July 23, 2024

Dancing with the devil: Mobile phones at live events

By: Julianna Bourjeaurd

“NO CELL PHONES OR FLASH CAMERA ON THE DANCEFLOOR. IT MAKES YOU LOOK LIKE A BORING PERSON THAT HAS NO VIBE.” Reads a Facebook post from Montreal-based Stereo nightclub last December. With 130 comments, 169 shares and over 1,400 reactions, this amount of engagement supports the common denouncement of phones at dance music events. While a majority of dance music venues across Europe prohibit the use of mobile phones, this post supports the idea that the increased use of social media at an event has started to threaten “vibes” and the community’s intimate culture.  

For example, one of the most esteemed dance music venues in North America, Stereo has a reputation to uphold. One that invites guests to get lost in the moment to the sounds of the world’s best DJs flowing through the stunning Funktion-One sound system and be a part of the experience – not just a bystander who whips out their phone to take Instagram and/or Snapchat stories or essentially do anything on a mobile that requires people to disconnect from the present. 

However, from a public relations perspective, why would you want to restrict the amount of free press and social media? Values. People in this realm value personal connection more than social media reach. Also, while that content is useful post-event for building a reputation, it has become a burden during actual performances. It deters crowds from a certain intimacy with each other and the artists performing. People have also started gravitating towards behind the decks at shows as opposed to in front of the speakers on the dance floor (where the sound is much better) to get footage that potentially elevates their social status. 

Since these would be non-issues if social media did not exist, I am led to believe that social media has altered the way people interact at events, myself included. I am definitely guilty of sliding my phone out if I love a track or want to be able to remember a magical moment. Stereo’s post made me reflect on my participation at an event – Am I on my phone too much? Why do I record my favorite track rather than savoring its sound in a unique space? Do I open time-flexible, unimportant Snapchats and Instagram memes from friends? Having reflected on this subject, I concluded that one or two quick videos is acceptable, but when social media consumes your entire experience it begins to hinder the overall ambience.   

This concept of disconnect applies to all genres and basically any scenario that involves physical interaction and mobile phones. Just last weekend I watched security guards make people stop recording at the Dierks Bentley concert at Matt Knight Arena! So, are we becoming boring people with no vibe? Has the thought of (and maybe addiction to) social media posts and self-proclaimed “images” we adhere to filtered so far into our subconscious that it is destroying the way we experience anything?

Website: www.juliannabourjeaurd.com

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16 thoughts on “Dancing with the devil: Mobile phones at live events

  1. Hi Julianna,

    I couldn’t agree more with your opinion on social media at concerts; every time my friends are at concerts their stories are a constant live stream. As annoying as it is for me to click through what seems like a never ending story must be even more annoying for the people who are actually at the concert. Social media use like this definitely does hinder the intimate experience that can only be found at concerts. Yes, one to two quick snip its of a favorite song or venue is acceptable as moderation is key in most social scenarios like this. However, incorporating the, “no cellphones or flash camera on the dance floor” rule to all concerts at festivals or concerts in general might lead to an interesting outcome, as many people do like to capture their experiences to be able to be nostalgic on later.

  2. Hey Julianna,

    I absolutely love that you made a connection to PR through this blog since PR is so relevant to a subject like this (also I might be a little biased since I’m a PR student). I couldn’t agree more about this concept of a “vibe killer.” Even when I’m not physically at a concert, I personally get very aggravated when I go on snapchat and see that a friend has left like 100 poor-quality snaps of a concert. They probably drove the people standing/sitting behind them crazy. I really appreciate your use of visual media, and that you included multiple links to your work.

  3. This is something I have been thinking about a ton lately, not just as a concert goer, but also as a photographer. I recently took pictures at a concert in Portland and as I was going through my shots I kept finding pictures where people were sticking their phones as high in the air as humanly possible just to get a video over the head of the person behind them. In several cases, the phones got in the way of my wide angle shots of the artist on stage. It was extremely frustrating. Even the people who got their hours early to get a spot at the front of the general admission pit were constantly throwing their phones in the air to get a clip. Phone use at concerts seems rampant and it would be nice if people could just slow down and enjoy the concert for a second rather than simply just watch it through their phones and hope it gets a lot of likes on social media. Happy to hear steps are being made to try to combat this.

  4. This issue is something I think almost everyone battles with now. People want to be where they are (like at a Dierks Bentley concert), but they also want to make the point to take pictures and videos to show their followers how much fun they’re happening at that same event. Your comment, Julianna, about how this wouldn’t be an issue “if social media didn’t exist” is an extremely important point. People are taking all these photos/videos to sit on their phone. They are taking these videos with the intention of sharing it with as many people as possible. Social media, and the psychological perks of having X amount of people “like” your awesome Beyonce concert pic, has become a part of the reason why people attend events. I hope as time goes on and people realize they don’t remember the event as vividly because they were on their phone the whole time, that their behavior changes and that security continues to enforce policies against using phones at events like this. As someone whose experience was tainted because the person in front of them had their phone up and recording the whole time, I completely stand by this initiative.

  5. Julianna! Such an interesting take on this issue. I agree that in this day and age real human experiences are clouded with the “pics or it didn’t happen” trajectory. It seems like sometimes people don’t even go to the concerts and festivals to enjoy their surroundings, they do it for their image on social media. I personally take responsibility for being one of those people who does try to enjoy my experience but also likes to document experiences so that I have something to look back on and remember. It is interesting the way you have phrased it, I will definitely think twice next time I’m on my cellphone at a concert.

  6. Julianna,

    I feel like I am caught between being a PR student and a concert goer. As a PR student I think like you, how can a company be okay with losing all of this free press? It can be difficult for a venue to be active on social media and have people genuinely engage with the content. Word of mouth is a great way to get people to become interested. However, as a concert goer, I detest people going on their phones and ruining my view. I also do not enjoy watching other people’s concert videos on social media. So if people are like me, this ban on phones could enhance the experience and possibly get free press by being a venue that doesn’t allow videos.

  7. Hi Julianna,

    I’m also guilty of pulling out my phone to record my favorite songs at concerts. When I was in high school, some of my friends would get annoyed with me for posting too many videos on my story. My motivation behind recording snippets of concerts is that I enjoy going back and reliving those memories. However, I think that it’s a problem when people are recording every single song. It definitely detracts from being in the moment. We’re so conditioned to constantly record events on our phones, that it can be difficult to break this habit.

  8. Hi Julianna,

    I completely agree with everything you wrote in this. I, unfortunately, am guilty of being on my phone more than I should be at events. I believe it is sadly a societal norm now to document everything we do on social media. I feel as if concerts and events are often drawing in an audience of people that not all connecting or caring about the performer of the actual event; but rather want to “show it off” on their social account. This has caused people to stray away from the event itself and be less present. I find (and I am once again guilty) that people are even planning their outfits, their posts, their poses, etc. around an event rather than actually engaging with what is occurring. I cannot remember the last time I attended an event or concert where I didn’t see at least half of the crowd with their phones out.

    Thanks for the great read!

  9. Hi Julianna,

    I think we are all guilty of pulling out our phones to record as soon as something funny or slightly entertaining is happening. This is because we want show people that we are having fun and doing cool things. Constent sharing is now a slightly sad reality that we all live in and I think it can often take away from the genuine fun of an experience. However, as social media professionals we have to find a balence between wanting people to share and wanting people to live in the moment and enjoy the expereinces we provide them with.

    This was very well written and a great read! Thanks for sharing :).

  10. Julianna,
    I love this post! It’s a topic that all of us are aware of, but don’t really look into and consider when we attend events. I have seen posts before that have said, “Why would I have bought a ticket to the show if I can just see it on Snapchat?” I have had my own theory for awhile for why people are submerged in their phones instead of being present at the event. I think on social media we want to project a certain persona and have a particular aesthetic. We want to share our experiences with others through social, and in return we get gratification. It makes us feel good when we receive a like or comment on something we post. Posting concert videos or photos is “proof” that we attended the event. We want others to acknowledge that we are at a cool event. We want to share the experience, but in doing that we then don’t get to experience it.

  11. Hi Julianna,
    I think many of us share a common experience where we’ve been that person that ’s seen someone at a concert or festival trying to record every single song and snap photos, blocking the view of you or others, and disconnecting themselves from the atmosphere. After reading your post, it made me think of Coachella and the ways that the festival has lost it’s authentic indie vibe when it first began. It’s become much more commercialized because now it’s a major marketing tool for fashion companies like Revolve. This influx of influencers has made this festival more about who’s wearing what than the actual experience and those performing. It’s kind of disheartening to see this happen; crowds glued to their phone, especially with festivals we love and actively attend. I think it’s neat that Stereo tries to discourage the use of cell phones, what’s the point of attending a concert if people aren’t living in the moment? Great read!

  12. Julianna,
    I agree with you when you say that one or two videos at a concert is acceptable, but when people are recording the whole event and posting it on social media it is inevitable to become disconnected from the present. As an actual bystander who is not physically at a concert but a person who I am friends with on social media is, one of two opinions may come into play. 1: Myself, as a bystander, will become extremely aggravated by my “friends” constant and low quality videos being posted that I absolutely could care less about; 2: I will have seen so much of the concert already, that I will no longer feel the need to experience it myself one day. Overall, phones at concerts just do not do any good for those who are at the concert, those who are friends with people at the concert, and those putting on the concert.

  13. This reminds me of a story I heard about Paul McCartney. He played a show at the Cavern Club in Liverpool (one of the Beatles’ earliest venues), and he requested that no one use their cell phones during the show. He said that it made the event so much better because everyone was only focused on the music. I’ll admit that when I go to a concert I’ll usually take a video, but I never actually go back and watch that video. Also, being somewhat short, it’s incredibly annoying when people have their phones stuck up over their heads to take videos, it makes seeing even harder. There’s really no winners when people take videos of concerts. Stereo did a good job at recognizing that, and setting itself apart by not allowing phone use.

  14. Personally, I think there is nothing worse than opening my Snapchat and seeing that a friend posted a solid five minutes of audio from a concert the night before. I also know myself well enough that when I take my phone out at a concert to take a video, that video is going to sit in my files and likely never be watched again. However, I am the girl who will pay more to have physical tickets sent to my mailbox rather than having an e-ticket on my phone. That’s how I like to remember things. This isn’t to say I haven’t put a fun boomerang on my Instagram story at music venue. I won’t pretend I’m THAT against it. But at the end of the day, the sound quality is pretty bad, and most people are gonna click through and not listen to it anyway, so I’d much rather enjoy the moment with my phone stashed in my pocket. The way you wrote about this is really intriguing, and I’m glad you brought up the topic, because it really is relevant these days. I think our generation is very stuck behind their phones, and a concert is a place where we should be embracing the time we’re spending there.

  15. This is all so true. Not only does the incessant recording detract from our presence (physically and mentally BEING there) and the experience for all there, but it’s terrible. Have you ever received a snap or a video from a friend at a concert or club? Did you enjoy it? Likely not. The blaring music and flashing lights render the scene unintelligible, punctuated by the drunken slurred language of your friend mumbling something something about how great it is and then “WOOOOOOOOOO!” Miss me with the woo.

    Look at it from the other angle. Do you like being recorded by a bunch of drunken woo-girls/guys, hogging up space and recording a scene of other people recording the same place on their phones like some hellish form of dance entertainment a la Inception?

    I’ll start a slow clap for businesses sticking up for the quality of experience in their venues. Good for them!

  16. Thank you for sharing this! Cell phones at events are SO ANNOYING! I get wanting to capture the moment but I have been to concerts where the person in front of me records the entire time and it’s beyond distracting. But you bring up a really good point on the public relations standpoint. You want people to share the videos and their experiences because it helps sell the experience. It’s hard to find a happy medium!

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