The Controversy of Cell Phones at Concerts / by Miachelle DePiano

Photography BB King for the East Valley Tribune in 2013 was one of my career highlights; no cell phone could have mimicked this. (C) Miachelle DePiano

Photography BB King for the East Valley Tribune in 2013 was one of my career highlights; no cell phone could have mimicked this. (C) Miachelle DePiano

Recently I read an article that Steven Tyler got rather perturbed, to put it mildly, at fans using their cell phones to take pictures or video his concert. He isn’t the first rock star to get more than a titch upset. There is a growing ire at fans using cell phones at concerts, and some performers are using Yondr or other methods to restrict cell phone usage during the show.

Over the years, shooting at different venues as an authorized photographer, I’ve gotten shots ruined with cell phones being raised in the midst of my frame. As I mentioned in my last post, I usually have 2-3 songs, and every second counts.

However, I also go to shows as a spectator.

And as a photographer, going as a spectator, my mind’s eye doesn’t shut down. It’s still working, and it kills me that I don’t have my pro gear with me. So yes, periodically, I whip out my Google Pixel2XL, and I grab a few shots.

So I completely empathize with other fans. Having said that, I see the perspectives of both sides.

If I may take a guess at the audience perspective:

  1. We aren’t just hearing the performer(s). We are experiencing everything about the show visually, too. And sometimes with other senses, depending on the person and the situation.

  2. The performer is powerful and beautiful in their presentation. The performer captures our imaginations and stirs our brains up in ways we don’t experience on a normal basis outside of maybe certain substance use. There is a certain natural urge to solidify that beauty and carry it with us.

  3. Most of us grow up inundated with powerful visuals of performers since we are able to understand imagery and portraiture. It’s difficult to disassociate imagery and the music industry, and not want to capture a piece of our own individual experience.

  4. Speaking of growing up, some of these performers that get irate about cell phones…I hate to say it, but they are now the legends of the industry. To be quite honest, they are precious to most of us, and yeah, we want that photo that says, “ I was lucky, I was there, I saw them.” We know our time to enjoy their talent is drawing near.

Conversely, from the performer perspective:

  1. These people spend long hours on the road, away from loved ones, so they can entertain you and make a living. They are looking for direct feedback and connection with YOU, a human being. Outside of the money they make, that connection with YOU is what helps feed their soul and keeps them doing what they do. They don’t want to look at a sea of cell phones, show after show. Would you? Probably not.

  2. There are pirates out there who illegally sell videos of the concerts or performances, or illegally sell merchandise from trademarked images from these performers. These performers have a right to protect their intellectual property, their creativity, and earn a living from that. They don’t want to risk you being that pirate stealing their livelihood.

  3. It’s one thing to snap a couple of shots, but there is a certain truth to how much are you missing out on when you stand there capturing video of the ENTIRE SHOW, watching the concert through the cell phone screen, in front of the stage?? And yes, I saw this recently at a show I attended. I couldn’t understand how the woman had that much memory on her cell phone.

I don’t pretend to have a solution. I wish concert attendees would use a bit more discretion, common sense and courtesy, and not be so fixated on capturing the entire concert on their cell phone. I also wish performers would remember they used the power of imagery along with the power of their music to climb to the top, and remember the audience experiences their creations on more than one level.