I was telling a friend about a recent concert I attended, and I had a momentary brain freeze. Suddenly, as she was asking me about my favorite band, I couldn’t tell her anything about them or the show. It was all a blur. I pulled out my phone and scrolled through an array of photos that, after a while, even I had to admit all looked the same. I left our lunch that day feeling shame that I had dozens of mediocre photos but very few legitimate memories from a show I paid quite a bit to see. I had just witnessed one of my favorite bands on stage, but I couldn’t even recall if they played my favorite song. I couldn’t recollect any cool covers or any stand-out moments—all because I had been too busy trying to create Instagram-worthy moments of my own.
That experience got me thinking about social media and the way it’s changing, well, everything—even our live concert experiences. While evolutions in the way we consume music have made live settings an even more pivotal place for music discovery and one of the few consistent ways artists can now make a steady income, even concerts are being marred by social media’s presence. What was once a sacred, shared experience is now condensed into a stream of 140 characters. We now spend more time during an actual show trying to find the perfect filter for our photo than we do actually listening to the music.
Live concerts are now incredibly social events with concert goers being the ultimate multi-taskers. We snap photos and film footage like we’re all covering the event for Rolling Stone. We just don’t have the press pass. After all, we can listen to music AND tweet AND instagram AND facebook AND text all at the same time…while we’re there. While the constant social media exposure serves as incredible built-in promotion for artists and their tours, it makes me wonder if consumers are actually enjoying what they’re paying for.
In addition to the myriad of distractions our phones provide while we’re physically at a concert, social media is also giving us ultimate previews to tours like never before, mainly thanks to YouTube. I actually had a friend tell me she wasn’t interested in physically going to a show…She would just YouTube it later. She had a point. Why pay to see someone perform when you can piece together 90 percent of it online…from your couch…in your pajamas?
From YouTube clips to your friends’ social media posts, with the click of a button, you can quickly discover the night’s set list, special effects, production surprises and featured guests all before your ticket is scanned. And quite frankly, I’ve left far too many shows recently disappointed because I knew too much about it before I entered the venue. I had spent hours watching clips of my favorite band perform the same songs in other cities and listened to them tell the same stories over and over. No wonder I left feeling cheated. I didn’t leave any room for the element of surprise.
Somewhere along the way in our search for the best Instagram filter, as music lovers, we have lost the awe and the meaning of being a part of a live event. We spend so much time either researching it before we get there or documenting it while we’re there that we miss the wonder of the moment. And that’s the thing about moments…they only last for so long, and then they’re gone. You can’t get them back—not in the same way, at least.
Live music is so much more than a band performing their hits to a room full of living, breathing people. If you’ll let it, live music can seep into your soul and change you from the inside out. It can make you feel things you simply can’t feel when you’re listening to the exact same song on tape. The live experience simply transcends time and space—if you’ll let it. And then there’s the communal aspect. There’s something incredible about experiencing art with people you love and also a larger room of people all bound by the common banner of music for a few hours in one night, all in one place. And something sweet and extraordinary happens only when you allow yourself to soak in the experience and slowly digest every note.
So, music lovers, I’m offering a challenge. Next time, you buy a concert ticket, do yourself a favor, and don’t prepare ahead of time. Sure, have the band’s albums on repeat, but refrain from scouring every YouTube performance and googling the set list. Stay away from the Facebook and Twitter accounts of friends who you know will be attending the show in other cities prior to your date. And, turn your phone off when you walk through the doors of the venue. In fact, leave your phone in the car. Honor your purchase. Honor the art. Open yourself up to discovery—of yourself and of new music.
Get there in time for the opening band and make time to savor the event from start to finish. Allow yourself to be surprised. Soak in the magic of the night. Sing loudly. Clap your hands and tap your feet. Dance with your friends. Laugh when a lyric’s funny. Cry when a song moves you to tears. Rest in the melodies, and listen…really listen. And let the music do the work. Make a memory that will last a lifetime. You don’t need an Instagram photo to remember the moment. Sometimes it’s more important to post the memory on your heart than it is online.
Music is meant to be experienced, so the next time you go to a concert, steal a few hours away from social media and truly live in the moment. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your favorite band. And, I promise, you won’t be sorry. In fact, you might never Instagram another concert photo ever again.