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Cameraphones and Concerts

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.--My ticket for last night's Bruce Springsteen show at Giants Stadium here came with unambiguous instructions that I, along with most of the rest of the audience, had no hope of following: "NO CAMERAS/LASERS/VIDCAMS."

I left my laser at home, of course - but not my cell phone. And that phone, like most new models, both takes photos and records video. I didn't bother making my own movie of the show (who wants to be the dork holding a phone up through the entirety of "Jungleland"?), but I did snap a few pictures. I was far from the only one to do this.

I'm pretty sure The Boss's business model can survive a few blurry, unfocused shots. But let's play what-if for a moment. One, the picture and video quality of cameraphones will only get better. Two, we're now looking at a variety of services - for example, Qik, Kyte and Flixwagon - that aim to help you stream video from your phone to the Web.

The question that raises is not "what will stadiums, arenas and bars do about it?" There's nothing they can do, practically speaking; forget trying to confiscate people's cell phones. No, the issue is more one of how musicians (and sports teams) can find a way to accomodate the enthusiasm of fans to capture and share the moment with pals. Put it this way: If I'd been at home last night and a friend had sent me a you-are-here clip of Springsteen and the E Street Band tearing into "The Promised Land" or "The Rising," I would have found myself exceptionally persuaded to get a ticket to the next available show.

What's on your phone after the last encore? Tell me about your in-concert photography and videography in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 28, 2008; 3:25 PM ET
Categories:  Digital culture  
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I attended a concert at Nissan Pavilion recently and, since "no cameras" was not printed on the ticket, took my small camera. I figured that, with the ubiquitous existence of phone cameras, artists and venues had given up. I still expected to be "frisked" upon entry but was not.
So I took about 200 pictures during the show. However, I was summoned out of my row by security when I was shooting video with the same camera. I had to delete the video. They told me I could take all the photos I wanted--but no video.
I'm very pleased with most of the photos and have shared a few with friends. But I found taking so many pictures more a burden than worth it. So I will take fewer next time...

Posted by: Rob H. | July 28, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

At a Micheal Buble concert a couple years back at Wolf Trap, he had a part in his show where he just stopped and allowed eveyone to take out their cameras and shoot. Kinda cool.

Posted by: Sec. 131 | July 28, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Rob -- You did Bruce, I did the Eagles.

Lots of cameras (I got nostalgic for the days of holding up matches/lighters at the end of the show :-)

There are two camps in the recording debate... the "no nothing" bands and venues and the "go for it" record and rip bands like the Grateful Dead, Derek Trucks Band, and others, who rope off areas for the recordists to park themselves and their gear. I was amazed at the level of sophistication of the equipment and the knowledge of the owners I saw at Strathmore when Derek Trucks performed there.

As there's no way to police contraband once inside the venue, it seems to me that the bands either let it go or confiscate *all* electronics. It's all about money and control.

Where this is of *great* concern to me is in a courtroom or other venue where (illicit) recording might prejudice the outcome, or worse, put those involved in the event in harms way. In that instance (being on a jury, for example), I'd have every electronic device confiscated at the door, and returned at the end of the day.

Posted by: At_The_Eagles | July 28, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

We go to Trans Siberian orchestra each year at Verizon Center (or whatever it's called this month), and they have the same signs up on the entrances about no recording.

And of course, no-one pays a blind bit of notice to them (except us, who always get stuck in the crappy spots reserved for wheelies to keep us from offending people's sensibilities at the idea we might actually enjoy such events and so couldn't get decent pics if we tried).

I'm guessing that even if they employed some sort of cell phone jamming signal in such places, it wouldn't help?

Posted by: Kate | July 28, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Boston concert in KC last Saturday night.
There were a lot of camera phones being held high in the rows in front of me. Each phone was visible, because of the back light as well as the flash that was emitted. The guy in front of me pulled his phone out to call someone. He never raised it above his ear (as if to take a pic). As soon as the phone hit his ear, a security guard stopped him from behind and made him put his phone away. I never saw any guards stop/warn/take away anyone elses. Something was wrong with this picture. No pun intended.

Posted by: anitajohnson | July 28, 2008 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Instead of pulling out your phone, I suggest what I did in the day --put up my bic lighter up in the air -- if I happen to set fire to cell phone, all the better.

Posted by: Adams Morgan | July 28, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Here here to Adams Morgan! Last concert I attended it seemed quite a few of the "fans" were more interested in shooting cell phone photos/video than they were in the music.

It seems it is all about being at the "scene" and proving it rather than the actual experience of it anymore.

Posted by: Bedford Sty | July 28, 2008 6:07 PM | Report abuse

I recorded a few video clips from a Robert Walter Trio concert using Kyte and a nokia n95. The sound and video quality was stunning for a cellphone.

Take a look for yourself

If an artist is talented and creates interesting music every night, bootleg videos will help the artist more then hurt them.

Posted by: Jason @ Kyte | July 28, 2008 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Finally, artists are allowing point and shoot cameras into concerts. I attended the Monsters of Rock show in Calgary over the weekend and got some great pic's of the bands. Much better than my cell phone can take. Cell phone cameras (for the most part) just don't cut it. Audio on the other hand is seriously lagging though. Lets face it, 70 db sounds like an inaudible racket on video recorded on cell phones and camera's. What's the problem here? I don't want crap audio on my video's anyway. Artists and concert goers will need to find a happy medium as audio will catch up eventually. You can't stop Rock & Roll!

Posted by: Shane Lamoureux | July 29, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

You know what I hate? Spending 75 bucks on tickets to an awesome show....and sitting behind one of those people who holds up their stupid phones during at least half of the concert. The fact that I can't see the performer never enters their mind. Some people are awfully selfish, and I sure wish there was a way to make people put their phones and their camera in their vehicles...or check them at the door.
I'm serious.

Posted by: rj | July 29, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

The rule when photos are allowed seems to be no detachable lens cameras (eg, digital SLR's)--and that is probably reasonable... who wants someone poking a 12" lens over their shoulder to get a close up?

As for flash photos--please people--be considerate. Not only is flash photography pretty useless unless you are 3 feet from the object, but it distracting to the artist and audience.

Learn how to use your camera. Set the ISO higher, open up the iris (low F stop, 2.8 or less), and go for as much speed as you can under the rest of the settings.

Cell phones photos? Who cares? Same for cell phone video. No ones "business model" should be concerned with such poor quality video, sound, and pictures.

Posted by: Dan | July 29, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse


Did you watch my cellphone videos? Poor video and sound quality is being overcome in cellphones. Have a look for yourself. This video was taken with my cellphone. Imagine where we'll be in 5 years:

Posted by: Jason @ Kyte | July 29, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

If anyone watched the "View" yesterday, Whoopie was speaking about this. She did a show over the weekend and there were many cell phone recording her. She said that it made her stop and note that whatever she said or did could be edited for sound bites and end up all over the place and not in the right context. She said that she actually "pulled back" her performance because of it. So the very people that came to see her missed the "real show" because they were recording her. I can see how this would make anyone think twice about what they are doing.

Posted by: Suz | July 29, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

cameras are the new lighters...unfortunately. but fans sharing video from concerts will only help the bands.

Posted by: gaia | July 29, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I always take my camera to concerts and take pictures, except when I get frisked and have to take the camera back to the car ( it is biggish superzoom, but not an SLR).

My wife objects since she is embarassed about my getting caught. However, I am an amateur photographer, I don't publish my pics, just want to remember the moments, and cant't resist a challenge. I don't use flash so I try not to disturb others. I have photographed at Wolftrap ( undercover ) Verizon ( openly ) Merriweather ( openly for Norah Jones, undercover for Santana). No luck at Birchmere, 930 club.

I think the restriction is silly - the photos will only increase interest in the artist. They make their money from sales of music and not pictures - so why the restriction?

Posted by: Nick | July 30, 2008 1:05 AM | Report abuse

If you want to take photos with your cell or or camera you should be forced to go to an assigned area so the rest of us can enjoy the show. If not bring your favorite variety of lube STP or KY because I will take your camera phone and stick it where the sun dont shine bubba!

And please dont support communism and union rights in US boycott Bruce!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 30, 2008 8:34 AM | Report abuse

This 'fear' of media creation by fans will die off sooner rather than later. Actually, in some of the 'younger' festivals it's already dead. I'll be heading to Lollapalooza in Chicago tomorrow, and the festival has a user generated video portal called the Base Station that aggregates videos shot on site using Kyte:

As a concert producer/promoter myself i'm pushing hard to get the old guard to adopt these practices. A way to do that is through a experiential marketing element I'm delevoping:

Lastly, the new kid on the block for mobile video is 12seconds. Check it out:


Posted by: Peter Corbett | July 30, 2008 4:55 PM | Report abuse


I also have gone to several Trans Siberian concerts at the iWireless center. I tried to take a couple of shots with my cell phone and a big, burly, security guy actually came down the isle and, in no uncertain terms, made me stop. This disrupted the concert for several people. I guess, if they can't make money off it, it isn't allowed. They should all take a lesson from the Grateful Dead. They allowed pretty much everything and are still bigger than TSO will ever be!

Posted by: Dana | July 31, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Rob: What part of "no" don't you understand?

Posted by: Pivnic | July 31, 2008 6:29 PM | Report abuse

@Pivnic: Well... let's just say that if you follow every picayune rule and restriction, regardless of its logic or its source, you probably didn't grow up in the great state of New Jersey.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | August 1, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

For nostalgic gadget-freaks, I recommend the free iPhone app myLite:

It displays a bright, flickering Bic lighter on the screen. For the youngsters in the crowd, the point of this activity, if there is one, is not not to take home a photographic souvenir but rather to show your love to the performer.

Posted by: Sean | August 10, 2008 10:36 PM | Report abuse

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