With Apple being granted a camera blocking patent last year and the list of artist’s publicly calling out fans who record shows ever growing, camera phones at gigs have increasingly become a controversial and debated topic in the technology-saturated music scene of today. Although I can sympathise with many of the ‘cameras at gigs’ defenders, the “I paid for a ticket I can do what I like” argument is true to a certain extent but not when it’s impacting on other gig goers and from my personal experience, it definitely does.
There is nothing more frustrating than getting a glimpse of the stage in a busy crowd, only to have an LCD rectangle then block your eye line and take you out of the moment. Especially in an audience which is fairly motionless, meaning there is no opportunity to avoid the device which really affects how good a show can be. I had a particularly bad experience at a twenty one pilots gig last year, where an unenergetic crowd, who was more interested in getting good snapchat footage than enjoying the actual performance, moulded the atmosphere of the show and not in an enjoyable way. Having a phone in the air is not only blocking people’s view but also preventing the owner from really being present, it is hard to let those inhibitions go and enjoy the music when you’re clutching your £500 lifeline above your head. I have watched so many people lose their grip and watched phones fall into the desperate abyss of trampling feet, never to be seen again… Was it really worth it for 15 seconds of grainy footage that is all hands and feeble audio?
As well as impacting the user of the phone and the other audience members, it must be so frustrating for an artist to look down at a sea of lenses instead of being able to connect with the fans. I’m aware that I’m sounding pretentious by longing for the good ol’ days, before the mass ownership of camera phones, that I never actually experienced but I am in support of the movement away from everyone self-documenting. Our obsession with capturing and sharing all the aspects of life is just a natural reaction to the social media prescribed lives we lead but maybe gigs could be a space where we appreciate the moment for itself.
I feel like live music is a very personal but also communal experience, watching through a phone and focusing on a good video does sacrifice the amount you can immerse yourself into the songs. The community and atmosphere is an aspect of live gigs that are unique, strangers brought together in a close space with a single communal interest. It’s a position which is quite rare, I would argue that cameras put up a social barrier that makes interacting with fellow fans difficult. Affecting the sacred bond of the gig friend, tragic.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally against some sneaky amateur gig photography and of course, I’m guilty of Instagramming a few choice shots but filming the entire show is on another level. Leave that to the professionals, most venues or bands will hire a proper photographer who will take actual photographs or videos that are worth looking. So, please think about leaving Snapchat at the door and enjoy the show as it was intended, first hand with your eyes!
Thanks for reading! I hope I didn’t come across too whiny or pompous, it may seem insignificant but it really is an issue that is affecting how good gigs end up being. Just live in the moment man, feel the music…