"You saw the Raconteurs? Nice, let me see some pictures! And why didn't you post anything on Facebook or Instagram?" - "I couldn't, it was a cell-phone free concert." - "What?!" This was how the conversations went basically. I couldn't imagine it before, but I have to say: Mobile phone-free concerts are a dream!
I must confess two things. First: I have already spent more time with my mobile phone at concerts than actively listening to the music or having fun with friends. Secondly: Yes, I was extremely skeptical when I learned that Jack White and The Raconteurs would be playing in Berlin but that the concert would be completely phone-free, and that I would have to pack my smartphone into a locked case for the duration of the show (except in designated phone zones).
As it turns out: Yes, it works, and even better than I thought! I didn't see anyone with a smartphone in their hand past the entrance, where the phones were locked in special cases, and instead, I saw these strange and rather large neoprene mobile phone cases popping out of pockets everywhere.
All the people in the hall seemed more attentive to me, talking more to each other, even before the concert. Nobody held a mobile phone in front of my face during the show, in an attempt to film bad video with distorted sound, which will never be watched again. No one in the moshpit pulled out an iPhone to take a blurred photo, no one filmed a Wall of Death in slow motion from the edge instead of throwing themselves into the fun, no one checked their likes on Instagram and Facebook in the middle of a concert or was annoyed by bad reception. Everybody was very much into the music and enjoying the concert. I'm still thrilled at how much better and different it felt.
The process with Yondr is completely problem-free and fast. Already in the line in front of the hall, employees walk through the rows with Yondr mobile phone cases. A metal detector is used at the entrance to prevent concert visitors from "forgetting" to lock their smartphones in the cases. The mobile phone zone outside the concert hall, where you can open the case and use your smartphone in an emergency, seems almost as frowned upon and uncomfortable as a smoking area at the airport - nobody can stand it for long!
I actually didn't see a single smartphone at the concert, although there are one or two YouTube videos of Jack White and The Raconteurs performing in Berlin. Almost all concert-goers complied with the ban. By the way: The Yondr case does close tightly, but lets signal through. So, if the phone is buzzing because you're being called, you can go out and see if it was important and you need to call back.
Many artists need the hype
Of course, not every band can afford to have a concert without cell phones, because the social media hype is missing completely, and for many artists this is an eminently important marketing tool. For most big artists though, this sort of smartphone ban at their concerts would be simply fantastic. The audience concentrates on the music, has more fun, dances more exuberantly, and gives the band the attention it deserves. Jack White explained this not so long ago in an interview with Lars Ulrich from Metallica.
The Raconteurs' concert was a really great show, and the ban on mobile phones really added a lot to the fun. I'd like to have that feeling more often. Have you ever been to a cell phone-free concert? What did you think of the experience?