Last night on “Guitar® Center Sessions” Nic Harcourt was interviewing Plain White T’s (it doesn’t seem to be on this podcast yet). They talked about kids with phones at their shows and how it changes the show. They talked about how signing to a major label came largely from “Hey There Delilah“‘s ubiquity on MySpace – technology has been good to them, they admit. But a couple of them weighed in on how it feels to have kids at shows with phones ‘covering half their face’ recording during the concert. Tim Lopez, who does guitar and some vocals, pointed out they feed off the energy from the crowd during the show to keep going, and technology creates kind of a distance.
They were quick to point out, though, that it widens access to music – if people want to see a certain performance of a song, they can – not just one performance, but several versions of the same song. What they didn’t say (but might have been thinking, as they reeled themselves in) was that people recording shows and putting them on YouTube is usually a sign of devotion, probably doing a lot more good than harm. Unless you really suck live, lots of videos of you on YouTube just increases your exposure. All these low-res shaky vids from little mini-promoters.
It’s probably illegal, a lot of it. Most bands aren’t too open about sharing their media, or if they are, they label isn’t. It might drag away hits from the Official Concert Video which may or may not be free to watch, but will likely have at the least a line into the mixer and a tripod, two things the homegrown shots don’t. It ticks some people off, and baffles others. The Wall Street Journal has a high-access take on it, covering Wilco (don’t do it) Radiohead (go ahead, we’ll help you) and other musician’s take on it. Prince is not keen on it.
I do like to see people who take initiative with the media recordings, though. Sometimes people edit together they and their friends’ footage from a concert to provide multiple shaky angles of the show. There are tools that do this for you – either to produce an integrated video or to watch the same thing from multiple angles. That service seems to be angling for the wedding video business, which is clever too, but it’s an idea with a lot of possibilities. Radiohead put up a hand-edited version of recordings from Flip-cams they passed out with great audio (their own), an example of which is below. The Beastie Boys did something similar and sold it as a documentary. My guess is, the bigger you are, the more it might be a threat, and the smaller you are, any word out is good word out.
I can’t imagine if I’d had this kind of access as a teenager. I didn’t even own the music of most of the bands I saw. I went to many ska shows – whatever the ska band was that was coming through, or was local talent, I went to that show. Ska shows are fun in that you get in and start dancing and moshing or whatever and come out a sweaty mess. I once lost a pair of shoes at a show and couldn’t find them in the pile of recovered footwear at the perimeter of the grassy field as we left, so I went home barefoot. I guess that’d be different than standing and recording the show, which I’d have been tempted to do, as a gear-head. I would look at people in the back just standing there and watching and think, why did they even come? But they probably have their reasons. And a recording of a show is higher-fidelity than our minds, sometimes. But it also added risk, not knowing – if I didn’t have the money to buy the CD of the band before they came and didn’t hear their song on the radio, I had to see them on faith. Sometimes that was a great surprise, sometimes not. Now I can’t imagine seeing a comedian or band without having listened to a ton of their material and seeing how they are live. I don’t know if they are, but tickets seem to be more expensive, most of the bigger shows I want to see ask $40 or more. And there’s Spotify, which levels everything.
The biggest question that comes to mind for me is, am I going to back and watch the footage later? I haven’t rewatched the footage from my daughter’s school program from last year. Or most of the other video I’ve taken of my kids. I know it’s there, and I’ll get to it, eventually, probably, if I break a leg or something and can’t do anything and start cleaning off the computer. I usually go back to it when I wander into it. I do wonder, like everyone else, if we experiencing things through a 3″ glass filter.
Either way, it’s come a long way from a few years ago when I remember a co-worker explaining his want-ad in the local paper to see if anyone had pictures from the John Mellencamp show he’d been to the night before.