Anne-Sophie Mutter has made headlines this week after she stopped her performance of Beethoven’s violin concerto to call out an audience member who was both videoing and sound recording her. “Either I will leave, or you will put away your phone and recording device”, is reportedly what she said, though there is ironically no footage of the confrontation. She then spoke out in her first interview with the New York Times about the incident saying – “I feel violated in my rights, of my artistic property. As an artist you take such care when doing a recording […] The sound is a part of you, you want your voice replicated in a way that really represents what you have worked on for an entire life.”

As a musician myself, I understand her frustration. You labour over your sound and pour yourself into the music you play. Though ‘violated in my rights’ is perhaps slightly dramatic, it is a violation of her intellectual and artistic property. Recording and videoing are not allowed in many concert halls, as in Ohio’s Cincinnati Music Hall where this incident occurred. It is considered not only a violation of property rights, but is also distracting to other patrons trying to enjoy the concert. I hate it when people video and film at events in general, and remember being generally against the allowing of cameras in galleries (though this has been integral to me writing exhibition posts on my website…). A sea of phones is not what you pay your normally rather expensive ticket price for when attending a classical concert. And as ever, the constant and overwhelming media take over of every aspect of our lives is exhausting.

Mutter is not unique in calling audience members out over filming. I remember when Adele was in Italy and paused her concert to tell an audience member to stop filming.  “Could you stop filming me with that video camera? Because I’m really here in real life, you can enjoy it in real life rather than through your camera.” This is for me the most important reason for banning phones at concerts. For heaven sake, you spend a fortune and wait upwards of a year to see someone you’ve been listening to forever sing, and when you’re there you end up seeing it all through a phone. Mutter made a similar argument in the NYT article – “The beauty of such an event, a pop concert as well as a classical concert, is really being there, taking it in, having your own personal, really private memory of it.”

So by the looks of it I’m in agreement with banning phones at concert halls?

Not quite… In an ideal world I absolutely would agree with it. I think always having a phone out is a dreadful shame and disturbs not only you, but those around you (and sometimes even the performer as well). But the fact of the matter is that we live in a world governed by phones and the young generation (my generation though I seem to forget that sometimes) cannot be without phones. Rules like this, and even reactions like this, will alienate the coming generation from going to concerts. Let’s be honest, the classical music world is alienating enough as it is. Can it really afford to miss out on the younger generation by cutting off phones too?

I would love to see whether the National Gallery, for example, saw an increase in young attendants after allowing photography. I can’t find any statistics online but it would be interesting to know the demographic effect. Either way though, it is clear that youth need to Instagram, Tweet, Facebook and Snapchat their lives online and frankly it seems daft to miss that free and easy marketing opportunity. Access to that younger audience when it comes to classical music is hard enough as it is, and it seems to me a fantastic way to start getting a very niche and privileged genre of music into the next generation.

I don’t like phones in my face and I don’t take a lot of photos, but it’s time to appreciate that in the modern day, that’s what people want. Industries like classical music need to understand that they will at some point be relying on patrons that are Millennials and Generation Z. So saying no to Instagram is basically saying no to their whole livelihoods. So, is it time to just accept it?


“Social Media puts the “public” into PR and the “market” into marketing.” – Chris Brogan

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