Thumbs Up for Phones Down?

Phone-blocking gadgets could change the concert experience

Written by Lilian Min • Photography by Kimberly White, Getty Images • December 7, 2016

At any given concert, you’ll spot (and may even be) that fan with their phone up almost the entire time, snapping photos and videos for the whole show. Some artists see this behavior as missing the point of a live show and want fans to put down their devices and soak up the music in the moment. Turns out there are companies looking to help with that, and phone-blocking products like the Yondr case are at the forefront of the movement.

In response to overzealous fans recording their every move (including new or exclusive material) or even obstructing their performances, several high-profile artists, including Alicia Keys, Dave Chappelle, and Hannibal Buress have employed Yondr cases at their shows. These cases, which look and feel like small neoprene pouches, act as pocket lockers; show attendees must place their phone inside the Yondr pouch before entering a venue space, and then the pouch “locks” itself. The only way to unlock the pouch is to exit the main venue space and go to a special unlocking kiosk away from other fans and the show itself. Your phone stays on and you can receive calls and messages — you just can’t access them until you leave.

While this creates the environment the artists want, it raises some safety concerns, especially for parents who want to be immediately reachable for their kids. But those in favor of ideas like Yondr say in an emergency you would have to leave the performance area anyway, so as long as the unlocking kiosks are readily available, there’s no cause for concern.

For as long as smartphones have been around, artists have been chiding their fans about phones at concerts—or even nabbing and destroying audience members’ phones. But as cell phone jammers are generally illegal, phones became a bigger and bigger part of the concert experience, eventually becoming a regular fixture. This has led to occasional friction between artist and fans. For example, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs notably posted signs outside their shows in 2013 asking fans to “[P]ut that shit away as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian.”

Now, phone-blocking tech is making the leap outside live entertainment, and larger companies like Apple are working on making phone-targeting tech mainstream. So the next time you put your phone up at a concert to snap a pic, take a moment to consider if you’re really enjoying the show, and snap away while you still can.

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