seconds into the song the arena lit up like a night sky with phone torches on recording,” he continued. “After the song she commented again. She’d like no phones and people just ignored her… people watched and recorded a three-hour show but couldn’t stop for three minutes.”

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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.

One thought on “Smartphones at Concerts: How Some Artists are Dealing with Them

  • March 27, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    I was at a City & Colour concert a few years ago and Dallas Green did something similar to Ellie Goulding. For one of his encores, he asked all the people in the crowd to hold their phones up, and everyone did. Then, he said “Ok, now put them back in your pocket”. Everyone laughed and everyone put their phones away. Green wanted to just play one song without it being recorded so that everyone could just “have a moment”.


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