Lost in a Sea of Smart Phones

Posted by Joe Hannaher , Thursday, January 31, 2013

At January’s Consumer Electronics Show, a group of us watched the great 1981 concert video, Queen – Live Montreal.  About half way through the concert the cameras panned the audience and – get this – nobody was holding a cell phone in the air! Instead they were all listening, all watching, all bouncing along with the band. They were having fun. Lots of it. They were “in the now.”

What a contrast to modern-day concerts where it seems everybody in the audience wants to be a documentary filmmaker. iPhone and Android screens create a distracting light show as hundreds or even thousands of phones are raised high in the air. Most people aren’t just snapping a quick picture – they’re standing with phones raised for a long, long time. 

Too long. It’s distracting. It’s annoying. It creates a disconnect between the audience and the concert experience. No one seems very involved with the music when this is happening. You are either filming or getting annoyed at the people in front of them blocking their view with their phones raised high. In either case your concert experience is radically altered for the worse.

And what are people doing with the videos? No one cares about some blurry youtube video with horrible sound. Unless you are in the front row it is impossible to get a good video capture with a phone. Most people resort to using the awful picture zoom feature, which just makes everything look worse. And then there is the horrible sound recording capability of smart phones. The music from the concert will be completely inaudible in most cases. The loud concert sound will completely overwhelm the little microphone in your phone. The resulting recording will sound like a loud roar and the bass line will be the only thing that is still recognizable. 

The truth is many bands these days release high definition concert videos. And high quality concert recordings are often made available to concert goers, sometimes made available right after the show ends. There is no reason for anyone to be filming a concert with a phone. The only thing you should be raising over your head is a lighter during a ballad (or maybe some devil horns). If you are one of these amateur concert videographers, I humbly ask you to stop. 

Please. Stop.

The videos turn out horrible and everybody will have a better time if your phone stays in your pocket. Those people behind you would really like to see the band and not a blurry little capture of the band on your iPhone. The videos come out so bad they have no value to anyone. Try to be courteous and enjoy living in the moment next time you are at a show. Thanks!


Jonathan Leard said...

This is so true. I don't understand why people go to live events then don't LIVE through the experience. I haven't ever taken a picture or video at a concert, but I remember every one of them.

Anonymous said...


At risk of sounding like an old fogey, I'm with you 100 percent!

Folks, stick your phone in your pocket (or purse) and enjoy the concert! But you know what? They'll LOVE their cr@ppy recording!

I fear listening to real music - with real dynamics and real acoustics is lost on the current generation. Too many low-rez MP3s on bad headphones or twiddly little speaker docks.

People! Get a small ZVOX and plug in to something that tries to reproduce a balanced sound!

OK, old fogey rant over.

Cliff said...

I could not be more in agreement. I'll admit, I had a knuckle-headed moment and tried it once at a Rush show while they played The Analog Kid. Everything about the video and Audio quality from my Nexus phone was so horrid, it made it clear to me that it was a waste of time and energy. Also, like you said, for the period of time, I was not living in the moment.

It's the curse of the digital age. Nobody is present. I was guilty for a few minutes, but learned my lesson when I got home and played back the miserable footage. New rule, one pic with your friends, one pic from your seat view, one pic when the band for comes out, then put the thing away and enjoy the show. It's an efficient compromise I think?

Joe Schmidt said...

OMG! You are so right!!!!!!!

Gio said...

Completely agree 100%...but you did forget one additional bit of annoyance.

Apparently it is more important to photograph yourself "with" the band or "at" the show than it is to share even pictures of the band. Two weeks ago I watch the girl in front of me post at least a dozen pictures...of herself. Hair back, hair up, with beer, without beer....

Social media's fascination is the self-imposed importance everyone now has in their day to day experiences. Very few under 30 years old lives in the moment. Their focus is on the perception of the moment; what it says about them and their friends (for being in or out of that moment with them). Very sad really.

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