Is It OK To Use Your Smartphone At A Concert?

Earlier this week, another one of WRVU’s staff writers talked about Concert Do’s and Don’t’s. One of the suggest modes of concert etiquette was “Don’t experience the concert through the lens of your camera.” I feel like this has become a hot topic among my friends and me throughout the past few years; increasingly so as apps like Snapchat and Instagram have become more and more popular. So I’m here to talk about what I think, what the good people of the Internet think, and what artists think about smartphones at concerts.


First of all, I thought I’d give this discussion some background…

I looked up reasons why people even go to concerts in the first place. Some claim to dislike concerts altogether, citing bad sound, uncomfortable accommodations, expenses, and obstacles like parking, among other things.

For those who enjoy concerts, I noticed that a lot of people enjoyed the shared experience that a concert provides. Not only is a concert attendee able to hear their favorite songs played in an intimate setting, they get to share that experience with a whole bunch of strangers who share their favorite songs. It’s unity, it’s family, it’s a shared reason for putting in the effort and the money to be there.

In my experience, that’s one of the best things about going to a concert. It’s the same exuberance you can get from attending an important sports game and high-fiving the strangers around you as your team scores. It’s the same feeling you get when your professor decides to offer extra credit and the entire class cheers.

Can you imagine how difference a sports game would be if when your team scored a touchdown or hit a home run, everyone around you was on their phone? If when your professor delivered good news and you looked around the room for a smile and all you saw were phones, would you not be a bit disappointed?

It’s not that I expect everyone at a concert to become best friends within those few hours, but by recording a show or taking a profuse amount of photos you’re choosing to connect with Youtube viewers, Instagram followers or Snapchat friends and you’re ignoring the present-tense community around you.

Beyond that, you’re distracting.

Maybe it’s not such a crime to want to be disconnected from me at a concert if we’ve never met but your phone is cutting off my connection from the artist. Unless you are ABSOLUTELY the furthest person from the stage, if you are holding your phone above your head, everyone behind you is forced to watch the show through a screen. Maybe you don’t care about a concert experience but it’s not fair to assume everyone else doesn’t.

More and more, artists are agreeing.

Beyonce, The Savages, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, She & Him, Johnny Marr, Kate Bush, Prince, Jarvis Cocker, Krystian Zimerman, Bjork, The Black Crowes, Roger Waters, and Jack White are all high-profile musicians who have taken a stance on cell phone use at their concerts. From directly confronting specific fans to walking off stage, to banning cell phones altogether, these artists argue that to use your cellphone at a concert is disrespectful. At the start of this video Jack White discusses his ban on cellphones and Beyonce scolds a fan for not remembering to “seize this moment.”

And it effects musicians and concert-goers in all genres. Below, the concert pianist Christian Zacharias stops playing in the middle of Haydn’s Piano Concerto and then goes on to discuss his opinions of cell phones at concerts.

Still not convinced to put away your phone? Here are some other reasons: 

1. The photos are usually always bad. Even if you’re pretty close to the artist, somehow they always look like you’re much farther

2. The videos have horrifying sound quality

3. You’ll probably never watch the videos again

4. None of your friends want to watch a full-concert length, or even a full song length, shaky, poor-quality video

Alternatives to using your phone at a concert:

1. Lively – a company that creates and shares high quality video of concerts, often partnering with the artist to get it posted quickly, so that you can promptly show all of your friends how great the concert was and legally rewatch your favorite parts whenever you want. Better yet,

“To maintain a bit of the bootleg appeal, Lively initially makes downloads available only to actual concert goers. ‘It’s kind of an ego thing to say, you know, I was at that show,’ says Graziano, who explains that the Lively app tracks people via GPS to make sure they’re physically present at a specific venue. Adds Joseph Aldulaimi, who represents artists at Framework Music Management: ‘A Lively set is arguably the best souvenir a fan can leave a show with.'”

2. Evntlive and Concert Window – let you watch concerts stream live from the comfort of your computer. Hey, if you don’t want to fully experience the concert anyways, might as well just watch it at home.

3. Yondr – allows artists and venues to provide special cases that cannot be opened until the event has ended to audience members. Yondr explains,

“In some situations, [smartphones] have become a distraction and a crutch — cutting people off from each other and their immediate surroundings. Yondr has a simple purpose: to show people how powerful a moment can be when we aren’t focused on documenting or broadcasting it,”

If You Absolutely Must:

There’s an app called Kimd that lets users take photos and videos with a darkened screen, creating a more considerate way of documenting your experience.