Johnny Marr, Foals, Alt-J Weigh In On Camera Phones At Concerts Debate

A few weeks ago, She & Him re-ignited the timeless question of smartphone usage at concerts when they banned cameras at their Toronto Urban Roots Fest performance. It’s an increasingly common request made by bands, including Savages, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and others. In the interest of keeping the fires stoked, NME asked a number of musicians to weigh in on the subject. The responses varied, although the typical sentiment seemed to be something along the lines of, “We’d never tell anyone what to do, but really, enough with the cell phones.”

Among the musicians interviewed were members of Foals, ALT-J, and Johnny Marr. Here’s what they had to say:

Foals: It’s part of a wider temptation to really go around an aquarium and instead of looking at the fish you take photos of the fish so that you can then show your friends and pretend you understand what a barramundi is. But I think it’s better just to go and experience the gig.

ALT-J: My view on filming, people filming on their phones at gigs is, I don’t know why they bother, cause it’s gonna look and sound really rubbish. And I think often you’re hampering your own enjoyment of the gig by not concentrating on being there in the moment.

Johnny Marr: To stand and just be looking at it through your phone is a completely wasted opportunity. You know, I don’t mean to be unkind but I think you should put your phone down because you’re just being a dick, really, just enjoy the gig because it’s a better … it’s a dick job, filming the show. Let someone else be the dick and watch it on YouTube. You’re really missing a sensory experience. That’s one of the things about gigs, it’s taking in what’s going on with the people around you, and watching it on a little screen, it’s [a] waste of time.”

Check out other responses from the likes of Biffy Clyro, Deap Valley, Miles Kane, and more, at NME.

Comments (19)
  1. i think dick job has a different meaning in the U.K.

  2. “She & Him re-ignited the timeless question of smartphone usage at concerts”

    I recall my grandparents talking about this some issue when recalling going to concerts in the 1950s as well.

  3. What if we all adopted a “first three songs” rule? Everyone gets their snaps off at the beginning so they can instagram it, youtube it etc., and then we all carry on with the experience of the show. I see 2 to the 3 shows a week and taking pictures of bands helps me remember who they were and what their performance was like a week, a month, a year later, so I’d hate to see a total ban.

    Furthermore, doesn’t this debate bring into question why we take pictures of anything? If you’re against pictures at concerts because it “takes away from the experience,” shouldn’t that rule apply to the world outside concerts too? It’s an exaggerated thought extension, but its meant to draw attention to a larger point: taking pictures is part of how we experience the world now. Modern camera technology (i.e. relatively high quality photography combined with complete portability) has democratized photography in a similar way that modern music technology has democratized music: everybody can do it now, but that means you’re going to have to put up with everyone doing it.

    Back to my original point: can we see if we can all do our camera phone stuff a little bit less, so that they continue to let us do it at all?

  4. John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats also weighed in on this today in a post on his tumblr

  5. As a kid growing up in the smallest of small towns that could rival Twin Peaks, I saw my first punk show because someone else taped the entire thing. Camcorder status. Thousands of miles away. As I watched the mayhem unfold, the thought to never crossed my mind was “man, this guy with the camera is a total dick job.”

    Not really sure how they’re concluding that capturing the moment equates to some sort of slighted experience- it seems that it only lessens the artist’s perception of their fan’s experience. In fact, for whatever personal motive or reason, I’m fairly certain that everyone with their phone out is having a great time, otherwise they wouldn’t be attempting to capture it.

    I’m pretty sure all of the kids that grew up in small towns and got to see punk for the first time because someone shot a VHS tape of the show would never even think to call the person that filmed it a dick job.

    • VHS back in the day is one thing. Phones in general have ruined your stance just a bit. A good percentage of teenagers with phones protruding from their faces like a biomechanical tumor can be described accurately as “dick jobs” at concerts that have abosultely no intention of recording memories for their own sake and are wholeheartedly interested in pasting it to the ever growing cancer that is social media. As I’ve said before, I’m a phone user and a social media user…but I recognize these things are slowly killing the minds and personalities of this generation.

  6. i would love to see a study analyzing the ultimate disposition of every photo/video taken at a good-sized show. my guess is that it would blow the lid off of the whole “hey man, i’m just capturing memories” defense. granted, this is only a hunch, but i would predict something along these lines:

    for photos:

    - 65% get uploaded to facebook and instagram, uploader’s only intentions are that other people recognize that he/she went somewhere cool.
    - 25% are intended for “capturing memories,” get viewed maybe 1-5 times in the short timespan following the show, then never again. the photos either get buried in a hard drive or sit in that facebook photo album from 5 years ago, you know, the one that you forgot even exists.
    - 10% are intended for “capturing memories,” are actually looked back at occasionally, maybe even (gasp) get printed out and put into an album.

    for videos:

    - 65% get watched 1-5 times in the short timespan following the show, then never again.
    - 25% get uploaded to youtube, nobody watches.
    - 5% get uploaded to youtube, a fair amount of people watch, an unrelated racist argument unfolds in the comments section.
    - 5% get watched more than five times.

  7. Nice.

    As was said the last time around, everything in moderation, be courteous to your fellow man, have some integrity of enjoying the sensory experience RIGHT THEN AND THERE. Problem is the lowest common denominator of dick jobs simply cannot be trusted to adhere to such standards.

  8. The sound quality recorded on the phone will be so painfully bad I seriously don’t understand why anyone would want to watch that. I don’t even watch my favorite artists captured on video when they play an unreleased song because the quality is weak enough to ruin it.

    I never really considered putting a ban on them at shows, but I do feel like society looks dumber every time I look up from the crowd to watch a musician over a sea of hands holding cellphones by people who decided they needed to record the whole freaking thing.

    Not to mention its obviously blocking people behind you.

  9. I, for one, prefer not to record shows or take pictures (ok, maybe ONE picture). People can do what they want, it’s their loss really. Nobody should force people not to take pictures though. That’s just silly.

  10. As for me, it’s just the etiquette. Are you making someone feel uncomfortable? Are you stealing someone’s joy? If there is a chance you do, then stop it.

  11. I have no problem if someone takes out there phone and takes a quick photo or two, it’s the people that have them out for extended periods that can ruin the experience. Also, I usually get a good buzz before and during a show, so my memories of them later on are not always lasting and its nice to have a photo to help a bit

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