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Is This How We Solve the Issue Of Too Many People Filming Concerts?

By Petr Navovy | Miscellaneous | August 14, 2023 |

By Petr Navovy | Miscellaneous | August 14, 2023 |


There aren’t many experiences in this world better than live music. The ineffable electricity that crackles in the air between artist and audience is as close as we get to magic as a species. Of course, like everything, it has its downsides, especially these days as advanced capitalism has spread its grim tentacles into all walks of life and formidable evils the likes of which we daren’t invoke directly by name have made even live music a far less enjoyable experience than it should be.

Of course, it’s not just Tic**tmaster (funny how you can star out two letters of that and it leaves a delicious and apt ambiguity) that’s brought a sour note to the modern concertgoing experience. Another point of contention in recent years—and subject of much discussion, both online and certainly at the gigs I’ve been to—has been the preponderance of mobile phones, specifically the constellation of distracting lights resulting from too many people filming too much of the show. Before the proliferation of mobile phone camera technology made it impractical, venues and bands used to have policies against amateur videography, of course—that’s how you stymied a bootleg market in an effort to maximise revenue from official concert footage. These days, every gig is guaranteed to have a hundred bootlegs, as every single individual in that crowd is equipped with a hi-tech, portable camera. The impulse is completely understandable: You want to capture a moment from a gig, to be able to relive a precious memory. Pictures do that job well, but a video transports you even more. That doesn’t take away from the fact that its incredibly fu**ing annoying to be confronted with a sea of screens when all you’re trying to do is enjoy an artist’s performance—especially if you’re shorter or otherwise already not able to see as much as others might be able to.

So it’s a tricky issue, compounded by the entirely unoriginal observation that the way mobile phones have wrapped themselves around our habits and psyches might not exactly be a net benefit. Some artists have taken measures to try to ameliorate the negative effects of too much fan filming, with the progressive metal outfit Tool famously banning filming at their shows outright, with the band’s guitarist Adam Jones saying:

“I mean, for us, we’ve actually seen it changing and more and more big acts are asking their fans respectfully to enjoy the show, rather than looking at their camera the whole time. I think one of the problems is you get a lot of lights because people don’t know how to use their cameras correctly, which makes it very blinding onstage. It’s just…it’s that connection. You lose something without that connection, and you just want people to be in their own world rather than getting the whole show on their phone and then never looking at it again.

It’s a big distraction. Have you ever been to a concert and you can’t see the show because the person in front of you is holding their phone up in front of the stage? It’s just kind of obnoxious. Just keep your phone in your pocket, enjoy the show and we’ll see you after and you can get back on it! (laughs) People need a break. I feel like [phones have] become an appendage, like part of our anatomy, you know?”

Can’t argue with that, really. Yet some people might consider a blanket ban on filming too draconian, or misguided. I myself am not entirely sure where I stand on the issue. I try to limit my use of my phone as much as possible during gigs, limiting picture taking and filming as much as possible, as well as trying to cut off videos after thirty seconds. Having said that I love going through the images and videos I have captured over the years, so I don’t know how accepting I’d be if I got told that I couldn’t relive my specific POV whenever I wanted to. Maybe the answer to the dilemma lies somewhere in the middle. Maybe it’s just been solved ingeniously by Justin Hawkins, gregarious and experienced frontman of The Darkness, who in a recent gig video stops the performance of the band’s iconic hit, ‘I Believe In a Thing Called Love’, to come up with a compromise solution: Appointing an official amateur videographer to capture a record of that crowd-level experience.

Who knows how the show continued? Did a new person get appointed for each song? Was Nick forced to record the whole set? Only those who were there will know.

Thinking about it now, I don’t know why I’m beating around the bush over this issue, as I already inadvertently solved it this summer when I lost my phone two songs into Parkway Drive’s set during a mosh pit at a French metal festival. I was stressed out for about thirty seconds, and then I gave up and decided to just enjoy the moment. It was great.