The 2013 Experience

10 Bands Who Banned Photos In 2013

By Chris DeVille / December 26, 2013

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.”

Prince

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.

Savages

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.

Björk

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.

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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?