There’s a gig you’ve been looking forward to for weeks, and the night has finally rolled around. You get there early to score a spot near the front, and warm up your vocal chords to belt out your favourite numbers with the band. They appear on stage! You prepare to lose your shit, trembling with anticipation – only to be confronted with an army of screens bopping around in front of you, capturing inaudible recordings of the performance you now can’t see for the life of you.
Sound familiar? Well brace yourselves, loyal gig-goers, because things are about to get worse.
Last week, the popular photo-sharing social network Instagram expanded into video. Basically, this means that users are now able to upload 15 second clips to the website that can be put through 13 different aesthetic filters, just like Instagram’s photo service. This is very exciting news for those looking for new ways to procrastinate over the Internet or embarrass themselves while drunk, but it also raises a few concerns.
Will people mass-upload videos of themselves eating their lunches along with the tedious still photos? How many cat videos will be shared before the site crashes completely? And more importantly, what are the implications for the way we appreciate live music?
Seeing an amazing band live can be a transcendent experience – it’s why so many people fork out good money to attend their favourite artists’ shows. But there’s nothing to bring you out of your reverie like someone planting the dull glow and boxy obstruction of a smartphone square in the middle of your line of vision.“You could be slammed with hundreds of thousands of dollars for your cute, filtered video of your favourite band.”
This inconvenience is bad enough when it lasts for the duration of time it takes to snap a quick photo; with a video it becomes almost unbearable. The worry is that once Instagram video takes off, spending an entire gig filming and sharing videos of the artist instead of actually listening to them will become as part of the norm for many gig-goers as Instagramming photos of their outfits.
Is putting the video of your favourite band through a ‘1977’ filter really going to make the recording more authentic, or the moment more special? Why do we want to experience everything as if life were a moving polaroid? If your memory is so terrible that you absolutely can’t recall the event without watching the entire thing later in sub-par quality, maybe you need to see a doctor, or drink a little less, not rely on your phone.
Another key question is how good will the quality of Instagram videos be? Is this going to be an accurate recording of a moment you may treasure forever, or an inaudible, pixelated blur predominated by the high-pitched squeals and off-key singing of those around you? It’s true that Instagram have included the “cinema” feature, which is supposed to stabilise shaky content in some kind of artistic way, but time will tell how effective that tool really is when it comes to the unpredictable world of live music.
Aside from personal annoyances, there’s also a legal issue involved that doesn’t exist with still images. By uploading a video of an artist without their consent, you could actually find yourself breaching copyright laws. Usually, the worst-case scenario of this happening is that the host site – YouTube, Twitter’s video sharing service Vine, and presumably Instagram video – will take down the recording.
In a six-month period alone last year, Twitter received 3378 requests for material to be removed on the basis of it violating copyright law. Prince himself recently asked for eight fan gig videos of bands that can be found on his label, NPG Records, to be taken down from Vine. While less than 40% of these requests were complied with (Prince’s, surprise surprise, was,) it goes to show that a lot of people take their copyright law more seriously than you might expect.
In the most extreme of cases, it’s even possible for copyright owners to sue for infringement. Meaning, you could be slammed with hundreds of thousands of dollars for your cute, filtered video of your favourite band. While unlikely, it’s an element of video sharing to keep in mind.
Of course, there are also some benefits to Instagram video. Primarily, it could very well be used as an effective promotional tool for artists. “Free merchandise to whoever gets the most shares of their gig photo!,” or whatever. Tactics like this are already happening now – Instagram video opens up the possibilities for them to become more widespread.“Photos and videos can be cherished mementoes of a great night, and a sneaky snap here and there is tolerable – but unless you are being paid to do it, don’t film the entire gig.”
One company already utilising fan videos as a marketing techniques is 45sound, a program that takes amateur fan videos and integrates the footage with high-quality recordings of the gig on the night. Bands like Bring Me The Horizon are a fan of the software; they’ve been promoting it to their fans.
Frontman Oli Sykes has made a habit of choosing a particular song that he encourages the entire audience to film – something which, as he told the BBC, gets the need to record everything out of the entire audience’s system at once, and also spreads news of the live shows through social networks. “If you’re watching someone’s video of Bring Me The Horizon and you can see for yourself how fantastic they are live, you’re probably going to want to go and see them,”” says Justin Cross, head of digital marketing for BMTH’s label.
There is also the potential for artists to be creative with the 15 second video format to reach their fans. Artists like the Vaccines and Evermore have already created music videos for their songs made up of fans’ Instagram photos, and the introduction of a filming option will no doubt see more and more artists employing similar methods of including their fans in their output.
Instagram video could prove to be an innovative way for artists and the general public to interact with each other – but it is also likely to continue the process of turning live music into a gimmick. Yes, artists will be able to reach their fans in a new way, but they also risk changing the focus of their gigs. Instead of being about the music itself, it’s easy to predict that concerts will become arenas for self-promotion; on behalf of the act themselves, and from an audience that is too busy checking in, taking selfies, and sharing videos to be wrapped up in the performance in front of them.
In the end, this is really a matter of respect. Photos can be cherished mementoes of a great night, and a sneaky snap here and there is tolerable – but unless you are being paid to do it, don’t film the entire gig, please. If you want to take a short video of a particular song you actually have a chance of watching again later, go to the back: don’t wave your phone around from the front row where it will be a distraction for every other person in the audience. A little smartphone action at live events, used in a considerate manner, is understandable, but try and remember that the people behind you aren’t as interested in your videography skills as you are.
Ask yourself: what is the point of going to a gig? Is it to prove how cool you are by filming videos and uploading them for the world to see, or is it to immerse yourself in the unbeatable experience of seeing an artist that means something to you in the flesh? If it’s the former, feel free to hover by the bar, fill up the smoking area, and take your videos from somewhere out of the way. If it’s the latter, then I can guarantee you, you will have a more memorable time if you don’t worry so much about recording what is going on, and actually pay attention to the music.