NEW TREND: Regular concertgoers are becoming unwanted

Author: Matina Tenžera

They are present at every concert, from underground gigs to global spectacles. An increasing number of musicians want them to stop participating in their gigs

A recent such case occurred during a concert by the Zagreb Philharmonic in early October. The media called it an incident. We witnessed the same "incident" from the frontman at the Placebo concert in June. And in the world it is an increasingly common phenomenon. Bob Dylan, Bruno Mars, The Lumineers, Alicia Keys, Madonna, Childish Gambino, Justin Timberlake, Cyndi Lauper, Björk, Jack White, Tool, Rage Against the Machine don't want the most visitors to their concerts.

All of them are increasingly declaring war on their cell phones in the audience.

If you didn't record it, it didn't even happen

All the guests who attended the opening of the concert season of the Zagreb Philharmonic had a question mark over their heads when the 29-year-old conductor Dawid Runtz suddenly stopped the orchestra shortly after the start of the piece. After a few seconds, the song started again. But what seemed unprovoked at that moment was actually caused by a mobile phone in the audience.

As the Zagreb Philharmonic later explained, someone in the audience's cell phone rang before the start of the concert. Runtz decided to react to such indecency by abruptly stopping the concert and starting again .

When we gathered at Šalata in the Summer of the Lord in 2022 and welcomed the British trio Placebo on stage, we were flashed on the video wall with a request not to use mobile phones during the concert. They explained the message on the video wall by saying that the use of mobile phones reduces visibility and disturbs other visitors. And indeed, the audience listened to them! Of course, there was the occasional shyly raised phone in the air, but people still managed to listen to the concert without constantly filming and taking photos.

A moment that a mobile phone cannot capture

Perhaps the biggest absurdity of life in the digital age is described by the situation at Beyoncé's concert in Atlanta in 2013. During the concert, this diva animated the fans in the first row with whom she shared the microphone so that they would not sing together. One of those fans from the front row was more dedicated to filming with his cell phone than the musicians he came to the concert for. "You see, you're so busy recording that you can't even sing. I'm right in front of you dear! Enjoy the moment and put the damn phone down," Beyoncé jokingly threw him from the stage.

Almost ten years later, the excessive use of cell phones at concerts is drawing increasing ire from musicians. Not only because the visitors disturb each other and do not enjoy the moment, but also because they disturb the performers on stage. From the American rock band Tool, they go so far as to threaten fans with expulsion if they catch someone using a cell phone . Their rock colleagues Rage Against the Machine warned fans on their official Twitter profile that they will throw their cell phones if they get too close during the concert.

In the music world, Bob Dylan is the most famous opponent of cell phones at concerts. So it is not uncommon for Dylan to stop the concert when he sees one of the visitors with a mobile phone raised in their hand. "We will either play or pose", is his memorable sentence from the Austrian concert in 2019.

Arguments for using mobile phones at gigs

Just as with any controversial decision, opinions are divided. Thus, many welcome the increasingly common practice of musicians banning visitors from using mobile phones, but there are those who find such a decision incomprehensible.

To begin with, we are talking about the technologically conditioned digital generation that grew up with screens. How can you take away a cell phone from young people for two hours if it is their basic means of communication and even existence? Some of the arguments against banning their use go in the direction of what actually goes into the ticket price. Thus, explanations can be heard that if someone has paid for a ticket to a concert, that includes the possibility of creating memories in the form of a video or photo.

On the other hand, there are those who for any reason (mostly financial) are unable to attend the concert. They say, cell phones at concerts are a good thing, and recordings from the concert are precious because at least that way they can experience the atmosphere that they couldn't witness for themselves. In the end, we came across the somewhat far-fetched argument of a young mother who, for the first time, left her infant with a babysitter in order to attend a concert with her husband where cell phones were prohibited. She said that for 90 minutes she was afraid if everything was okay with the child and that she was not comfortable not being able to check her mobile phone to find out in time if something happened.

There is always a solution

All musicians at whose concerts cell phones are not allowed are in agreement that amateur recording and photography spoils the concert experience. In addition, they add, with the ticket you pay to listen and see us live