The culture and excitement associated with concerts has changed in recent years with the advancement of smartphone technology. When fans’ glow sticks waved and lighters were held up at concerts, they were sharing the live event with fellow concertgoers. Now phones double as flashlights to wave around and a link to followers on social media.
Not everyone’s a fan of the trend.
“It violates my personal space,” said Ollie Sznajder, 18, a first-year Humber College social service worker student. “You pay money to see artists, not their fans’ phones. Apparently it’s all about who has been to the performance, so people need to prove to social media that they were there.”
When smartphones were not a common accessory at live music events, fans would bring their own glow sticks from home or buy them at the merchandise table with the performing artist’s name printed on it. The custom glow stick would also be a souvenir from the show, although it didn’t glow for long.
“It makes me feel bad to see phones everywhere at shows,” said Anthony Clarke, 22, a Toronto events promoter. “Most people filming it are just watching through their screens, even when the artist is up close and personal with them.
“I like to make posters when I go to shows if they’re allowed in the venue,” said Clarke. “I took my younger sister to Justin Bieber a few years ago, and she loved holding up her sign, so there is definitely still hope for some.”
When a big name artist is performing in the city, a simple scroll through Instagram or Twitter provides updates for fans who couldn’t make it. It’s may be fine for them, but it also shows many audience members are paying little attention to what’s in front of them.
“I think it’s annoying because you’re not there to record a video and watch it later, you’re there to experience your favourite artist in the moment,” said Brittani-Cowell Gardner, 21, a third-year Humber Criminal Justice student. “You can watch a YouTube video any day, and since you’re already spending so much money to go there, just put your phone away.”
Sometimes performers will ask their audience to put their phones away for a song or two, but it’s next to impossible to control so many people.
“I went to see Kanye West a couple years ago and I was sitting in the 100s section of the ACC, and you could see everyone on their phones,” said Cowell-Gardner. “He even told the audience to put their phones away and enjoy the performance, but you can’t really control hundreds of screaming fans.”
Kevin Hart’s recent What Now? tour had a strict no-phone policy during his stand-up performances because the comedian didn’t want his jokes to be revealed outside of the venues. Hart reminded his audiences throughout the shows to not even look at their phones, leading hundreds of fans to get kicked out because they couldn’t abide by his rules.
Given the amount of activity on social media during concerts, it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.
“Social media used to never be so important with live music, but since cell phones these days can do everything, it definitely is important to people now,” said Clarke.