Comment Writer Rhi Storer criticises Valentine's Day's narrow representation of sexuality and genderWritten by Rhi Storer on 17th February 2018
Should Phones Be Banned At Gigs?
Comment Writer Niamh Brennan discusses whether mobile devices such as mobile phones should be banned at live performances
As part of his Total Blackout Tour, Chris Rock implemented a ban on the use of all mobile phones during his shows. Phones are locked up in a ‘Yondr’ pouch for the duration and unlocked at the end by staff members. The ban has been hailed as ‘refreshing’, providing a chance to ‘actually be able to enjoy the show’, however several people were less appreciative. Some referred to it as ‘restrictive’, whilst others mused over whether it was acceptable to limit freedom of communication in such a way.
“Phones at gigs are infuriating. No one likes to have their view of a performance impaired by the show being mirrored in miniature hundreds of times in front of them.
Whilst using phones during live performances has become the norm, it seems like a reasonable request for an artist to ask for it to stop. Phones at gigs are infuriating. No one likes to have their view of a performance impaired by the show being mirrored in miniature hundreds of times in front of them. They obscure and reduce the experience for the audience and artist alike. A show is a two-way experience, the artist looks for audience communication to gauge a reception from their material. An artist will never be able to guarantee their best performance if they don’t know what the audience is enjoying through an obscured crowd hidden behind technology.
Flash photography and professional filming have been banned from most gigs for years, both because they pose a distraction to the artist and the audience, and because they provide a platform for unfair replication and profiting off of an artist’s hard work. With the advancement of phone technology, phones now can be considered to fall into the same category, and perhaps should be treated the same way.
There are many types of show where it is clearly never acceptable to film or take photos of the production. At a theatre performance or the cinema, it would be highly offensive, if not illegal, to record or take pictures of the show. Where, then, is the line drawn between the value of a visual production as art, and the value of stand-up comedy or music gigs as art? For each one, you pay the artist to provide a service, one which they work hard to compile for an audience, who should appreciate it in the moment as a consumer. This service should not be taken advantage of for some shows and not for others.
Whilst phones at gigs are clearly annoying, this arguably does not mean that we should go as far as to ban them. The idea of a phone free haven may be a good idea in theory, but the practicality of introducing a locked pouch as the only guaranteed way of ensuring they are kept away is problematic in itself. Many people would already have queued to get to a venue, waited for the show to begin, and waited to exit the building at the end. To add another lengthy wait for a phone to be unlocked would be potentially more infuriating than the phones itself.
“When contemplating tragedies such as the Manchester Arena attack, it’s important to see how integral phone communication was in such a panic induced event
At a more serious level; when contemplating tragedies such as the Manchester Arena attack, it’s important to see how integral phone communication was in such a panic induced event. Phones were used for reuniting families, getting in contact with the community and finding out about safe spaces among many other uses. It is an extreme example but shows that it is important to have access to a phone during a gig too.
Whilst Chris Rock’s phone ban received more acceptance than rejection overall, the using phones at the theatre, cinema or at comedy shows is far less frequent than at concerts, and thus the practicality of it is far more feasible in this instance. The normalisation of filming a concert is becoming part of the experience. Perhaps this is something we will never be able to escape, but as a collective community, we should start taking into account how we interact at gigs as consumers receiving a piece of art. We can only hope that this normalisation never occurs in theatre, movies, and with the help of those such as Rock, comedy performances, and that these spaces remain firmly phone free. Audiences should be more aware of other people and the artist at a gig and try to restrict instances in which we experience gigs through our phones. This will prevent complete phone bans and also make the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved.