Well, I hope you’re happy, country fans. Kenny Chesney was so incensed to learn that some people record grainy video snippets of his concerts on their cellphones and digital still cameras that confiscating one fan’s memory card did little to quell his fury: now he’s taking his whole show off the road next year. Try to get your shaky handheld footage of a tiny bald speck performing an almost inaudible song (just a pounding bassline, really) now. It’ll be dang near impossible with Chesney floating in the ocean somewhere. Serves you right, you filthy criminals.
Actually, Chesney’s decision to skip the usual blockbuster summer tour in 2010 doesn’t have anything to do with that camera-snatching incident at one of his recent concerts… well, unless you care to view the incident as a sign of burnout-related crabbiness on his part, which might not be too farfetched. I mean, he does look a little testy in the photo at right.
More to the point, though, what’s the danger of fan video? If someone were recording the whole concert with an HD video camera, that’d be one thing – but that’s a reason to not allow fancy-shmancy video cameras, not a reason to ban video of all sorts. Most fan videos are a minute or two captured on a cellphone or still camera. And yeah, they often end up posted on Youtube, where people can enjoy them for free. So?
Are people going to piece together songs, albums, discographies from Youtube clips to avoid paying for music? If they’ve got that much free time and that little interest in supporting the artists, do you think you’ll convert them into music consumers by disallowing fan video at concerts? People who would rather resort to MacGyver tactics for poor recordings than pay $0.99 per song for quality wouldn’t have been your big consumers in the first place. People like that will find a way to get around any roadblock you lay in their path.
For the vast majority of fans, concert clips on Youtube are more like free advertising. People aren’t recording their favorite song to turn a profit; they’re recording it so they can save the moment and share it with others. People aren’t watching videos in lieu of buying music: they’re watching them to investigate new acts and keep up with old favorites. It’s sort of like singers have a massive staff of volunteer videographers and documentarians at their disposal. They don’t have to pay them; they just have to not confiscate their memory cards. (For the record, the woman in the Chesney incident claims she was only taking still shots, not videos.)
I might as well confess that this post was precipitated by my sudden recollection of a particularly uncomfortable show spent stationed directly in front of a severe female security staffer, whose suspicious nature was continually aroused by my habit of waiting a few seconds between focusing a shot and snapping the picture, so as to allow the performer to put a semi-appealing expression on his face. She was sure I was trying to video him in seconds-long spurts (God knows how valuable those videos would have been!), and only half-convinced by my impromptu lecture on the virtues of the wait-and-shoot approach to concert photography.
To get a sense of how arbitrary these fan video rules are, consider the way they fly out the window when something unusual happens at a show. Fan videos of Tim McGraw’s various concert incidents have made their way onto national television programs, and the McGraw camp has never seemed to mind the publicity generated by airings of such ‘illegal’ videos. Indeed, the stars themselves are often glad to have such unforeseen incidents documented. Brad Paisley recently tweeted a short clip of a woman climbing onstage and attempting to tackle him from behind during a show – ironically, she was stopped by her own last-second stumble rather than concert security, who were perhaps too busy fretting over fancy-looking cameras in the crowd. The video tweeted by Paisley was a fan video, which means that it technically shouldn’t have been taken at all. But something unusual happened and now Paisley is glad to have it. Score one for the volunteer videographers.
On cameras in general, what will it take to get some clearly articulated, consistently enforced policies? I’m tired of hearing one thing from the guy at the box office and something else from the guy at the door. I’m sick of having my camera – a standard digital, no detachable lens or anything – turned away at the door (“No cameras!,” they snip), running it back out to the car, sprinting back into the venue and plopping into my seat just in time to find… the performer taking the stage in a storm of flashbulbs. And the rest of the audience taking pictures with their cellphones. Ah, so cameras aren’t allowed, but if you manage to smuggle one in, you’re welcome to snap away to your heart’s content. Way to penalize a guy for trying to follow the rules.