My Experience at a Phone Free Concert

Imagine this-- you take your seat at a concert that you’ve been dying to see. It’s all great, you’re chatting with your friends, scrolling through Instagram while you wait, you’ve already hit the merch table, everyone is taking their seat and the show is about to start. The artist takes the stage and that’s when it happens. The person in front of you whips out their phone (or even worse- their tablet) and sets to recording. You hope they might just tape one song but you end up watching the entire concert through a sea of phone screens all trained on a blurry, out of focus image on stage. That scenario had been my experience at almost all concerts that I’ve been to, until this summer when I went to a Jack White show.

In the past White simply asked the audience to keep from using their phones, you can guess how well that went seeing as he banned phone use at the concert for his current tour. White partnered with a company called Yondr which essentially locks your phone in a pouch once you go through security. The pouches can only be unlocked at certain locations in other parts of the venue and when you leave. And White isn’t the only artist who’s turning to Yondr, the company has also worked with Alicia Keys, Guns N’ Roses, comedians Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle and others.

But what if I want to take a picture at the concert so people know I was there? Well, that's one of the counter-arguments to the whole thing. Long story short is you can't take a picture of the actual concert but you can take one at one of the designated unlocking zones. But there's a way around that problem. At White's show, they had a professional photographer taking photos throughout the night that were later uploaded and free to use. Unless you were front row, the professional grade pictures are probably going to be a lot better than anything your iPhone was going to get. The whole goal behind the phone free concert is to enhance your experience at the show and make it more immersive. Sounds like a cool idea on principle but would it actually make that much of a difference?

I had no idea how much better the experience would be not looking through someone else’s screen until I got there. With the whole auditorium stripped of accessibility to their phones the experience felt a lot more intimate. People actually chatted with strangers while they waited for the show to start instead of scrolling through socials. And it was really nice and refreshing to truly disconnect from my phone for a while. Once the show started everyone was focused on soaking up the music and the experience. No one was worried about getting the perfect video or perfect shot because they literally couldn’t.

After the show was over the process of unlocking the pouches was seamless. They unlocked the pouch, you gave it back and then you were out of there in no time. I’m now a huge fan of the phoneless concert concept. I know it’s something that not every artist will do but I think this is a good start to testing the idea. The next concert you go to, I challenge you to put your phone away when the artist takes the stage. I can almost guarantee that you will be more engaged without your phone, even if other people have theirs.

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