There’s an argument in music that’s beginning to sound as old as the chicken-and-egg dispute. Should attendees at a gig be allowed to use their smartphone cameras to take pics and footage of the performance, or not? While some artists have no problem playing before a sea of glowing handheld devices, and in fact encourage fans to whip their cellphones out, others have taken offence at the practice. The latest of the anti-phone crusaders is Alicia Keys. The R&B star has barred fans from coming into shows with their smartphones completely. If you want to watch her sing on stage you will have to leave your phone at the entrance of the venue. Using a clever device from tech firm Yondr, your phone will be kept safely for you and only be accessible to you when you’re outdoors. Many other celebrities including comedians Chris Rock and Hannibal Buress have used Yondr to keep those distractive devices out of their faces when performing.
But even before the invention of those handy pouches by Graham Dugoni and his firm, some artists have taken measures to force fans to watch shows with their own eyes and not through camera lenses. Everyone knows that the late Prince and technology were not the coziest of bedmates. It was therefore no surprise when he banned smartphones from his SXSW set back in 2013, despite Samsung being one of the event’s sponsors. Icelandic songstress Björk made the same request at a recent Bonnaroo Festival appearance and the only lights seen below the stage were the flashes of the professional photogs who’d been okayed.
The objective of the majority of artists who enforce the phones-off rule is not just to minimize the distracting light in their faces as they sing/play, they want fans to live the experience, not just record it. It seems like a very sensible line of reasoning; urging spectators to enjoy full value for the ticket price they paid (while saving their phone’s battery life). But tech-crazy fans will argue that the only evidence they can have of living that moment is to snag that Instagram pic. Which side of the technological divide do you fall?
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