Music and Live Gigs: Are mobiles helping or hindering?

This week, I took a well-earned break from my studies, to visit the Phones 4u Arena (when did it stop being the MEN Arena?) to watch some Canadian guy, by the name of Mr. Bryan Adams. It’s not the first time I’ve seen BA, and it won’t be the last; I’ve been a fan since the ‘Reckless’ album was first released, (now the Tour is celebrating its 30 year anniversary, Yeah, I’m old-skool!)

As is customary at various live venues, official folks were searching the bags of classic-rock-lovers as we entered: bags were checked, (I actually had a Field Recorder in my bag – I usually do, and that caused much less concern than you would think!) but no mention of mobile phones. I was a little confused by this. We’re at a point in technology when we all walk around with a reasonably powerful media device in our pocket, and although the guy did mention the Field Recorder I had (he seemed very concerned about video and asked me not to film anything with it!) he never asked me about a mobile, or asked me not to use THAT to film anything.
There’s a great deal of contention about this subject in the media at the moment, with some artists openly asking

Martin Cooper in the 1970s: the Father of the Mobile phone.
Martin Cooper in the 1970s: The Father of the Mobile phone. Image: hightechhistory.com

gig-goers to leave their mobiles at home – with the assumption that recording and viewing a gig through a mobile screen lessens the event, for you and the people around you. Kate Bush recently played a 22-night residency at London’s Hammersmith theatre, requesting that fans refrain from using mobile phones and tablets to record, or take pictures. Mobile phones were still the size of large bricks when Bush did her last live gig in 1979, and had they included cameras, we would have needed to carry a battery the size of a small car around with us. Prior to the Hammersmith Apollo residency, Bush gave the following statement:

“It would mean a great deal to me if you would please refrain from taking photos or filming during the shows. I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iPhones, iPads or cameras”. (Bush K., 2014)

Cumbrian based folk musician Fiona Clayton is a live performer who sees mobile phone use at live gigs differently:

“I think as an artist when you see people on their phones and mobiles or video devices it makes us feel like we’re putting on a good show. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request but if I was at a Kate Bush gig, I’d want to take a picture and be all “Hey, I saw Kate Bush! In this day and age we thrive on media and being able to capture the moment.” (Clayton, F. 2014)

In a post on his Facebook page, Roger Waters disagreed, possibly sharing the same view as Bush that the experience is somehow diluted by not giving it your full attention:

“Apart from anything else, how could I possibly truly experience the thing I’d paid to see and hear, if I was fiddling with an iPhone, filming or twittering or chatting or whatever?” (Waters, R. 2011)

Whilst I can understand this view, I do tend to agree with Clayton on this. As long as you are mindful of not spoiling anyone else’s view with a HUGE tablet or mobile, I can certainly see why people would want to capture the moment and be able to replay it whenever they wanted to. As mentioned earlier, we all have pretty powerful devices in our pockets these days, and I’m not really sure that holding a phone up out of your line of view (and anyone else’s ) DOES actually take away from any experience of a live performance. That being said, If an artist DID ask for an audience to refrain from recording or photography, I would respect that, but other than directly asking fans to abstain I don’t really see how this will change, especially as venues seem more concerned with people taking sweets and drinks into a live performance with them!


Bibliography and resources:

Kate Bush (2014). Daily Mail [online]. Available from: <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2728890/Kate-Bush-urges-fans-not-film-comeback-gigs-phones-wants-concentrate-enjoying-music.html#ixzz3KES29i6b&gt;. [Accessed 28/11/2104].
Fiona Clayton (2014). Cumbria Live.co.uk[online]. Available from: http://www.cumbrialive.co.uk/home/is-kate-bush-right-about-phones-at-concerts-1.1156877. [Accessed 28/11/2104].
Images from http://hightechhistory.com/2010/12/08/martin-cooper-father-of-the-cellular-phone/
Roger Waters (2014). Roger Waters on Facebook [online]. Available from: <https://www.facebook.com/notes/roger-waters-the-wall/a-note-from-roger-february-25-2011/206547819359676&gt;. [Accessed 28/11/2104].
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