Should music fans stop filming gigs on their smartphones?

Fans take pictures on their mobiles as Bring Me The Horizon perform Ugly scenes? Fans of Bring Me The Horizon film vocalist Oli Sykes on their smartphones and cameras

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As fans filed into Webster Hall in New York City last week, a note from indie rock band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wasted no syllables in laying down the law.

"Please do not watch the show through a screen on your smart device/camera," it said, along with some stronger words unrepeatable here.

During the gig, vocalist Karen O repeated the request, telling fans to take a picture right at that moment - but to then keep devices hidden for the good of those around them.

On the web, news of the band's defiance against the march of the amateur filmmaker spread - and was met with whoops of delight from many music fans fed up with seeing mobiles thrust into their line of sight at every public event.

Many of them longed for the days when the only thing illuminating the crowd at a packed gig would be a sea of cigarette lighters, held aloft during the more tender moments - and not, as is now more often the case, the glow of the mobile phone.

"I would never turn on a cell phone at any musical event," wrote Roger Waters, former bassist and vocalist for Pink Floyd.

Start Quote

People behind you are like 'put your phone down we can't see'”

End Quote Bring Me The Horizon fan

"It would seem to me to show a lack of respect to and care for fellow concert goers, or for that matter the artist.

"Apart from anything else, how could I possibly truly experience the thing I'd paid to see and hear, if I was fiddling with an iPhone, filming or twittering or chatting or whatever?"

'Weak and distorted'

To make matters worse, the type of footage recorded at gigs tends to have, as one Guardian journalist put it this week, "audio quality that would make Simon and Garfunkel sound like Slayer".

Sophisticated as it may be, your smartphone's microphone is only capable of capturing anything and everything immediately around it.

But one company emerging from Dublin's blossoming start-up scene thinks it has the answer - and appears to have record labels on its side.

"What our unique proprietary technology is able to do is take the poor quality on-camera audio from fan videos, and we analyse that and can see the patterns, even though it's very weak and distorted," explains Cathal Furey, co-founder of the firm, 45sound.

"The technology takes those patterns and matches it against what we call a master audio recording, which would be a professional live audio recording [from the same gig]."

This clip shows original gig footage shot by a fan at a Deap Vally gig, and then the same clip with fixed audio provided by 45sound

From here, clips are re-uploaded with the high-quality audio, and in cases where there's more than one recording of the same moment, fans watching the gig on 45sound can switch camera angles.

In recent years, several sites have sought to make use of the swathes of fan footage recorded on a nightly basis.

Apps such as Vyclone have been used by the likes of Ed Sheeran to "crowdsource" gig footage, with fans being encouraged to upload their recordings of Ed for it then to be edited together for the official music video.

Another start-up, OutListen, gathers fan videos and, if there's sufficient interest, will go to record labels after a big show and request the professionally recorded audio.

Oli Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon Oli Sykes prompts the crowd at his band's gig to record one particular track

But Mr Furey believes it is 45sound's audio-matching software which gives it the edge over rivals - meaning no human intervention is needed in order to whip the clips into a listenable state.

"It's all completely automated," he says.

"What we're trying to build is a scaleable company. I'll be happy when one day we do a thousand shows in one night."

Sony trial

Vital to this scalability is in building relationships with record labels. To that end, 45sound has the ear of several companies - including Sony Music-owned RCA Records.

One of their acts, Bring Me The Horizon, has been trialling 45sound on their latest tour - prompting fans to record their show and upload it after the gig.

"It compliments the whole marketing plan," says Justin Cross, head of digital marketing for RCA.

"A lot of the artists we work with at RCA are live bands - if you're watching someone's video of Bring Me The Horizon and you can see for yourself how fantastic they are live, you're probably going to want to go and see them."

As part of their trial with 45sound, Bring Me The Horizon's vocalist Oli Sykes prompts fans during the gig to record one particular song.

For those who hate people recording, it may seem an irritating, even inconsiderate request - but it is somewhat tactical, the 26-year-old tells the BBC ahead of the band's gig in Bristol.

"When we did it in Leeds the other day it was almost like it got it out of everyone's system.

"Everyone filmed the song, and then everyone put [their cameras] down and everyone got back into it so it was cool."

'Put your phone down'

Meanwhile, in the shivering cold outside the venue, Bring Me The Horizon's fans are divided in their views of gig etiquette.

"People behind you are like 'put your phone down we can't see'," says one female fan.

"I think people kind of like just want to just get into it without standing around with your arm in the air all the time filming."

Another fan, male, has more enthusiasm towards the web's possibilities.

"It's always good when people film it, you can go on YouTube and see it, and relive it, and see all the people in the comments talking about it - you can make more friends with that as well."

Comedian Marcus Brigstocke and Graham Lambert, from Inspiral Carpets on phones at gigs

For record companies like RCA Records, it's a situation that requires delicate compromise, says Mr Cross.

"From a label perspective, and my perspective as a fan, it's something that's just part of a gig now, you can't get away from it.

"On one side of things, it can be quite annoying for the fan that isn't into doing this, but on the other side it's helping to push the band."

But 45sound's Mr Furey argues some events are just too good not to be widely shared.

"I can definitely see that having a sea of cameras can ruin the experience. Ultimately the most important person is the person who pays for a ticket to go and see the show.

"At the same time, I've been at other events where my first reaction is 'who's videoing this?'. Live music shows are an incredible human event - they're very tribal, very powerful, very emotional."

So while the Yeah Yeah Yeahs join a select group of grumblers that includes the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Jack White and the Stone Roses - it is likely that the "sea of cameras" is here to stay, and not just at gigs.

"I have that problem in general life myself," reflects Bring Me The Horizon's Mr Sykes.

"I find a lot of people are documenting too much stuff... rather than just living it."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    @Double_Six "I filmed a recent gig through my iPad from practically the front row..." People filming on iPads are just selfish and idiotic. the screen is unnecessarily huge and does nothing but block the view of everyone behind. "Music is to be enjoyed by everyone" unless they are stood behind you apparently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    Who are these "arrogant prenticious (sic) hypocritical generally champagne socilst (sic) left wing supposed comedians or musicians" to whom you refer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    As a gig photographer I am there to work, its a bonus if I like the band, but its always nice to sit back and listen to a song, just to get the feel, What annoys me is the venues that will stop decent camera kit being taken in and allow muppets to video the whole thing. The guy that claims I don'y understand music, get a life if you need to skype your mate at a gig you need to understand music.

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    I have done both at gigs and to be honest I dont pay attention to anyone else and what their doing; each person enjoys gigs differently and should be able to do as they please. Film or not enjoy the music : )

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    I like to take some photos and video a few songs, say, 3 or 4 from a set list of 20. It is a memory, and a record, as many people like to have. I definitely think to do this for the majority or whole the gig is excessive and pointless. Have your keepsake but enjoy the show and the experience. As for the view of others, I would ban all people over six feet tall! Seriously, that's life as a gigster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 552.

    As Ian Brown said during the Stone Roses gig at Warrington Parr Hall, “You’re recording memories that you weren’t there to remember."

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    I can't say that it has ever once bothered me that other people around me might be using camera phones. I've never even thought about it before as a potential problem until this article told me that everyone else was annoyed. I'm too busy enjoying the music! In fact, I was excited to find footage of Suede's Ally Pally gig to reminisce over.

    I do however draw the line at lighters in the air!

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    Comedian Marcus Brigstock?? Is he a comedian?? Ha ha now that is funny!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 549.

    Many people are actually missing out on the experience because they are too busy trying to capture the experience. As soon as you put a camera in your hand you become an observer and not a participant.

    What's the point of paying a fortune to go to a gig and not be a participant?

    Put the gadgets down and start actually experiencing life rather than merely observing it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 548.

    This has any other answer than "Yes"? Being there and expereincing is the thing. Screwing with other peoples should lead to automatic eviction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    @539 33ten

    Re-read the post - (s)he was using a 10 inch tablet !

    With their head stuck so far up their own bottom I'm impressed (s)he managed to keep it steady ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    If there is one thing that annoys me at events, its this! The odd photo is fine, but filming the entire event ruins the experience!

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    They're a damn nuisance. Eg on the last Rammstein tour in London, the band return out to a riser in the middle of the crowd for a couple of songs - I'm about 10-15ft away. Could barely see anything because of all the idiots hanging their phones in the air. Enjoy the gig for the moment, and stop spoilting it for others !

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    In almost all areas of life, people who use mobile phones are ignorant and insensitive to those around them. Yelling on trains and buses, and walking in that stupid way they do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    I have no problem with people wanting to take a few pictures. It's always great to have those memories captured. However what I dont like is people that go there and record the whole gig. If they are recording they arent there for the music and they're ticket could of instead been bought by someone who wanted to see the band. It also disrupts other peoples views. Take pics but dont take the mickey

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    Some people like to take pictures of their idol's, favourite musician's, bands etc.
    I don't see what the problem is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    I am only 5ft 2" so it impairs my view and enjoyment of a gig when people continually have their phones in the air. It can be hard enough trying to see over heads let alone trying upstreached arms! Come on people, have some consideration for the vertically challenged!

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

    The band I love film the crowd from the stage for FB and the singer’s wife walks along the front row to film the audience having fun at the show it all goes on FB! It was entertaining at first now it‘s boring especially as it is the same fans faces on the front row because they have queued 24 hours for the perfect spot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 539.

    I'm sure all the people behind Double_Six enjoyed having to watch the concert around Double_Six's phone.

    I wonder how sympathetic Double_Six would be if I did the same thing in front, maybe with a nice 10 inch tablet?

    But it does seem to be a trend, at one time people could remember what they had done without having to rely on a video clip to remind them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 538.

    Maybe its because half the people here use phones with rubbish camera's and microphones.
    My Lumia 920 records gigs rather well, and so did my N8. The 808 with HAAC microphones sounds intense.

    Just because you have mediocre smartphones for video don't mean they are all bad.


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