/ Technology

Look with your eyes, not with your iPhone

Smartphones recording at a live event

A great photo or video clip can capture a special moment, but it might be at the expense of the audience members around you. Should you be able to record and photograph at concerts and other live events?

Two years ago I went to see the legendary Prince perform at Camden’s Roundhouse. The superstar’s band, 3RDEYEGIRL, urged the attentive crowd to watch with our eyes and not with our iPhones – a gentle reminder that Prince didn’t appreciate his audience recording his performance.

I was very much appreciative of Prince’s rule. The gentle sway of arms holding Zippo lighters has increasingly been replaced by the lights of smartphones, all set to recording, Periscoping, Snapchatting or whatever else the socially able youth do these days.

Recording live performances

And it’s clearly a problem that Apple sees profit in tackling. Last week Apple secured the patent to block iPhone cameras from recording at live events. The patented technology will use an infrared beam to prevent photography and videoing on iPhones.

As someone who really does find serial gig recorders quite irritating, I’d be glad to see this technology in action. In my personal opinion, if you’ve spent the money on buying a ticket to see a live performance, you should really be observing it yourself and not via a camera lens.

Fun without your phone

Going back to Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL, there I was boogieing my way through ‘Raspberry beret’, ‘Little red corvette’, ‘Kiss’, ‘Let’s go crazy’ and many more legendary tunes for the near two-hour set, and you know what? I managed it without even the slightest inclination to take a photo, record a video or post anything on my Facebook profile.

But others just couldn’t resist the temptation, and I bet they wish they did soon after. Those who did disobey Prince’s request were sternly reminded ‘No photos, no videos’, followed by an extremely powerful torch repeatedly flashed at the camera lens, presumably so that taking a photo or video was impossible. The offenders were then swiftly uprooted from the crowd and dragged out of the venue. Really it wasn’t worth the risk.

What’s more, as someone who invariably ends up with the tallest person on the planet in front of me, I do struggle to see what’s going on in any case. The problem only compounds itself when someone whips out a phone to start snapping away. So I’m anticipating this Apple feature and hope other tech can soon follow suit for the benefit of both the audience and the performers.

Over to you

So would you, like me, welcome this technology for use at live events, or do you think the audience has a right to record?

Should people be allowed to record live performances on their phone?

No - they should enjoy the performance in person (51%, 813 Votes)

Maybe - just a short video or photo is fine (31%, 499 Votes)

Yes - they should be able to capture memories (18%, 290 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,602

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While I see where Lauren is coming from and she is irritated by those taking pictures I question the legality of blocking someone who has paid a large price for a seat and wants to record what they are allowed to watch . If it is for personal use only it is no different from the price you once paid for a CD or DVD except you are paying a premium to watch it . This is down to one thing –money , now if the “Artist ” had said – we will be issuing this live performance as a DVD or download and advise the audience that is the case then I could see the point but how many live performances take place ? -10,s of 1000,s are they all going to be recorded officially and sold to the public ? . Each one could be a “one off ” and never see the light of day .


Hi Duncan, yes I know where you’re coming from and I do agree that you may want to capture a special moment while you’re there – I’ve snapped the odd photo and a short video clip before. Really, for me it comes down to people spending more time recording the performances than they do actually watching them in person and in the meantime obscuring the view for everyone else. I went to a concert on Saturday night and most people around me recorded nearly the entire performance, I felt like it was a waste of time me being there as I could hardly see what was happening on the stage with all the camera phones hovering in the air 🙁


Each one IS a ‘one off’.
And yes, you are paying a premium to watch it!
So why, having paid that premium, would you want to NOT watch it?
i.e. by fiddling with your phone throughout the performance.
And why would you want to interfere with the enjoyment of others (mostly behind you) who have also paid a premium to watch the performance?
Especially when the result is likely to be a really not very good video, with lots of backs of people’s heads, and pretty poor sound quality!
What are you going to do with this recording? Are you seriously going to watch it again?

There are similarities in buying a CD.
Doing so gives you the right to play the disc in a ‘private environment’.
But it does NOT give you the right to play it ‘in public’, nor to make copies of it.
Likewise, buying a ticket for a concert entitles you to watch & listen. But NOT to make recordings.
Many people infringe the ‘copyright’ rules, but it is actually illegal.
Money? Yes, money is relevant here. Money that the artist deserves to receive for their creative work.
If you buy a CD and copy it for all your friends, you are depriving the artist of their due income.
Ahhh … but why should they get paid for it? Especially when they seem to be having so much fun, AND getting paid!?
Would you work for free? Would you even be able to work for free?
How would you eat, pay rent, travel? Or buy musical instruments, pay for studio time etc.?

Ultimately, a performance is and should be special.
A special fleeting moment in your life, here to enjoy as it is in the present.
You don’t need to record everything, and keep copies forever of every concert you go to.
It’s pointless. It’s a waste of time.
And, most of all, it’s annoying to other people who DO want to experience LIVE music.
Not a recording … actual, real LIVE music.


Where there are large gatherings of people it is imperative to have a degree of regulation to protect both the public and the entertainers. For example at Wimbledon all still photographs, film, video tape and other audio-visual material recorded within the Grounds may not be sold or used commercially in any way whatsoever, unless authorised by the AELTC and may be confiscated if such sale or commercial use is suspected.

Flash photography, for obvious reasons is a definite no no at Wimbledon, and spectators are advised that the use of flash photography from the stands is strictly forbidden. At other large events there are people who suffer from epilepsy to be considered.

The Murray v Raonic final is imminent and someone has decided to operate a chain saw in the immediate vicinity!!!


In days gone by people went places and took photographs of the places they went to . Those were put into albums so that they and their children could see them , the parents to reminisce and the children to see their parents when they were young and look at the changes in fashion/ landscape etc. This has caught on big time with online “buy a photograph ” companies who pay for copyright on the photos and then deny future generations from viewing them unless they pay up . Not right in my eyes , thankfully many wont “sell out ” and photos of earlier times can still be seen free –but not concerts ???


Doesn’t happen at the Ballet.




I think the emergence of this technology does need thinking about beyond the etiquette of pop concerts. Thinking of recent events in America, what if it were routinely deployed by the police and security services to prevent the use of phone cameras during street protests or other incidents?

I laughed at Ian’s remark that this is not a problem at the ballet. Indeed, thankfully, most live opera and drama productions and classical music concerts are not affected by this craze during the actual performance. But it is increasingly annoying at art galleries and museums to have people pushing to the front to take a snap of a painting or exhibit and then they move swiftly on to the next; they often work in little groups all getting the same shot. Perhaps they study them in detail afterwards and wonder why they cannot get the impasto.