Pianist Krystian Zimerman storms out over phone recording

Krystian Zimerman Krystian Zimerman did not perform an encore, despite a rapturous reception

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One of the world's leading pianists has surprised concertgoers by storming off stage because a fan was filming his performance on a smartphone.

Krystian Zimerman, 56, returned moments later and declared: "The destruction of music because of YouTube is enormous."

He carried on with his recital, but chose not to perform an encore and cancelled a post-concert reception.

The Polish pianist joins several high-profile musicians who have spoken out against filming.

In April, indie rock band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs put up a note for fans entering a gig.

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

Former Pink Floyd bassist and vocalist Roger Waters described filming at gigs as showing a "lack of respect" to the artist.


Zimerman was performing at the Ruhr Piano Festival in Essen, western Germany, where he was said to have spotted a member of the audience filming the concert from the balcony.

"He noticed someone up in the choir seats filming the concert on their smartphone. We think it was probably an iPhone," said festival spokeswoman Anke Demirsoy after the performance.

Start Quote

It is becoming part and parcel of modern music promotion”

End Quote Jasper Hope Royal Albert Hall

"He asked them to stop, but they didn't. So he interrupted the recital and walked off stage."

Zimerman then apparently told the audience that he had lost recording contracts and projects because of recording company executives telling him: "We're sorry, that has already been on YouTube."

The festival's director, Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, said he sympathised with Zimerman's frustration.

He told German media: "What happened is theft, pure and simple. It cuts particularly deeply when the artist is of a sensitive nature."

The BBC could not reach Zimerman on Wednesday for comment.

Be discreet

Jasper Hope, chief operating officer at London's Royal Albert Hall, said filming at live events was not a problem - as long as it did not disturb the artist or the audience.

"It's not hard to be discreet," he told the BBC.

LJ Rich looks at how videos are being shared as they are made

"If you're the kind of artist that is prepared to use digital media to promote yourself, then provided you're not distracted I don't see a problem with that."

He added: "Do I seriously think that recording contracts for any artists can be jeopardised in this way? No I do not. It is becoming part and parcel of modern music promotion."

Violinist and composer Steve Bingham said for many musicians the issue was not about theft, but instead about terrible quality.

"You want people to pass on your music to friends, but the downside is you don't get the quality control you want if someone is recording in the 17th row on a smartphone.

"You either miss the bass because phones don't pick up the bass or the view is such that visually it isn't that good."

Smashed phone

Frustration at amateur filming is not just shared among musicians.

Lee Hurst Comedian Lee Hurst admitted smashing a phone belonging to an audience member

British comedian Lee Hurst found himself in court in 2009 after smashing up an audience member's mobile phone during a gig.

He told the court: "TV programmes have writers writing for the performers and they go around to gigs and take the material and sell it to the BBC and ITV and that material is gone.

"You are then accused of stealing your own material. It has happened to me with material shown on national TV that I had already done.

"There are thieves amongst the circuit, sadly, and amongst the writing community.

"Nobody will protect us, we have to protect ourselves."

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC


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  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    The argument that abysmal quality phone recordings on Youtube are somehow reaching into the artists' pockets is ludicrous. Post the professional recordings of same events and see how many fans will choose shaky, blurry and noisy videos over that. If you want control over your art, provide easy access to it. Just like with illegal downloads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Get a grip prima donnas, they are doing you a favour by advertising your trade for free. Who in their right mind will watch a concert, play etc on a 6x4 screen with poor cinematography, poor sound for hours thereby denying you your £100 ticket pricing revenue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    This problem isn't just restricted to musicians but anyone in the public eye. I give talks and run educational workshops. My games, activities and ideas are my living. Sad to say my workshops are used by some to take my ideas and publish. It is commonplace for delegates to photograph or record your presentations. How can you protect your Intellectual copyright in this multimedia digital age?

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    If it is a problem the companies that host these performances have a duty to inform the audience about this before the show starts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    @42 crickedneck
    'There are jamming devices available (shops often use them) but not sure how legal they are'
    You need a license from Ofcom to use one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    #42 Jamming devices are illegal. In effect they're little radios so violate the radio telegraphy act (a pretty hard core bit of law). They also have safety issues in that the jamming can extend outside the venue and prevent 999 calls on mobiles. As I said in my first post copper mesh in the theatre walls will effectively stop calls being received and thats legal (Although expensive to install)

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Performers need to get over the fact that we live in the 21st century and people like to communicate with their friends. No one is filming a concert with a smart phone so that they can burn 10,000 DVDs to sell at a car boot sale. People film as a memento of the event or to share a moment with their friends on Youtube. Performers are just to sensitive and pretentious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Some of the concerts I go to, there may well be signs up saying 'no filming', but if the band members see someone filming, often they'll briefly perform to the camera rather than throwing a hissy-fit. It's fun and they don't seem to mind.

    Youtube is an excellent promotional opportunity for many bands, and people will go and see a band live after seeing a taster of them online.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Why would you go to a live event and choose to watch it through a fuzzy picture on a small screen? Couldn't you just stay at home and watch it later on the same small screen?

    The most absurd one I've seen recently was in Alex Ferguson's last home game. He was shaking hands with the fans, but instead of actually meeting the man, some woman just chose to stick a camera in his face. Madness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Get paid per gig for the gig, in a manner similar to virtually every other profession.

    A plumber wouldnt fix your bath, then demand you pay every time you take a bath afterwards. A carpenter wont fit a door, then charge you for each time you open it.

    Yet a pianist expects to be paid for a recital, then be paid again and again every time one of his customers re-uses that work. Gravy train ahoy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I support his actions, but think he should have been up front rather than a prima donna. I was at a Robin Williams concert last year and he nicely asked at the outset that no-one filmed it and explained why. That was understandable and actually got the audience on his side - I don't recall seeing a phone. I do agree they are annoying/distracting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    34. Yellow Peril
    Quite right to. Apart from that it ruins the the event for the rest of the audience. A jamming device seems like a good idea.
    Stevie Wonder?

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I take it there are signs saying "no recording" posted around for all to see and there should also be a prosecution added. Shame for the rest of the audience, it must have ruined their concert. We have signs posted around and on stage at our music festivals saying "no photo's" or recording, it works as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I remember seeing people in the crowd of the Men's 100m Final at the Olympics filming the race on their stupid little phones. You're at an event that will never be seen again, history in the making, and you choose to live it second-hand via a blurry, wobbly video. For once - just for once - try LIVING your life instead of recording it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    poor hard done by musicians! Because of youtube and them being so successful people want to film them so they always have a memory of seeing them they may only earn 10 million in one year instead of 20 million in one year! I feel so sorry for them, anyways i gotta get back to my average paid job in which no one wishes to record me because i sit behind a computer.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    There are jamming devices available (shops often use them) but not sure how legal they are or how you would cover one of those awful mega-venues. Worth pursuing though, wouldn't stop the videoing but would stop the calling and texting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    The decomposing corpses of those who have been caught using their smartphones at previous gigs should be prominently displayed danging from the entrance. Popular? Definitely. Legal? Probably not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    The very point of going to a performance like that of Zimerman's is to enjoy the music in person and to it's very best potential, not to record a version with horrible sound quality for your friends to enjoy later.
    It's like going to a museum and taking blurry pictures of works of art.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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