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 298.


    I don't agree with people filming instead of helping, it is a bit sick IMO unless there are already others helping. People could be videoing something completely unrelated on the street, and then film a car crash. like CCTV the purpose of the person taking the footage is completely different to what they captured because things change and events happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    this is just about the most annoying thing at gigs. everyone seems to think they're martin scorsese. i didn't pay to watch a gig through someone else's smartphone. i don't go to piano recitals though, the kind of gigs i go to are quite 'bouncy' so if anyone is filming through their mobile and a polite request to stop is ignored its quite easy to keep bouncing into them until they stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.


    "You're confusing the letter of the law with basic moral values."

    Errr no. Probably why I said I wasn't talking about morals. Are you for real? A lot of CCTV of incidents isn't controlled at all and makes it out onto the internet very easily. Lots of things are distressing to lots of people, your point? My point still stands, it isn't illegal...

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    283 hellblazer
    I except it's legal,but thank god their are many people who's behaviour is not dictated to by the law!
    It's one thing for a CCTV camera to pick up something,it's quite another to knowingly commence filming a tragedy,I've seen people choose to film rather than help,that's really sick!
    I do get your point,do you get the bigger picture!?
    We are both ltd by numbers of letters,I assume?

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    This is ruining live music and other performance forms.

    Any good performing artist makes her performance for a specific audience at a specific time. She makes decisions to play, do, or make something that she might not do, or might do differently, in other circumstances. It is deeply insulting to the artist to move her performance into other situations where those judgements may be less valid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.


    You're confusing the letter of the law with basic moral values. Most people wouldn't object to CCTV cameras filming accidents because their content is controlled & can be used to catch criminals.
    Filming someone dying on the street with your mobile serves no useful purpose and the footage could be uploaded to social media causing terrible distress to that person's relatives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    This is progress so get used to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    282 Twocups - the worst example I saw of this was last year when I saw Bear Grylls in Perth, Aus (whose residents attend anything just to say they have seen someone famous). Almost half the audience had a smartphone out. Then at the interval, about 1/4 of the audience left, presumably to be the first to post on Youtube/Facebook/etc. You realise that most of these people are not really fans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Realising the dreadful quality of the sound and pictures being posted of them on You Tube, modern bands have addressed this by producing correspondingly rubbish music and naff stage shows. Well done, one and all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.


    So completely missing the main point of the argument just to attack a comment that didn't really mean anything? I was never implying he would treat people he called morons any worse than if he didn't call them morons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    I used to be the family member asked to man the camera/video and I hated it, because I never actually got to enjoy the immediacy of the moment we were celebrating. You lose something essential to the experience when you only view it behind a lens or via a screen. People need to start to re-experience true reality instead of virtual reality. Enjoy the ephemeral.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    I can never understand why people do this. How much they miss peering at a performance/beautiful view through a tiny lens when they could just look and listen. And I doubt anyone would replay a concert like this through their iphone - its just a waste.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    272 hellblazer
    Newsflash,you can think someone is a "moron" and it not effect your treatment,how do you think enemy soldier's etc are treated in war zones,that's what morality is,doing what is right not what you want,that doesn't test your morality at all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Most venues still state that you aren't allowed to record the performance. If the performer disagrees with the venue's policies then they shouldn't ruin it for everyone with a tantrum - perform where they can ask staff for the offender to be removed.

    Any label which rejects an artist by saying "we're sorry, that has already been on YouTube" is a label to avoid!

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    I'm friends with an American band, Jefferson Starship, who've been going since the early 1970s, & before that as Jefferson Airplane. Their fans are encouraged to photograph, record and video shows (its in the band's contract with venues that it MUST be allowed). This never causes problems as the tapers always show respect, and everyone wins as the tapes are freely traded with other fans, not sold.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.


    I'm not talking about morals I'm talking about the reality. It isn't illegal to film in a public place. Most accidents are filmed because there are so many CCTV camera's. Just because they are filming it doesn't mean they are doing it for cheap thrills. You wouldn't be complaining if someone was filming you when you were being robbed would you? The point is it isn't illegal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    A number of my acquaintances seem to film the gigs they go to solely to gloat to others via social media about where they've been. I do perhaps get that aspect to it, funnily enough, but what I don't get is voluntarily removing yourself from the experience at hand in order to film, or indeed wanting to view the results later which, as most agree, tend to be rather poor and hence dissatisfying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    "If an accident or event happens in a public place then the members of the public are well within their right and the law to film,"

    What a ghoulish attitude. How would you feel if a member of your family was critically injured and a paramedic was trying to save their life, whilst a couple of metres away, someone was filming the whole thing on their mobile for cheap thrills ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    The law needs to be changed to allow phone blockers etc to be installed in such circumstances.. There is enough copyright theft going on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    I can see both sides of the arguement here. If people can do it without causing distractions to the artist and are actually watching it show (not through their screen) and then only use it for viewing themselves at a later date to remind themselves of a good time then fine. I don't agree with people holding phones with the light on blocking others views etc then posting on YT.


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