Recording vs Watching

In the world of concerts, there are unspoken rules that all must obey. For example, throwing a bra onstage can only occur during a fast song. If you’re going to hold up a poster you should only do so for the duration of two songs at most. One should never judge others for how they sing or dance in the crowd.

One area tends to lack standard regulation. It is the topic of discussion amongst concert-goers in this day and age: the great debate of the cell phone.

Since their creation, smartphones have been used for visually recording concerts. The evidence of this is ever-present in the depths of YouTube. Thousands of low quality, bass filled shaky videos have been uploaded to the website. People use this method to share the experience with those who could not attend the concert.

In the realm of concerts, many believe that it is disrespectful to spend the concert recording and poking commands into a phone. In the spring of 2016, Adele called out an audience member in one of her concerts in Italy for filming rather than paying attention to the show in front of her eyes. Immediately Twitter exploded with tweets for and against Adele’s stance. Those who supported her said that hiding behind a screen and recording something to watch later is a waste of time and money. Those who opposed her said that audience members who pay hundreds to thousands of dollars for a ticket can spend the concert enjoying it in a way that suits them.

I saw the The 1975 in concert in December of 2014 and I specifically remember one song of their set. The song, called “The City,” was one of the faster songs on the album. The band slowed it down and specifically asked all members of the audience to completely put their phones away. No recording, no photographing, no waving a flashlight in the air. The moment was so intimate and serene that some audience members started crying. It was probably the first time many of us had experienced a phone-free moment of a concert, and it was more memorable than a video would have been.

When I was a freshman in high school I went to see my favorite band of all time, Maroon 5. I recorded the entire first half of the show right up until my phone died. During the second half, the band preformed an acapella version of their hit “She Will Be Loved.” They orchestrated it so that the crowd harmonized with their voices. The result was chilling, and it was by far the best version of the song I had ever heard. To this day I regret not getting at least the audio saved so I could revisit that incredible moment.

I do not claim to know whether or not recording a concert on a phone is the “right way” to spend your time. All I know is that after spending my money on several concerts during my life, I have spent my time either with or without my phone, and I have had good experiences one way and the other. I would like to get the input of people from a span of generations, as well as people who like a range of musical genres and see how others weigh in on this topic.

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