Point: Banning Cell Phones at Concerts Is Arrogant
There's a word to describe an artist who feels they have the right to lock away his disciples' cell phones as a condition of admittance to a concert: arrogant.
Or, call them "out of touch," "lazy" and "selfish." We call these artists phone book acts, because they’re stuck in a Yellow Pages era of communication. Modern audiences have moved on, and the future always wins (to quote author Chuck Klosterman), yet in 2018 we have fans being threatened with removal from shows if they want to capture a live moment on their iPhone.
Emotionally, those who disagree with a new policy being implemented by rockers like Jack White and comedians like Chris Rock may want to shout, "What gives you the right to dictate how I’ll enjoy your music?" That feels good. It's valid and true, but misses a few other points. Services like Yondr don't just lock up our personal property, they lock up potential. Smart artists embrace having an arena full of camerapersons and social media influencers. Garth Brooks and Keith Urban are two that famously allow for spontaneous moments. Who didn’t tear up when Brooks celebrated a cancer warrior in Minnesota in November 2014? Millions of fans cheered for one of several young Urban fans who got a chance to jam with the superstar onstage, because the videos always make their way online after the show. These stars make room for organic moments to happen, and then find subtle ways to alert the masses.
Watch Keith Urban Jam With a Fan!
It’s clever marketing and it’s effective (did you see how many concert tickets Brooks sold on his last tour?). Luke Bryan was an early pioneer of this tactic, to the point that when he brings a young girl to sing onstage with him, it’s no longer news. Thomas Rhett also tries, and Carrie Underwood doesn’t run from the idea. When it happens, media picks it up and it spreads like wildfire. The positive press sells tickets to future shows, and the process repeats itself in new ways.
Kip Moore might be an artist in favor of a cell phone lockup — it's not clear — but for the sake of argument, let's say he's on that team. If anything, the "Last Shot" singer exemplifies how to do it right: treat people like humans! Ask them to be respectful. Trust the audience to police itself and then find a light-hearted way to make an example of someone. Those who only read about Moore admonishing fans for texting or tweeting during his concerts don’t recognize his tone of voice. He’s playful and frequently invites that person backstage after the show to chum a bit.
Sure, an artist may want to protect the integrity of a small, intimate performance or keep a new song from a larger audience. The "ask" may not work and video or photo content may get leaked, but is the burden to protect an artist’s proprietary property on the fans, or the artist? In the most extreme cases, only a handful of videos go viral, and YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have protocol to patrol this bad behavior, if that’s what an artist chooses to do. Though Brooks loves viral moments, he has kept his music off YouTube aggressively for years. A skilled publicist can get anything removed from the internet with a little sugar and not so much spice.
Why should an audience of thousands be punished due to the risk of bad behavior by very few, or because said artist demands uninterrupted adulation?
The Boot and Taste of Country’s collaborative Point/Counterpoint series features staff members from the two sites debating topics of interest within country music once per month. Check back on June 20 for another installment.