Chloë Cochran, BA Global Popular Music
I go to a lot of gigs. I study music, have a radio show, and believe seeing live music is one of the most cathartic experiences. For an atheist, I think this is the closest thing to spirituality I will find. But something has been different since the dawn of the century when attending gigs. When I watch old footage of my favourite bands from before the millennium performing live, I notice one thing is missing: phones. Where the audience used to be an integral part of the performance, enthralled in an equal exchange of socially understood interactions between performer and audience member, I now see a disconnect. With the invention of social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, and the desire to share each experience, I find myself wondering: do people go to gigs to see the music, or simply to share it with their 300 followers so they can put some form of worth on an experience which has always been priceless?
Now I’m not saying I don’t understand. I’m a photographer and I can appreciate that a photograph can act as a memory. Why take a camera when you have a very decent, portable one on your phone, and why not share what you are doing with your friends? But when I last went to a gig, I looked around me and everyone was filming… for the whole gig. One woman, who was standing slightly in front of me, spent 10 minutes making sure she had tagged the band, the venue, and gotten all the hashtags right, picked the right filter, and cropped the video so it was the best part. While this was happening, the band were performing a great set.
So, I started looking around more. Realising that the majority of the people at every live music event I have ever been to have been watching through their phones. According to an article on HuffPost, 47 percent of the audience text others while at a gig, and 32 percent engage in social media during the show. I’m not disputing that memories aren’t important, and I understand that this means visual evidence as much as cognitive, but you are there to see the band/artist, not to film it. Will you really look at the hundreds of videos and pictures you took when you spend your time filming? Probably not, but if you’re lucky you’ll remember how great it sounded, how the music made you feel, or how you felt like for a second everyone in the room were all connected.
In a world where everything is at our fingertips, including our friends, our desire to share every experience with the world is robbing us of intimacy.
We are no longer satisfied simply being at the gig with those around us, but must share with more people. I’m not suggesting that social media has solely negative effects, but I don’t think enough importance is put on checking out of the digital world and sharing an experience with those around you. Even just for an hour while listening to a band.
In response to this, more and more musicians are challenging this idea, encouraging fans to put down their phones in favour of experiencing the event. The Guardian reports that Jack White has banned the use of phones at his gigs in order to create a “100 percent human experience” and following this, American rapper Kendrick Lamar also jumped on the bandwagon. Other artists such as Roger Waters, the late Prince, Jarvis Cocker and Alicia Keys have also spoken about against the use of cell phones at gigs. With artists of this calibre urging fans to put down their phones and enjoy the experience, will the audience abandon technology? Or will they simply ignore the preaching of the “temperamental artist” and continue to embrace technology over human interaction.
Credit: Chloë Cochran