V.com weekend vote: Should we encourage audience members to record and share live performances?

March 3, 2017, 10:06 AM · We know the enemy of the live concert experience: the cell phone. Right?

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When left in the wrong mode, its chirrupy ring tone can destroy a perfect moment. Its bright screen is a visual annoyance in a darkened hall. Its distractions can take someone completely out of the moment - missing the entire concert and all the people present. And when someone tries to take photo or video at a concert -- that's simply been wrong forever.

But can the cell phone's considerable ability to communicate be harnessed for good?

Recently I attended a concert by a relatively new group called Kaleidescope Chamber Orchestra, which is taking a different approach. Instead of disallowing cell phones and forbidding pictures and recording, they are completely embracing it.

Here is their cheerful invitation: "Yes, we actually love it when people take photos and videos during concerts, tagging musicians and friends at the concert, and sharing them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and elsewhere! ...this is one of the best ways we can continue to build our audience. However, please refrain from flash photography and remember to silence your phones!"

Whoa! Wait, I can take video of your concert? It's exactly what I did, but I'm too old-fashioned to just post it; I asked the soloist afterwards if it was okay.

If this practice becomes widespread, what will happen? Would the widespread presence of classical concert videos make people more likely to just watch them online instead of in the hall? Or would they generate the desire for people to come see it live? How much would it interrupt the concert experience?

Also, is this a problem for soloists? Live performances are tricky and uncontrollable. What if a soloist is having a bad night? Then there will be recordings out there with missed notes, etc.

Or would it actually help all of us, to understand that real, live music-making involves real, live people, not recording-studio perfection. Would we start to re-appreciate the in-the-moment excitement, with its attendant imperfections, of live music-making?

I think it's worth exploring all these possibilities, and soon. The digital age is not about to stop in its tracks, and the classical world might be able to find some real ways to benefit by thoughtfully bringing these new technologies into the concert experience.

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Replies

March 3, 2017 at 09:07 PM · My thinking is an orchestra that does not have any recordings is missing out on an advantage, but it would not be right for every one just to be able to videotape. For example, why go to a concert if you can just get a friend to go record it for you? Orchestras should take videos, but the directors should manage that, nit the viewers.

March 3, 2017 at 10:04 PM · I'm willing to give it a try. One of the community groups that I am in posts videos to its website and facebook page, and there seems to be a fair amount of interest in the videos. But these videos are made by a dedicated person with good equipment on a tripod, not individual cell phones. People like to share them with far-flung friends and relatives. People also tag each other on Facebook and it contributes to an enjoyable family and community atmosphere and communication between musicians and audience.

But the groups where this works don't have big operating expenses or high ticket prices. The tickets sold are just expected to pay for the rental of the hall and very basic marketing (printing flyers and programs, etc), not for any salaries or paid advertising.

March 3, 2017 at 10:46 PM · Why even ask? My favorite venue, the Ordway in St. Paul, Minnesota, blocks cellular transmissions, so you can't post from there, anyway. As for recording, they and most other concert halls don't allow it as policy. Moreover, recording may violate copyright, performance rights, and assigned recording rights. This could have a chilling effect on new music, especially.

And what quality of recording do you get in return for amateurish efforts to violate the integrity of the performance? If what I've seen and heard posted on YouTube is representative of the result, it's just not worth it!

Besides all that, pulling out your camera, whether a dedicated videocamera or one on your smartphone, how do you do it without disturbing others? I think that it's just rude! No, I wish to enjoy the concert that I've come to see and hear as the musicians intend. I won't let some YouTube impresario annoy me with his/her recording device. No, I will beckon an usher come and adjudicate the incident.

March 3, 2017 at 11:55 PM · I don't know what limitations should be in place. Certainly copyright issues need to be considered. But the truth is that we cannot stop technology. I would rather not allow it but believe that it will come no matter what so we should be considering how to deal with it in a balanced way.

March 4, 2017 at 12:03 AM · Somebody who's made a rather poor recording might get motivated to buy the official recording.

March 4, 2017 at 12:19 AM · I don't believe it would take away from sales of finely crafted recordings. So often the cell phone's position, relative to the stage, makes poor recordings and would definitely prompt me to get a well engineered product.

The ensembles (not orchestras) I perform with are completely open to device usage in performance as well as posting content to social media. Different circumstances such as formal concert environments have their house rules regarding devices even if the performer is open to it, so check in with the management first.

March 4, 2017 at 01:38 AM · Cell phones should not ring or make excessive noise during a concert. There should be no flash photography, although audio recording and non-flash videotaping and pictures are allowed. Bare in mind about copyright issues. You may tape concerts for personal reason only. Do not post these videos on the Internet without permission.

March 4, 2017 at 04:43 AM · Why do we go to live performances? Because they're unplugged. Put the phones away.

March 4, 2017 at 04:55 AM · I agree with Karen. I think it should be fine to do photos and videos at smaller recitals and things, but no flash pictures, and no noises. If it's a large audience, forget it, that's too hard to control and it will end up being like a pop concert.

March 4, 2017 at 07:10 AM · First reaction was no way, but with further thought why not.

But only cell phones, no cameras with good micks. Youtube makes the stars of the new generation (think Leia Zhu ) and if someone doesnt have youtube videos then the younger ones are not interested in showing up at the concert. I will bet that my kids will be most interested to go to the concerts of which they have seen soloists on youtube when growing up. I think that its a losing battle, the battle of copy rights, the stars of tomorrow will build up a big fan club before they start doing big concerts and its the concerts that give the living not the recordings. And a concert phone recording is not that concert, its the whole experience and a small screen in ipad can in no way way bring that experience.

So better to work with changes than work agains.

But still I think there are issues, how not to disturb tha part of audience that has grown unaccustomed in using the phone at a concerts and filming with phone takes so space so it might hinder someones view of the players.

But wolrd changes and we cannot stop the changes.

March 4, 2017 at 07:22 AM · When I go to a concert, I do not like being disturbed by all those screens flashing around me, it really spoils my listening. And why is it no more possible just to concentrate on what we are doing, looking at, listening at, whitout taking a video or photograph of it?

March 4, 2017 at 03:15 PM · No. Can't we have a live, pure, direct musical experience? No popcorn. No lens. No added light. Fewer distractions. Many groups post their own performances. Go online.

March 4, 2017 at 03:32 PM · I'd like to see orchestras livestream their concerts to get people interested, and have the audience advertise the stream, so that the orchestra's in full control but any benefits of live advertisement on social media would carry over. Multiple perspectives other than just a camera facing the orchestra would be nice; I'm sure a conductor wearing a GoPro during a performance would be frowned upon, but I'd definitely want to watch a stream of a performance from the conductor's perspective.

March 4, 2017 at 03:54 PM · Who is the audience?

In most venues, it is older audiences. Yes, there are young people, but they are not the majority. And it is these older people that contribute to the orchestra, endow chairs, serve on the board, and buy subscriptions. These people have little interest in sharing videos with friends or tweeting. THEIR friends could care less about a lousy-looking and lousy-sounding and shaky recording and are not likely to go because they see it. All such activity will do is alienate and disturb our core audience. Many more phones would ring just because people would be more lax about turning them off. Classical music is too subtle to withstand such assault.

A few years ago, I saw the Cleveland Orchestra play something that ended very, very softly--I think it was Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. Unfortunately, it ended just at 10pm, and digital watches all over the hall started beeping the hour and ruining one of the most sublime endings in music. What a shame. So years later and what do I remember? Not the performance--just how it was utterly ruined.

March 4, 2017 at 05:07 PM · Evan's idea is neat.

March 4, 2017 at 09:51 PM · I would like to say no. No. And a big NO. I don't mind the announcement at the begining of a concert to turn off all electronic devices. Babies fussing, coughing and clapping at odd places along with any other noises are bad enough. It is disrespectful to the conductor and the musicians to spoil the concert experience that we all have PAID to enjoy. A concert commercially recorded for a special film or album is fine

March 5, 2017 at 03:35 PM · Live performances focus the attention in a way that recordings don't -- for the immediate experience, to hear the real sound and not a facsimile, and even to hear things you wouldn't have chosen. If you're at a concert for other reasons -- to dress up, to be seen there, to demonstrate your good taste and support for the arts, to record it and consume that later, you're missing the point.

However, if it was allowed, I'd probably record some, despite supposedly knowing better -- for the chance to update old and poorly done videos of artists currently on YouTube, and maybe for the chance to catch mistakes and comment on how everyone makes them on forums, thereby confirming and sanctioning our own fallibility.

March 5, 2017 at 03:36 PM · For studio recitals, what needs to happen is that a special area needs to be cordoned off and a seat provided so that the parent of the child performing can have a prime video spot, and everyone knows where that is, so that they can seat themselves well away from it if it bothers them. It doesn't take any longer to get your tripod set than it does for the performer to tune his or her violin. (Unless they have gear pegs which make the job extremely easy and reliable in which case you better set up your tripod fast.)

March 5, 2017 at 06:50 PM · That is a nice idea, Paul. Come to think of it, that's what happens very often in my own private studio and group class, but we have not formalized it!

Something to keep in mind, when posting videos of your children playing violin, or doing anything else for that matter: Please think about your kids as people, people with a right to say "no" to someone else posting videos of them online. Imagine, if there was someone in your life who could post your every vulnerable moment online. Then, with this in mind, post thoughtfully.

March 5, 2017 at 09:41 PM · I'd say definitely no audience recordings of professional performances. The performers are offering a live performance, a one-time event and should retain ownership of the rights for recordings and distribution, including the right to control what material will be released. It's not only a matter of profit, but of quality control; not every performance needs to be preserved.

March 6, 2017 at 03:48 AM · Another question might be, should orchestras live-stream their events, for free, on the Internet? I'm being devil's advocate, a little bit. But not entirely -- I'm wondering, would this cheapen the experience, or would it make it so that more people would be interested in seeing it live? It would have the added benefit of reaching more children, more people of limited means, more people who are too sick or disabled to attend, etc.

March 6, 2017 at 04:54 PM · The problem with those kinds of trends is that they lead to the expectation that every orchestra will do this for every event. And unfortunately if it's not done well, people will point and laugh.

Many orchestras have tight budgets -- some are teetering on bankruptcy. Live streaming -- doing it right -- means equipment, personnel, etc.

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