Should smartphones be banned during concerts?

Should smartphones be banned during concerts?

No phone. This is the instruction received by the few journalists and influencers handpicked who were able to attend the concert given by Beyoncé, on January 21, in the Atlantis the Royal hotel complex in Dubai. They even had to put their smartphones in locked pockets so they wouldn’t be tempted to record snippets of the performance, according to the Guardian. But this precautionary measure did not prevent several pirate videos from circulating on social networks as soon as the concert ended. To the delight of fans of the American singer.

This case illustrates how mobile phones have become part of our entertainment. There is not a concert or a music festival without the artist on stage having to perform in front of a cloud of smartphones raised to film or photograph him. Some have come to terms with it and have integrated the codes of social networks into the scenography of their shows, while others are less and less tolerant of the intrusion of these technological devices into concert halls.

Neoprene pouches for resistance

This is the case of Mitski. The Japanese-American singer rose up in February against this phenomenon on Twitter, even though she had officially left social networks in 2019. She explained in a series of tweets, which the Los Angeles Times before they were removed, how uncomfortable the presence of smartphones during her performances made her. “When I’m on stage and I’m looking at you but you’re looking at a screen, I feel like those of us on stage are taken and consumed as content, instead of being able to share a moment with you,” Mitski wrote.

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Many artists and bands like Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys, Kendrick Lamar, Guns N’ Roses and The Lumineers ask their fans to preserve the magic of concerts by refraining from taking out their phones while on stage. “This combination of people, here and now, will never happen again. And we’d like to remember that. So please, bitte schön, can we do a song together without a phone?” Chris Martin said, the leader of Coldplay, in July 2022, during a performance in Frankfurt, Germany.

Some go further by prohibiting, purely and simply, the use of smartphones during their concerts. Jack White was a pioneer of the genre by teaming up, in 2018, with the Californian start-up Yondr. This has developed a neoprene pouch, intended to collect the telephones of spectators at the entrance to the concert. They are then sealed with a type of clothing lock. The goal: to ensure everyone a concert without the slightest distraction. Yondr founder Graham Dugoni even claimed in an interview with New York Times that these covers “help people live in the digital age in a way that doesn’t strip all the meaning out of their lives”.

The pressure of all-digital on musical creation

But what do the fans think? Are they ready to temporarily give up these jewels of technology that allow them to share every moment of their lives with strangers? Difficult to answer this question, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, the temporary cessation of concerts and festivals has prompted music lovers to be entertained online. They then turned to video game platforms like Fortnite, Roblox and Minecraft to see their idols on stage in the form of hyper-realistic avatars. They could comment on these futuristic representations live with their relatives on Twitter and others, screenshot in support.

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But “physical” concerts do not lend themselves to this digital immediacy. The artists conceive of them as privileged moments with their audience, far from the pressure of social networks. “In the presence of the cameras, we say to ourselves: ‘I don’t know if I want to try this dance step tonight’, or we are afraid that the joke we made will be broadcast on the Internet”, confided the singer Bruno March at the Los Angeles Times in 2022.

This desire to distance itself from all-digital is not limited to concerts and festivals. Many musicians of international stature denounce the pressure they face from record companies to produce content for social networks, and especially TikTok. And this, even if their musical creations are not aimed at (very) young users of these platforms. Multi-award winning singer Adele said in an interview with Apple Music that she absolutely does not want to become popular on TikTok. “I prefer to talk to people who are on my level in terms of how many years we’ve been on Earth and the things we’ve been through,” she explained. “I don’t want 12 year olds listening to the album [“30″]. It’s a little too deep.”

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