Over the last couple of weeks I’ve noticed a few interesting stories relating to the use of smartphones and tablets at live events.
When we talk about convergence between the physical and digital worlds it’s normally in the context of changes to the retail industry, or new technology revolutionising the way we access a particular product or service (think taxi apps), but it seems there is an equally interesting dynamic playing out at gigs and football matches.
First was the news that Manchester United has banned fans from taking tablets and laptops into Old Trafford, citing “security intelligence”.
That was followed a couple of days later by the Premier League warning fans against posting videos of goals on social media, as they seek to protect the rights holders who paid billions for the privilege of showing the games exclusively.
It will be interesting to see whether the threat of breaking copyright law reduces the number of Vines being posted to Twitter every Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven fans have been protesting at the club’s plans to introduce Wi-Fi at their stadium, worrying that it will dampen the atmosphere.
The gloriously prosaic banner at PSV’s first match of the season simply said ‘FUCK WI-FI, SUPPORT THE TEAM’.
Musicians are also concerned about the effect that fans’ use of smartphones and tablets will have on the live experience.
Kate Bush has gone as far as to post a personal message on her website to fans who have bought tickets for her long-awaited forthcoming shows, specifically asking them to refrain from taking photos or filming during the performance.
“I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iphones, ipads or cameras. I know it’s a lot to ask but it would allow us to all share in the experience together.”
So where does this leave us? Well just to recap, using tablets and laptops at live events is potentially:
- A security risk
- In breach of copyright law
- Damaging to the crowd atmosphere
- Upsetting to the performer
Personally I’d add a fifth item to that list, which is ‘unwatchable’.
That great concert footage you just have to record invariably ends up being shaky and out of focus, nothing more than a kaleidoscope of unrecognisable bright colours, with sound quality worse than the antiquated PA system at a non-league football ground.
So why is the sight of phones and tablets being held aloft such a familiar picture at every gig, and increasingly at football matches?
To many people, the chance to show off to all your friends just how close you were to the stage at that Beyonce gig, or being the first fan to post your team’s goal on Vine is worth more than the value of the experience itself.
The quality of the footage isn’t the issue. It doesn’t really matter what it looks like, it’s just proof you were there.
Social currency > Live experience?
I find that concept quite dispiriting.