I want you to picture something, I want you to see it in your mind, feel it in your heart. Picture an international recording artist, it could be your favorite band of all time, playing a large production show, pyro and explosions shaking the ground with each double bass kick of the drums, lights flashing with every strum of the guitar. Do you see it? Now turn your attention to the crowd, a mostly empty venue with twenty to thirty people standing, not jumping and not moshing, but hiding behind their phones, live streaming the performance on stage to their friends on Social Media. Here there are no devil horns in the air, no crowd surfing, not even a single person singing along with the band’s greatest hit of all time. Now focus on the band itself, the disappointment, the lack of energy, the cold emptiness of the entire atmosphere of the venue, do you feel it? This is the sad future that we are facing as we become more social but in the same hand, we are becoming more antisocial.
As a music journalist, I attend more shows than most normal people, I’ve experienced everything from the smallest dive bar with massive gaps in the floor to the most insane music festivals, but no matter the venue, no matter the act on stage, I see the same thing growing increasingly with every single show- the shrinking crowds. Each time the crowds get smaller, I look back from my place in the photo pit and see more and more fans with their phones in the air, recording video, taking pictures and live streaming the shows to their massive friends lists on the many social media sites, a small puddle of zombies more focused on sharing their place on the floor with their “friends” than experiencing the concerts for themselves.
I’m an old guy as I like to say, I’ve been going to concerts most of my life, I remember what it was like to stand in the crowd, head bang to the sounds ripping through the speakers, scream at the top of my lungs “one more song” as the bands exit the stage, hoping for an encore performance. As time progressed and years passed, I have seen the crowds dwindle and the number of phones in the air increase. I remember a time when a band would yell for people to put their “fucking lighters in the air” and everyone would, creating an orange glow that filled the venue, now that orange glow has been replaced with a blue hue from the LEDs on the backs of people’s phones.
I’m just as guilty as many, I spend my first three songs of a band’s set hiding behind the viewfinder of my Nikon as I snap pictures, trying to get that epic shot of a band on stage. Once the three songs are over and I exit the photo pit, I will walk to the side stage or the bar, standing watching the rest of the band’s performance from afar so I can try to put the experience into words, snapping a few pictures for social media of course from my cell phone.
Are the days of sharing our concert experiences by more than just a swipe, tap of the screen or status update long gone? There was a time when the only way to tell people about a show was to get together over a beer and explain to them in depth about the experience. The heat of the pyro, the crazy drunk guy in front of you yelling “play Freebird” at the band on stage, the girl or guy you met at the show that might lead to something down the line, we miss all of these details because we are so fixed on our phones. In our attempt to become more social we have taken a major step backwards and become more antisocial.
Corey Taylor slaps a phone out of someone’s hands in the front row at a Slipknot show and everyone loses their minds and is ready to burn him at the stake, but can we truly understand how the artists on stage feel when we are so affixed on our phones that we lose the experience that they are trying to deliver to us? Is this why Maynard from Tool and A Perfect Circle will stay in the shadows through the band’s entire set? Trying to force the audience to put away their cell phones and feel the performance on stage?
Is this also the reason why attendance to shows is starting to dwindle, even at the smaller venues? “Twenty bucks for a ticket? Get out of here, Scott is going to the show and I know he will Facebook live it for me, so I don’t have to go.”
Our addiction with social networking and sharing has made us begin to start missing out on the true concert experience. It has made us miss the important moments because we are focused on getting likes and stream views instead of soaking in the experience of live music first hand and telling everyone how they missed the performance of a lifetime.
So, Antihero readers and anyone else who comes across this, I have a challenge for you. The next show you attend try living by the rule all of us concert photographers live by, three songs, no flash from front of house. The concert photographers will get that last part, but what I’m hinting at here is go to the show, limit yourself to three songs, do whatever you want during those three songs and then once you’ve reached your limit put your phone away. Talk to the person next to you, have a beer, enjoy the show, absorb all of the experience and then when the night is over, instead of posting your night on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter or any other social network, meet with your friends, have a beer or four and share your experience by describing it. Make them feel the experience through your words instead of your status update. Let us not be the generation that kills live music because we are so social, let us be the ones that help bring back attendance and save the greatest experiences of our lives and the new friends we are bound to make by going to concerts.