Battle of the Bands (Who Hate Your iPhone): Should Concerts Outlaw Cell Phone Photos?

Unless you’re seeing a concert in a stadium, getting a good sight-line is hard enough as it stands: Unless you are tall-folk, you’re trying to see over the head of front-row tall folk. And if it’s not tall (or taller) folk—now that nearly everyone’s cell phone has a halfway decent camera affixed to it as a standard feature—it’s their phones. And if it’s not tall people’s phones, it’s everyone else’s phones. Because cell phones are now as standard a live music fixture as overpriced drinks and that high-pitched “eeeeeeeeee” sound of your hearing dying. And the desire to Instagram or Facebook or Tumblr a moment at a concert from one’s phone is—as going to pretty much any concert in 2012 will demonstrate—apparently insatiable. And we, as a people—or at least, the people of some respectably metropolitan cities—are better than that.

Or so one club would like to think.

One of Washington D.C.’s go-to music venues, the 9:30 Club, recently announced a ban on cell-phone photography before an M. Ward concert. NPR music blog All Songs Considered was none too pleased to be instructed:

When I walked in the front doors of the club to see an M. Ward show recently, I was surprised that I, along with everyone else getting their hand stamped, received the following marching orders: “Tonight, no photography or videos. Including cell phones.” When the kind folks at the door told me that, I thought to myself, “Really? At the 9:30 Club?”

Really. Of course, said blogger took it to Twitter, and even singer-songwriter Neko Case weighed in on the debate (“Just put the phone away and watch the show. That IS why he is traveling THOUSANDS of miles to play”). But they were still peeved:

The idea of being at a club or a public event, standing around and not being able to silently share seems almost old fashioned to me.

Concert venues in New York don’t have policies on this. But they should. In the same way you can’t—or generally shouldn’t, by unspoken rule—take photos or video at the theater, or at the opera, or at dance performances, you shouldn’t be able to ruin great New York City concerts anymore with your absurd cameraphone pictures. This is, in no particular order, why:

  • Your pictures aren’t that great.
  • You’re impeding on somebody’s sightline.
  • You’re inherently removing yourself from the experience of being a concertgoer by becoming a concert documenter, which will remove the people around you from their respective concertgoing experiences.
  • Nobody on Facebook really cares all that much that you went to a concert.
  • Nobody on Instagram really cares all that much that you went to a concert.
  • Nobody on any social network really cares all that much that you went to a concert.
  • Your bad photographs will not help you relieve the moment of the concert you missed, anyway, because you were taking a picture.
  • Unless you are at a Coldplay concert, the band you are seeing probably doesn’t appreciate it either, and if they see you documenting the good time you could be having, they may be less incentivized to show you a good time. Or I would be, if I played in a band that wasn’t as happy to see your cameraphone as Coldplay probably is.
Or maybe these are the thoughts of a concert curmudgeon. Or someone who just doesn’t care about seeing Coldplay in concert. Or someone who wishes the Bowery Ballroom would ban cell phones, because concerts there would simply be better. But they are the thoughts of someone who has been annoyed by your cell phone photos of a concert. And they are surely not the first of their kind.

Put Down The Camera And Watch The Show … Really? [NPR/All Songs Considered] | @weareyourfek
Battle of the Bands (Who Hate Your iPhone): Should Concerts Outlaw Cell Phone Photos?