The smartphone craze is destroying the concert-going experience, at least according to the musicians and the pro photographers who take pictures of said live performances, and the issue isn't just about the photos. From a musician, or band's standpoint, those fans recording the audio and video of the show during the concert are more than just rude -- they are doing those bands a disservice, especially when they post that content on YouTube, or Facebook. That content is typically of poor quality and its presence online actually does the band a disservice. It is especially maddening when you consider that there are technology solutions out there that record and present live content in a professional manner.
Perhaps even more depressing (from a societal standpoint) than the sharing of low quality content is that live performances are designed for enjoyment in the moment. Those filming the show are missing that special moment in favor of a narcissistic opportunity to gain Kred, or Klout socially.
"I think it is unfortunate," says Aloe Blacc, whose song The Man hit #1 on the UK charts last month. "I grew up in the era before smartphones when we could just enjoy the moment and not worry about trying to capture it. It's really weird how everyone wants to capture it, but no one really goes back to watch it afterwards. It's important to enjoy what you can see, what you can taste and hear in person, live."
The Strypes, an emerging band of rocking teenagers from Cavan, Ireland, were recently featured on the (former) Late Show with David Letterman and in the pages of Rolling Stone, and weighed in on this topic from SXSW. Even though the band's generation is largely to blame for the smartphone barrage at live performances, the Stypes' wisdom in relation to the issue is refreshing. According to the band's lead guitarist, Josh McClorey, "you never listen to it [the recording] back, because it's of shit quality. It's a horrible sound."
According to McClorey a watershed moment for the Strypes happened during a gig a year ago when one audience member, who was located in the front row was, "up at the front with his iPad, and those standing behind him watching the gig on the iPad -- watching the video while the video was being recorded."
And it is not just the bands taking notice and annoyed by fans' rude use of smartphones and tablets to capture live performances. The photographers paid to shoot photos of these bands live are annoyed as well. Case in point: Jay Blakesberg. Over the years Blakesberg's photography has been featured in numerous magazines, and in over 200 CD jackets. He has worked with a wide range of rock gods, from the Grateful Dead to Neil Young to Carlos Santana and more. He has also published seven coffee table books of his photography, the latest called JAM. Blakesberg is a rock n' roll legend, basically.
"I feel that the whole cell phone at concerts zeitgeist is a problem on many levels," says Blakesberg. "Besides the distraction to other patrons as well as the artist on stage, I believe that the excessive amount of bad photography and bad video is cluttering our brains and the social networks, as well as perpetuating a world where mediocrity rules and is accepted across the board as good visual content."
How do you feel about fans using smartphones during public performances? Check out the slideshow below, and weigh in with your comments. Is this an issue? A non-issue? Do you care what the band on stage is thinking during its performance?
Is this performance patron really paying attention?
One fan ruins it for the rest, especially those standing behind him/her?
Watching the show, or working the phone?
Jay makes this look pretty, but the truth is somewhat ugly.
The bigger question here - does a Blackberry really count as a smartphone these days? Imagine how horrible that photo was. . .
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