Cell phone use at concerts disturbs relationship between musician and audience

Since the birth of our precious smart phones, our handheld devices have infected concerts like the Black Plague infected Europeans. Cell phone use has universally transformed the concert experience. Indoor concert venues now look like a dark sky with shiny, flashing cell phone stars; planetariums everywhere are in danger of going out of business. Watching a live concert now entails watching a live concert on an additional 500 tiny screens in front of you.

Is this tragic transformation the end of the authentic live music experience? Well, the answer is subjective. It probably depends on how many Snapchat followers you have.

I recently attended the Austin City Limits music festival during weekend two. At some concerts, I could barely see the stage behind the waves of cell phones.

During both Deadmau3 and Drake’s concert, there were times when I realized I was the only one dancing and singing along while surrounded by the smart phone tsunami. 

Of course, my immediate thoughts were: Is everyone intimidated by my dance moves and afraid to dance among the next Beyoncé? Did I underestimate the amount of independent filmmakers in this hipster-ridden town?

But I was mistaken. I shortly realized this was just how concerts are now. Cell phone use is heavy in the front of crowds where the wild, squealing teenage girl can be observed in her natural habitat. If I wanted to avoid others’ screens, I would have to hang out on the blankets in the back with the other grandmas and grandpas who refuse to embrace this contemporary concert etiquette.

Unexpectedly, a poet known as A$AP Rocky shared my thoughts about the cell phone plague. A$AP shouted at his crowd at one point to put the phones down, jump around and throw their hands up. 

Holding his purple drank, he proceeded to slur-sing, “Let me see your hands in the air!” for at least a minute, attempting to engage his audience in the present moment.

A$AP, a rapper known for prolific words such as “I love bad b****es that’s my f***in’ problem,” led me to ponder the expectations performers have for their audience.

We often view concerts as a one-way conversation and as a means for our own entertainment. Could it be possible that artists have just as high expectations, if not more, for their audience?

Jack White, lead singer of the White Stripes, is known for discouraging cell phone use at his concerts. Other bands, such as She & Him, have followed suit, requesting the audience to minimalize cell phone use. 

They obviously have an idea of how they want their audience to act and what they want them to get out of the performance.

These musical artists expect their audience to treat them like artists. They receive the benefit of watching people experience their art, while we receive the benefit of becoming enraptured in their art. Live performances cultivate a mutual relationship between the artist and viewer; the audience should not use the artist solely as a means of gaining social wealth.

Advocates of cell phone use at concerts claim that videos allow music fans to preserve their concert experience forever. They can replay songs and remember how it made them feel in that moment. Videos allow people to notice other aspects of the artist’s performance they might not have appreciated in the moment.

However, I saw many people at ACL recording videos particularly through the app Snapchat. Snapchat encourages people to share videos ten seconds or less with their selected friends. These videos disappear after a day of appearing on someone’s “Story.”

Snapchatting a concert is not an act of music preservation. The majority of Snapchat users post videos of concerts for the sole purpose of bragging rights. It is a statement that says, “Hey everyone, look how much fun I’m having!”

Hey Snapchat enthusiast, here’s a suggestion: why don’t you put your dumb smart phone away and actually have fun?

ACL newcomer A$AP Rocky and veteran performer Jack White share at least one idea in common: Cell phone use produces a synthetic concert experience.

As more babies are born each year with smart phones and accessories included, the future of live music drifts aimlessly toward the iCloud.

Why does our generation value the idea of “sharing moments” over “experiencing moments?” I blame your damn catchy tagline, Kodak!