By Jon Wiederhorn
The popularity of YouTube and other social media sites have turned even intimate concerts into collaborative video events. On the positive side, it's convenient to log onto YouTube and occasionally see a decent-quality clip of a concert you missed, or a song a band previewed at a show. On the downside, it’s annoying as hell to try to watch a concert through a sea of arms holding their cell phones aloft like torches.
Recently, numerous artists from classical to classic rock have spoken out about fans that film concerts. Prince has banned cell phones at his shows; and, in April before a gig at New York's Webster Hall, alternative rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs placed a sign on the door as fans entered the venue that read: "Please do not watch the show through a screen on your smart device/camera. Put that s*** away as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian."
NME recently asked various musicians how they felt about fans filming concerts. Ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, who released his first solo album The Messenger this year, was the harshest critic.
"To stand there and just look at [a concert] through [a] phone is a completely wasted opportunity," he said — then became even more emphatic.
"I don't mean to be unkind, but I think you should just put your phone down because you're just being a d***, really. Just enjoy the gig. It's a d*** job, filming a show. Let someone else be the d*** and watch it on YouTube."
Most musicians interviewed by NME.com didn't complain about the annoyance of phones held high or the money they'll potentially lose from DVD sales. They seemed more concerned that those who are busy shooting a show don't enjoy the most important part of being there in the first place.
"You're really missing a sensory experience," Marr said. "One of the things about gigs is taking in what's going on with people around you. Watching on a little screen – what a waste of time."
Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis agreed: "Part of the wider temptation [when you] go around an aquarium, is, instead of looking at the fish you take photos of the fish so you can show your friends and pretend you understand what a barramundi is. I think it's better just to go and experience the gig."
"I don't know why they bother," added Alt-J keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton. "It's going to look and sound really rubbish. And you're hampering your own enjoyment of the gig by not concentrating on being there in the moment."
Some acts were more diplomatic. Fans with phones, they claim, are the least of their problems. "I have no problem with people making films at gigs," said Biffy Clyro drummer Ben Johnston. "Almost everyone's life is online all the time at the moment. We're not one of these bands that'll say don't film us."
Deap Vally drummer Julie Edwards took a free-spirited perspective on the issue. "I try not to hate anything people are doing at our gigs because I think hate is kind of a drag," she said. "So I guess my message would people that people should be allowed to film if they want. What’s the big deal?"