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 518.

    "The destruction of music because of YouTube is enormous."

    Ho get over your self, tickets at £100 a pop, people willing to pay out that much money to listen to him play are not going to be happy with a recording off a phone on YouTube.

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    I am listening now to Avishai Cohen recordings that I made covertly on my ipod from his gig a few weeks ago. The quality isn't fab, but I made it purely for personal use (and to show my little brother how good the pianist was). Listening back to the incredible tunes really makes me want to purchase some albums (as well as having paid for tickets to the show). I would never film or record blatantly

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    Instead of fighting it, the Montreal band Misteur Valaire made the most of it by collating footage recorded by the audience during one show and turning it into a video: [Unsuitable URL removed by Moderator]
    I think watching a show through a tiny mediocre screen is ridiculous, but I can’t see how it could be control. So better go with it and be creative about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    Ah! diddums... had a strop? Play his Joanna in a sealed room,i don't want to hear it anyway..a comedian smashing up a fone. well id really like to have that done to me.. it would be comedian 0 me 1...you live you life in the public eye and then moan when people PAY TO SEE YOU AND FILM IT... better than flash photography i think.. just put NO FILMING on the ticket otherwise shut up and live with it

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    @ 67.. Isla..
    I agree, to video a concert is awful, I'd be upset if I were merely in the audience.
    But no. People can live their lives and also record it.. I love doing so. Its like a diary and I love Facebook. And, its a way of interacting with others, my own thing is dance groups. Its frightening that someone would wish to put it down, especially so eloquently as you do. Please, stop. Let live.

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    It has always been my understanding that recording of live performances breached the artists' copyright, and in many cases there have been notes in the programme informing people that unauthorised recording is illegal. Plus, it is very annoying when the wannabe next to you is more intent on recording a crappy video of the show on their phone, instead of enjoying the performance. Ban them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    Even though I'm against intellectual property as it is a violation of physical property rights, presumably when people actually go into a concert or cinema they're voluntarily party to a contract that prohibits them from filming and recording and thus should be held accountable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    First, let's separate stills images from video. Taking a snapshot as a momento to share with friends like a postcard should be acceptable, and many artists embrace & promote it, even asking fans to post to the fan page. Videoing someone for 5 minutes plus though is annoying to other viewers as well as the artist, and should not be done. And a clear instruction at the venue should always be obeyed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    So its probably pretty ironic that I'm using YouTube to check him out now having never heard of him before this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    As said earlier, it is a frightening phenomenon: it is surely not possible to enjoy a concert/performance/event in any meaningful way while focusing on filming it. It's a kind of bootlegging run wild. It seems to be a solitary, though simultaneous, attention-deficit-inducing activity. It destroys the moral, emotional and artistic performer-audience "contract". It's demeaning and discourteous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    No recording at a live show should be allowed full stop. As a disabled person using a mobility scooter I find the use of any form of a hand held screen a danger as the people using them are un aware of where they are walking. I would put an end to all this form of technology in a public place and force people back into the mode of thinking with their brains and not via a box,

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    What about those who are sitting behind you, are they not to be allowed to watch the performance properly because you want to film it. How selfish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    People don't understand YouTube. Artists have official channels, and are paid a share of the advertising money, just like everyone else who becomes a YouTube partner. If I wanted to watch music, I go on YouTube, sit through a 30 sec ad, and watch the video, knowing I have given money to the artist. Anyway, why would I watch a crappy phone recording in low quality rather than the video?

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    @498 david
    Please read 473 and try to see the sarcasm I was going for in my response vs the sanctimonious do-gooder attitude you think is now required. Do follow along!! PC people are so ready to jump!!

    ps I'm adorable!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    Frankly, my feeling about "live music" is that most of its rubbish, with a few notable exceptions of course. Once an artist is taken outside the studio it can sound dreadful but again with exceptions. On the whole, I find it very much depends on the acoustics of the venue to make or break a performance. Therefore, I wonder if people go for the visual spectacle rather than a musical one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    YouTube has nothing to do with illegal downloading, so it does not effect sales. Those saying people watch videos instead of buying it have a limited argument, YouTube videos aren't for making (or stealing) money, they're to raise awareness of the artist, the same as a radio single or music video on MTV. You can vote my comment down but it's the truth

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    499. beammeup

    It wouldn't be an issue for me at all if I were an artist. The only concern would be that all fans 'enjoy the moment'. If I have charged a fan to see me, and I know, they will most likely purchase my music and other merchandise, I would except I am the one who is privileged and would take a 'blind eye' to smart-phone use, even if I disagreed with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    Presumably people like the one number 52 just post that view tongue in cheek? If you really believed that was true then you have no idea about life. I'm glad most people on this thread seem to have enough of the living by social media cult.

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    Valentina Lisitsa, probably the world's greatest pianist, puts all her stuff on YouTube. What happens? People love the pieces and go out and buy the DVD's and CD's. This prima donna is a pretentious fool. YouTube is free publicity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    @490 Minerve "The issue here is revenue."
    I'll bet anything, you wouldn't find this an issue, if it were 'you' making the money.

    btw We are talking about smartphones.


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