Last night I saw the Cranberries at Terminal 5 in New York. It was a great show, but that’s not what this post is about. As I was watching the show from the back of the room, all I could see in front of me was a sea of people holding up their phones, desperately trying to capture photos or videos of the moment – a moment that they were completely missing because they were far too busy trying to make sure that they were capturing the moment in the best way possible.
For me, going to a concert, or listening to music, is all about EXPERIENCING. The reason we love music is because of how it makes us FEEL. How can we be feeling anything at all if we are spending all of our brainpower trying to get a half-way decent photo of the lead singer striking a pose – so we can upload it immediately to Facebook, text it to our friends, and have it in our permanent digital libraries, so we can then later be nostalgic about a moment we weren’t present for to begin with? (I confess to my own singular transgression in this regard, however – I DID make a brief Facebook post announcing my arrival at Terminal 5 last night before the show started, so I’m no saint either, I suppose!).
I’ve been going to concerts regularly for over 20 years, and as smartphones have become more ubiquitous in our culture, I’ve watched the audience participation go from active and engaging to detached and self-absorbed. It seems like, these days, we are more preoccupied with the IDEA that we are at a show, and our ability to instantaneously tell our social network what we are doing (and how cool/interesting/hip it makes us), than we are with actually BEING at the show.
Because of this, when I become famous, I will ban cell phones at my show. Completely. As in, you have to leave them at the door completely. And not because I am an old Nazi bitch, either, but because I want to offer my fans the opportunity to experience music from a pure place, to give them an inductive experience of how much more wonderful experiences can be if we just allow ourselves to be immersed in them. And perhaps it’s a little selfish, too – when I thought of the band last night, or any band, staring out at a sea of disengaged fans who were looking at the view they were capturing from their Iphones instead of up at the stage, I thought about how I would feel if I were them. Because if I were up there, I would WANT to connect with my audience, because that’s why I’m there to begin with. It’s why I do what I do. And how can I connect with an audience that’s not really there?