For years, concertgoers would have to take special measures to sneak a camera into a show. However, smaller digital cameras are now allowed, and venues don’t confiscate smartphones, thus leaving bands to take matters into their own hands.
At a recent performance at Webster Hall in New York, rock group Yeah Yeah Yeahs opted to post a sign that encouraged fans to keep their eyes on the stage, not on their handheld screens. It read:
“Please do not watch the show through a screen on your smart device/camera. Put that s#@t away as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian. Much love and many thanks! Yeah Yeah Yeahs.” For those unfamiliar, Nick Zinner (guitar), Karen O (vocals), and Brian Chase (drums), make up this excellent trio.
Instead of letting it sit there, O reinforced the point after the first song, and offered a bit of a compromise: snap some footage for a few minutes, and then put the devices away.
Music publication SPIN, who first reported the sign, noted that many respected this request, but a few continued to keep their screens glowing.
(Photo by: SPIN)
I’ve been to countless shows throughout my life, and must admit that while it’s incredible to have the power to capture quality images, and so-so videos at concerts, I support what Yeah Yeah Yeahs are going for here…especially in terms of trying to stop attendees from blocking the sightlines of others by holding a camera or phone above their heads and (in some cases) panning, in order to capture the experience.
It also doesn’t help that, at least in terms of photo taking, documenting a concert is challenging. If you’re in an arena, stadium, or outdoor venue at night, it does take some time to dial in the correct settings on a camera and even a smartphone. When someone in front of you is continually attempting to get this right, and wants a lot of shots, it can make for a long, annoying night. Not everyone just knows how to do this…unfortunately.
Perhaps the biggest thing that these wannabe documenters are doing here is missing out on the experience of a concert. Now, many will have differing opinions regarding what a concert “experience” should consist of, but to me, something gets lost when you spend a chunk of the night attempting to view it upon a handheld screen. Sure, it’s nice to have stored memories to look back upon, or to share and brag about via Facebook, but important stuff can still be missed.
Now it can be argued that Yeah Yeah Yeahs are causing themselves a bit of harm here by asking fans to keep all screens down. In the digital era, the sharing of such content grabbed by such devices over social media sites, blogs, and YouTube can help expand the profiles of certain bands, which could and should lead to more ticket and album sales. To try and cut this down is a ballsy move by a ballsy band.
Yes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ new point of view may alienate some, but it’s not really a new thing. Many venues pounce (so to speak) on people attempting to capture footage of their favourite bands in action. Unfortunately, with thousands of fans on any given night having a photo- and video-ready device in hand, implementing zero tolerance policies is a nice idea, but more so a waste of time.
Just enjoy the show.