Father John Misty iPhone

Technological currents have carried us ever closer to cyborg status, our smartphones becoming more and more like permanent extensions of our hands. That includes at concerts, where shooting photo and videos on phones has become so commonplace and so constant that bands felt the need to fight back this year. One of 2013′s most prominent musical trends was artists forbidding photography altogether, often with curtly and/or cleverly worded signage preaching the value of living for the moment and experiencing a live show with your own two eyes. Not everyone was a jerk about it; artists ranging from Beyoncé to Ian MacKaye politely suggested fans put their phones away, but that didn’t prevent some concertgoers from getting mad and others from going stealth. Below, find 10 prominent examples of the war on camera phones. [Above photo of Father John Misty performing with a giant cell phone prop by Marc Fong.]

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Nick, Karen, and Brian had a message for technologically savvy YYYs fans who may or may not be blocking other people’s views: PUT THAT SHIT AWAY.

Neko Case

Case suffered a minor meltdown over incessant photography at a Cincinnati show, telling the audience, “Just put away the cameras. It isn’t going to kill you, but it might kill me.”


For his secret 3 a.m. concert at New York’s City Winery, the Purple One forbade fans from even bringing a cell phone into the venue, thus ensuring a social media blackout and a truly private experience for those that made it inside.

Neutral Milk Hotel

NMH asked fans not to capture images and photos of their reunion tour, but that didn’t prevent a few clips from finding their way online anyway.


Breakout post-punk stars Savages command the attention of anybody in the vicinity, and the band dictated the terms of that attention with a sign at shows suggesting that the experience will be more special if people put their phones away. Lead singer Jehnny Beth later expanded on the subject in a Tumblr Q&A: “the audience always feels your intention, for an hour and a half you are responsible for what happens in the room, they’re not gonna do anything out of line with you. So I suppose it all depends on the performer. It’s instinctive. We are mediators between the music and the people. We are guiding them towards immersion, they will go as far as we go.”

Fiona Apple

Even though fans mostly complied with the cell phone photo ban during Apple’s fall tour with Blake Mills, that didn’t prevent shows from becoming contentious for other reasons.

She & Him

She & Him are the kind of music snobs who like to keep things old-fashioned, the kind who believe they just don’t make ’em like they used to. Their live photography policy is in keeping with that, though please note that they did not ban the use of antique cameras.

Arcade Fire

Back when Reflektor was still under wraps, photos and video were prohibited at the Reflektors’ surprise show at a Montreal salsa club — partly for mystery’s sake, partly because the show was filmed for the band’s Here Comes The Night Time TV special.


Veteran photographer and director Danny Clinch shot some iconic photos of Björk at Bonnaroo, but those were just about the only images to emerge from the show due to a public photo ban.

Unsound Festival

The photo ban trend got so big in 2013 that an entire festival, Poland’s Unsound — which hosted performances by Forest Swords, Julianna Barwick, James Ferraro, and others — enacted a no-photos policy. “Our aim is to encourage our audience to focus on being in the moment, and not distract others out of that moment,” explained the fest’s Artistic Director. “We want to question the automatic tendency to place photos and videos of concerts on-line.” That said, it was more of a “see something, say something” approach; the fest announced they wouldn’t enforce the ban, expecting fans to police each other.


Since it’s been WEEKS since we discussed the topic here… Where do you guys stand when it comes to camera use at shows? Do you expect the trend of banning photos to grow in 2014?

Comments (17)
  1. Good. Enjoy the show as it should be enjoyed….with your eyes on the performance.

    Not through a screen.

  2. Philip Cosores  |   Posted on Dec 26th, 2013 +3

    I… I have too much to say here. Merry Christmas Stereogum, and Chris.

  3. I catch myself videoing all the time at shows, its certainly become a habit for a lot of concert goers. I end up almost always regret doing so just because I find that I cant remember the show as clearly, then if I didn’t video. For that reason I’m glad bands are starting to enforce a no cell phone policy.

  4. I recommend restraint,
    6-7 shots (no flash) for the entire concert.
    Only ONE 20 sec video concert if you must.
    Be considerate to other concert goers.
    It IS a rock concert after all; let’s not get overly precious and ban photography altogether.

  5. PS. The only time I’d agree with NO photography is when an artist is staging a conceptual piece; and taking one shot (out of context) makes no sense.

  6. “No blue M&M’s.”

  7. I personally don’t mind people getting a few photos in at the beginning of the show. What bugs me is people that do it throughout the show, and incessantly have their phones up during the whole thing. You paid 10, 20, 30, 50 bucks to go see a show. Why not experience it the way you should?

  8. just take one good photo of the band and put that shit away. You paid good money to be a show, fucking experience it.

  9. I know there will be people who disagree with these artists and their stance, but there is a particular greed that comes over some people with their phones. Being there is not good enough. Enjoying the show is not good enough. The real reason they are there is to show the world they were there, and the show is secondary…

    And that’s not fair. It’s not fair to the artists trying to put on a good show for everyone, and it is not fair to attendees who are doing right by keeping the phones in pockets. If you feel your self-congratulatory photo or video is so important that everyone else must be subservient to it, then maybe you belong outside on the street. There you can be the total star of your show, unencumbered by politeness, bowing to the will of the only person you’re concerned with.

    • I completely agree with you Dw. I started taking this stance with live shows, and I’ve also spread that stance out to a lot of other things. Why spend so much time taking photos of performances and places you travel in? You start to lose the reason you went to that show or place in the first place: to experience it. Living in the moment should start taking a bigger priority with people, and enjoy the memories you have from it. If you really want to relive it, see if the band is coming out with an album from their tour.

  10. Prince has the right idea. Zero tolerance. You take a photo, you’re ejected.

  11. On the one hand- sure, the Artists have their Art. I can see that. And no one enjoys having a camera stuck in their face. But, I’m old enough to remember fanzines- the front row of many a hardcore show was dotted by people with cameras. I was never a fan of the Grateful Dead, but it seems to me like there might have been a little tape trading of their shows, right? Not all, but a good percentage of the camera phone stuff at shows comes out of that same thing- only now instead of trading tapes, people post videos on Youtube. Instead of putting photos in their fanzine, people put their photos on Facebook. Was there a backlash “back in the Day”? Sure. I recall Bikini Kill developing a policy. But, then as now, despite being dressed up in nicely worded manifestos, it strikes me of trying to preserve the integrity of the product more than preserving an artistic vision. Is it their right? Sure. But I think it’s more traced to the notion that, with the rise of online piracy, and dwindling sales of CDs many Artists are looking to take tighter control of the live shows since between that and the merch table, that’s their living. Again, that’s their right- but I wish they’d be a bit more straightforward about it- posting “Hey, your Youtube videos are cutting into my ticket sales” would garner my respect a lot quicker than “enjoy the show they put together in 3D”

    • Youtube videos cutting into ticket sales? Yeah right, even really professional recordings of live performances don’t always (or perhaps ever) do justice to the real thing. No music fan is deciding not to see a show because they can see some shitty camera phone clips of it online for free instead.

  12. Speaking personally, photography is my number one hobby, even ahead of music. Going to a live music event and not taking photos is unthinkable to me. If a rule like that was being enforced, I would simply stop going to concerts, as having that kind of arbitrary restriction would piss me off too much to have the experience be enjoyable.

    That being said, I don’t use my phone. If you care enough about taking photos, you should care enough to bring a dedicated device for taking photos, and show up early enough to have a realistic chance to secure a spot in the front row (and thus be abe to shoot without blocking the view of those behind you) if you’re planning to shoot a significant amount. That said, people need to be aware that their actions may impact the experience of others, and show restraint if necessary.

    Ultimately, fans taking and sharing photos promote the artists, and generally increase their exposure and media trending. Flat out trying to ban that from taking place is tantamount to refusing to do interviews or promotional appearances.
    And in the case of Savages, they’ve shared multiple fan photos from their gigs, on Facebook, during the last leg of their fall tour, so they’ve either had a change of heart – or are full of it.

  13. I was at a Savages gig, and it’s got to be said anybody brandishing tech got a dirty look from everyone else in the room. I don’t know anybody who would want to get their phone out in that mosh pit anyway…

  14. The Eagles also banned cell phone photos and videos at their shows.

  15. I like to play a little prank on the people who insist on standing in front of me with their phones in my face: On my phone, I have what you might refer to as an “adult film”. I’ll cue that shit up and stand in front of the idiot and hold the porno up in the air. now instead of a really shitty video of Mazzy Star, they’ve got a really shitty video of a really dirty movie.

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