Music Blogs

Phones at gigs: 11 rules to live by

  • By AndyVale
  • 30 October 2013

*This was selected as one of Supajam's best bits of 2013, either by being the most read, specially chosen by our staff, or nominated by our readers. Click here to see more of our highlights from 2013.*

Right off the bat I'll tell you that I'm biased on this matter. There are few things more pants at a gig than someone social media-ing, being an amateur Spielberg, or generally looking at a little screen instead of the artist who is pouring their soul out for you.

But over time I've come to accept the fact that they're here to stay. You can try enforce rules against it like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Savages, She & Him, or Unsound Festival, but you're fighting the tide. Whilst we're not outright endorsing unnecessary phone-use, we think that if it's going to happen then we need to get an understanding of a few things for the benefit of everyone.

Consider us the parent who lets their teenage kids drink alcohol in the house, they know it will happen so they'd rather keep it under control than let the horny brats run wild on the nearest park bench.

Do you have any additions to our commandments? Perhaps you disagree and want to tell us why we're wrong and you're right. Vent your fury in the comments below.

We've looked through our notes for live reviews, brainstormed, asked people on our Facebook page, and briefly stalked those who annoy us online. We've put all of this information together and come up with a guideline for gig-goers with regards to phone usage. If these ironclad rules are followed we postulate things being better for both phone users and non, as well as the bands themselves:

1. Try and put the phone away

Please, give it a go. Forget telling the world about the show, forget having something for afterwards, forget trying to locate everyone you came with. Just get lost in the music, be one with the sound. It's a unique feeling that you simply can't get in everyday life and it's the most fun thing you can do. It's also not possible while jazzing about on your phone. This isn't the moan of a farting bore or a luddite decrying new things, it's an easily observable fact. 

Use those arms to clap, punch the air, wave around, anything to show the people on stage you're more interested in them than your follower count.

2. No tweeting

...or similar. If you can take the time out of a gig to tell the world how much of a great time you're having, you're not having as great a time as you think. It's also insulting to the people who couldn't go that you're more focussed on telling everyone else about it than having the manners to properly enjoy it.

3. Keep it to one song

If you have to do it, try keep it within a relatively tight time-frame. How many pictures could you possibly need? Be part of something worth remembering, rather than documenting it all.

4. Don't get in a huff when people having more fun accidentally jog you.

The interests of people going buckwild must always come above those trying to get the perfect picture on their phones. The dancers, ravers, moshers, head-bangers, crowdsurfers and air guitar gods add way more to the concert experience than the naff Instagrammers could ever dream of.

There's also the added pain in the arse of when you're in the pit down the front, inevitably drop your phone mid-video, and want everyone around you to stop jumping while you crawl around looking for it.

5. No selfies

What's worse than having your view blocked by someone taking a photo of the band? Someone taking a photo of themselves!

Selfies are weird as it is, they creep me out. Hmmm, I'm on my own and I think the best way of spending my time is to take pictures of myself instead of anything else in the universe. I was once sitting opposite a guy who would randomly take pouty selfies, it was beyond awkward. I honestly would've been more comfortable if he'd told me I reminded him of his mother, yanked out his beef, and ferociously masturbated while looking directly into my eyes. 

But what's with this odd obsession with turning your back on the artist so you can take a photo with them in the background? Let me reiterate that point, you paid to see someone and you are now facing your whole body in the opposite direction. Get over yourself!

6. If you're unsure, don't do it

Uncertain about whether you want/need to get your phone out for a call, text, or picture? Obey your crippling doubts. Remember that nobody ever had a worse time at an event by keeping their phone in their pocket.

7. No filming

This one came up most when we asked on Faceboob, and it makes sense. The sound quality will be dreadful, the picture will probably be a bit of a mess, and you'll have much more fun living it than watching it back on YouTube afterwards. Possible exceptions for one-off occurences.

8. No calling up friends to play the gig to them down your phone.

What person has ever enjoyed receiving this call? Is this really an enjoyable feat of telecommunications for the person on the receiving end? A woeful-sounding reminder that they're there and you're not.

9. Replacing lighters with phones during slow songs will always be lame

We'll let his slide for electro acts, where it sort of fits the vibe.

10. If someone with a phone is not causing you any inconvenience, don't let it bother you too much. 

This point isn't supposed to negate the previous nine points, but just to remind you to follow this rule for life...

We're all there to have fun in whatever way we choose. If someone nearby really wants to spend the whole night taking pictures and uploading them to every social network profile they own then ignore them and let them be the dud.


I'm not ready to accept this.

Agree or disagree? Have some of your own that you'd like to add? Let us know in the comments below.

And please share this with anyone who regularly sullies these rules, it's for their own good.

Andy is a Supajam writer who has had music-based roles at numerous Commerical, BBC and Student radio stations over the last 6 years. He is also a music promoter in the South-East of the UK. He has a website where he interviews musicians with only one question, and he is currently typing in third-person. You can tweet abuse at him if you fancy letting off some steam.