Norway’s Øya Festival: Do Smartphones Ruin The Live Music Experience?

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The use of smartphones during concerts is a generally accepted practice among many; in fact, for many of us, the concept of not snapping pics or recording videos is quite unusual. It’s one thing being annoyed as we watch fellow festival goers with their heads down, texting, paying no attention whatsoever; yet are we, when obsessively using our smartphones to record our experiences any better? The flashing screens of smartphones can in fact be a hindrance to our live music experience – in trying to capture the immersive experience to look back on fondly, and share with our friends: are we in fact, losing out on the live music experience altogether? 

By focusing on our smartphones, there comes an inevitable disconnect between the reality we are experiencing and the reality we are capturing: the ability to record the most meaningful moments of our lives is an incredible feat we now have access to, yet through that lense, it can perhaps be suggested that we are creating a divide between ourselves and the actual experience. 

In the last week, at Øya Festival in Norway; the attitudes toward smartphones during live events greatly differ from our own in the majority of the world. This may seem strange to us, but the perspective put forward by Norwegian festival goers is one that makes perfect sense: and may even contribute to the overall enjoyment of live music. Filming during live performances is actually seen as rather rude and disrespectful, if one’s smartphone is not put away after a few seconds. Just as many of us find irritation in people not paying attention and texting during a concert we’ve been dying to see, in Norway simply brandishing smartphones is a huge irritation to many, and quite frankly it’s difficult to disagree with that.

Being in a large bustling crowd when trying to focus on the music can be stressful enough, but perhaps even more frustrating than the view of the stage being blocked by an individual brandishing a recording smartphone in front of you for more than a couple minutes when you’re simply trying to enjoy the music and watch your favourite acts in the moment. 

Although banning phones from events is an unreasonable and quite frankly unrealistic request, perhaps we should take a page from Norway’s book; minimal recording, despite over 95% of adults possessing smartphones. It becomes less about removing the devices from the experiences, and instead being focused more so on self-awareness and respect for others. Watching life through a lens separates us from the moment at hand, and although documenting these incredible experiences to look back on and share with others, we have to ask ourselves if the memories captured on screen are more valuable than that we experience without it: as well as remembering that other people do, in fact, exist, and our interactions in these spaces can take away from the experience of many others, too.