Gigs: Live or Record?

Protests from bands concerning the recordings of their gigs have recently triggered a debate as to whether its right that we all seem to view experiences through our mobile phone screen.

Bands like indie rock group, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have taken to putting up signs banning the use of mobile devices; providing the audience with a set time for photographs and insisting they enjoy the experience. Valid point I think; you pay to see the real deal, not grainy footage through a tiny screen. It appears I’m not alone in this, as many music fans celebrate no longer having mobiles thrust into their line of sight.

Recently I had a chance to experience this to an extreme. I’m sitting in Wembley Stadium, surrounded by 80,000 people. Justin Timberlake has just taken to the Capital Summertime Ball stage for an exclusive acoustic set; it’s a once in a lifetime moment. I’m tempted to follow suit of pretty much everyone around me and whip out my phone to record it. Surely I’ll want to watch this over and over again, right? I’ll need to show it to everyone I meet, won’t I?

This never happens. I forget about the video, get a new phone and then regret I didn’t just soak up the atmosphere at the time. So I put it back in my pocket. I sat, and I watched and I soaked up that moment. And it was one the best musical experiences I’ve seen. I might not be able to show anyone, but really, I don’t think they’ll be that bothered. No-one enjoys watching them grainy mobile videos of an artist so far away. For all they can see, it might not even be Justin Timberlake anyway- it might as well be a tramp dressed up in a suit.

Some bands, including indie group Alt-J, have pioneered a new piece of technology to prevent experiences being ruined by phone quality recordings. The Soundhalo video app allows fans to download tracks to their smartphones immediately after they’re performed. But again to me, this sounds too much deterrence away from the event. Having to go online, download the app, buy the song…all that would take me until the end of the gig, let alone the one song!

For me, the experience of a music gig should be savoured; (especially with the cost of some tickets-but that’s another argument altogether!) The focus on videoing shows appears to not only distract the audience, but also project a negative impression of a bands live show. Camera phone footage will never be as good as the real life show, no matter how good you claim your device to be. Enjoy those moments for real, rather than through a screen- they may be once in a lifetime, and you never want to miss those.

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