by Julian Spivey
Cell phone use at concerts has been a popular topic lately, especially with some artists like Jack White banning them from shows, but I have to say I’m sick of it.
I can see why some people would be annoyed by cell phones at concerts, and I can even agree that they are probably used a bit too much by concertgoers, but ultimately, I’m a fan of using my cell phone at concerts for photography reasons – both professionally and personally. I don’t see the necessity for phones at concerts for other reasons – people shouldn’t be using them to ignore the show by texting, talking, using social media, surfing the net, etc., but you can’t ban phones for those reasons without eliminating people using them as cameras.
As someone who reviews every concert he goes to for his website – this one – I view using my phone important for journalistic reasons. Having photos attached to my reviews will bring more people to my review than if I published a review without a photo. That’s something they teach you very early on in journalism classes. I’ve also found that live streaming the occasional performance from a show is a great way to bring views to your social media pages. Concertgoers certainly shouldn’t videotape an entire show (which I swear I saw somebody doing recently at a Foo Fighters concert), because I full-heartedly believe that doing that would completely take you out of the concert going experience, but the fact is it’s a good tool for someone trying to run a successful entertainment or music website. And, sure you could argue that I could get a press pass and an actual camera to do such things, but the truth of the matter is that most venues/concert promoters simply aren’t going to give out press passes to small, not-for-profit outlets like mine in most cases.
I also just love having photos for personal reasons. I have an entire photo album – yes, a physical, book-form one – filled with concert photos from over the years and I thoroughly enjoy perusing through these memories – and photos do have more memories attached with them than you can conjure from your brain, that’s why we take them. I enjoy sharing these moments with friends and family and look forward to the day I can flip through this album with a daughter or son and relive with them the moment I saw Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Merle Haggard and other legendary musicians. Banning cell phones from concerts would keep me from these great moments and I know I can’t possibly be alone in this.
There have been artists (I’m looking at you Eagles) and venues that I’ve attended that have not allowed photography during the show and I admit a no photography policy won’t keep me from attending many shows I truly want to see. But, it does make me enjoy them a little bit less. Not just because I like to have these photos for my reviews and memories, but I also don’t like rich people telling me I can’t do something after I’ve spent my hard-earned money to see them in concert.
Ultimately, I feel there are other concert going things I come across frequently that are far more annoying than people using their phones. Number one among them is people getting up from their seats mid-performance and walking in front of you (making you stand if you’re seated) to go either to the restroom or to the concessions constantly. I’ve been to shows where it felt like people were going back-and-forth every couple of songs. Getting up to spend $10 on a glass of beer and then having to get up again to use the restroom because you’ve spent more money on beer than you did your actual tickets is incredibly more annoying than someone snapping photos or videoing performances. The people constantly getting up are affecting the experience of the show for others, whereas those taking photos really aren’t. I know some people say that they get annoyed by seeing all these little screens lit up during a show, but honestly, you’re not really paying enough attention to the show if that’s the case.
Another concertgoing thing I’ve come across that’s way more irritating than cell phone use is people talking throughout a show. I understand you’re out on the night and wanting to have a good time – this is the same reason you keep going back for beer – but, ultimately, you’ve come to hear and see great music. If you wanted to chat and drink beer you can do it on your front porch, in your living room or at a local bar for far less money and you’ll annoy far fewer people. I remember attending Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic in 2015 and seeing Kris Kristofferson perform for my first time, just him, his guitar and a harmonica. Because of this it wasn’t exactly a loud performance and someone within my vicinity was talking about how they were primarily just at the day-long event to see David Allan Coe. This constant talking really hurt my experience of seeing one of the greatest songwriters of all-time perform some of the greatest songs ever written. I wanted to find this person and smack the living hell out of them. I’ve never had someone taking a photo with their phone induce that kind of reaction.
You always see articles about phone use at concerts and how horrible it is, but you never seem to get the same amount of complaints out of stuff that, at least in my opinion, is far worse. It wouldn’t surprise me if there comes a day where more and more artists take the Jack White route and ban cell phone use during their shows, but that would truly be disappointing for me.