A little while ago we commented on our reliance upon our smartphones, examining the viral YouTube video ‘Look up’. Several things have happened this week which have prompted the need for a volume 2 to this original blog. In our fast paced world of tech, gadgets and gizmos, trends quickly develop and new social-digital behaviours quickly follow, such as selfies, tweeting, snapchats, and more specifically - filming concerts through your smartphone.
It has become quite a large problem for musicians, with artists increasingly becoming infuriated with fans filming the whole concert through their phones, rather than enjoying the music. Outspoken artists who challenge the current situation include Jarvis Cocker from Pulp, Ian Brown from the Stone Roses, and more recently, Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
This is a problem, not only for the performers, but also the rights holders to the events, as well as the record companies. Various solutions to this issue have sprung to the market to try and tackle the development of the new-found social behaviour. Some try to embrace smartphone usage such as Dan Deacon, a little known electronic artist who launched an app that performs a ‘light show’. It does this by using the screen to display bright colours and by using the camera flash to produce a strobe light. His fans are encouraged to download the app before they arrive at the gig and then use it whilst in the crowd to produce a fantastic light show.
One major argument against smartphone usage at concerts and gigs is that the minute a person begins to use their phone camera, they become an observer to the event rather than a participant. The beauty of the app produced by Dan Deacon is it allows people to be both observer and participant, enhancing their event experience.
On the other hand, there are companies such as a new startup ‘Yondr’ who try to prevent this type of social behaviour. Yondr offers venues the opportunity to create ‘phone free zones’ by providing gig-goers a soft, locking case for their phones and tablets. Once they enter the venue, the customers would use one of these locking cases to access the concert. This would be a free, compulsory service provided by the venue.
They can only unlock the case to access their phones once they leave the gig or head to a ‘phone zone’, away from the performance. Interestingly, the way in which Yondr position themselves promotes a desire to ‘be offline’ and enjoy the moment;
Yondr has a simple purpose: to show people how powerful a moment can be when we aren’t focused on documenting or broadcasting it.
It does raise an interesting point when you stop and look at the situation objectively, as it seems a little crazy that we’ve got to a point where a company offers such a service. It is an interesting comment upon our digital society to say that we need to physically lock our devices away from ourselves to ensure we socially interact with each other, or, indeed, the event we have paid to watch.
Away from the music industry, there are other examples of products or services that aim to challenge our reliance upon our devices such as the ‘NoPhone’, a tongue-in-cheek kickstarter project that is now in production.
Quite literally, it is a functionless plastic block shaped like a smartphone. Though this project is deliberately satirical, the owners hint at what they believe is a real problem. The opening gambit of their kickstarter page suggests as such:
Phone addiction is real. And it's everywhere. It's ruining your dates. It's distracting you at concerts. It's disrupting you in movie theaters. It's clogging up sidewalks. Now, there is a real solution.
Not only do the project owners take it seriously, it seems the public do too, with the project smashing through it’s $5k fundraising aim and ending its time on kickstarter with a total of $18.5k. Although a novelty, maybe it’s popularity suggests there is a public desire to step away from our devices once in a while.
Traditional forms of entertainment such as television have also faced the challenge of the introduction of smartphone usage. The phenomenon of ‘dual screen’ behaviour has developed in recent years, where people interact with their devices as well as watching television. It could be argued that smartphone usage at gigs and concerts is merely an extension of this behaviour. To a degree, the onus should be placed on the event organisers to adapt to this change in consumer behaviour and facilitating their entertainment needs.
So does the introduction of these products and services suggest we are facing a tipping point of an addiction to technology? Or in the case of the music business, does the argument rest on the shoulders of the industry to adopt and adapt to digital technology?
There are certainly strong arguments for and against. I think that like anything, you can find yourselves with too much of a good thing, so there is a need to strike a balance. Not everything needs to be recorded, shared, or stored online. Sometimes a good old fashioned brain-based memory can be the most powerful way to record an event - after all, our human memory bank can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
Either way, this behaviour is here to stay and does not show any signs of changing! What do you think? Do you use your smartphone at concerts, gigs or other live events? Let me know on twitter @mattbaldo100