Musician Films Audience With His Phone Instead of Playing to Make Statement

Fed up with audience members filming the show with their phones, one musician stopped playing mid-song and turned their own behavior back on them.

The beauty of cell phones is that we have a camera everywhere we go. The danger of cell phones is that we have a camera everywhere we go (I can just feel the wedding photographers wincing). Science has already proven that taking pictures of an event diminishes your memory of it, and yet, we obsessively document events as if under some enduring and ceaseless obligation to do so. I'll be honest: I used to do this too, then one day, I realized I hadn't even looked at 90 percent of the photos and videos on my phone after I took them, and just as the linked study had shown, my memory of the events was sparse. Nowadays, I have the largest iPhone capacity, and I've barely filled 15 percent of it, as I find myself experiencing events more and more and taking videos with terrible audio quality less and less. As if by magic, I enjoy the events, I remember them more, and I'm better able to discuss them. 

That's why I love this video of Red Hot Chili Peppers Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. Fed up with the audience filming, he pulled out his phone and filmed them instead of playing a solo, looking visibly annoyed (see 3:32 in the video above). When asked about it, he told WAAF:

Phones make a lot of things easy. They also have stripped a lot of things of a certain innocence and excitement that I think made things special. It’s up to us to use these things in a respectful way. When I see people holding machines up and obstructing the view of the people behind them, I get angry. I’ve never heard a musician say: 'Oh man, I love looking out and seeing a sea of phones.'

I found the image of Klinghoffer staring in disbelief through his phone while several phones stared back rather poignant:

Do you pull your phone out at live events? Do you look at pictures you've taken afterward? I'm quite curious. Let me know in the comments. 

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He's 37 years old. Gives me some hope for the future.

I take photos all the time at events. It helps me focus. I see better thru the lens than I do without it.

I don't feel the need to document every moment tho - I shoot stills, not video, and I try to get the peak action. I'd say my camera is out for maybe 10% of any given show.

There is a huge difference between a fan taking photos, and this guy.... a fan is there to observe the performance. The guitarist is there to *give* the performance.

Simon Patterson's picture

I'm the same, although I probably shoot a bit more. Taking stills helps me enjoy the performance even more than if I didn't take them.

Kirk Darling's picture

I don't really experience an event as I'm photographing it. The camera detaches me from the visceral reality--my mission is to record, not to experience. But that's only if I'm there as a "photographer." If I'm there as audience or participant, I can snap a few cell phone pictures and experience it, no problem.

But I agree with Dave's point the guitarist is there to give the performance. He may be offended that people are photographing instead of listening, but they've paid their money and do with his performance as they will.

Stuart Brill's picture

I'm clearly too old! I can't understand why anyone would hold their cameraphone up throughout a live performance. Just put it away, get into the event in front of you, enjoy it live. What am I missing here, they end up with some blurry wobbly footage which also sounds crap, stay at home and watch it on YouTube. It would piss me off as a performer, and as a member of the audience having to peer through a sea of small screens. Someone enlighten me please!

I'm pretty sure they never watch it. About 5 seconds in, they realize their mistake.

Jonathan Brady's picture

I find myself referring to Jeff Goldblum's character from Jurassic Park, and his quotes, quite often. Here's one that applies...
"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should."
People are recording things like this because they CAN, they've never put any thought into whether or not they should.

Ricky Perrone's picture

I could never understand why some people take videos on their phones throughout a concert. The footage is going to be awful and even if it isn't the sound will certainly be. But you are paying for an experience that you are wasting by creating something you can find a thousand times over on whats the point? I always take a picture or two when I do something, because my memory sucks and by doing that it brings me back to that moment and I find it easier to remember the associated moments. Never more than one or two though and never to the detriment of the moment.

This is just adds to the long list of reasons that I hate this band. I agree that it seems silly to record their songs on a phone, because who would want to listen to them at an even lower quality right... but if I paid to watch your band and am forced to put up with whatever stupid antics you guys pull (i.e. naked with only socks or literally any other of their ridiculous stunts) then I am going to take pictures or film if I want. Because (the fans) are the only reason you exist and have a platform for your worthless protests. Because if no one wants to film you(and what I mean is when no one cares enough to want to remember your shows) then your out of a job bubs. IMHO... that is.

Jay Jay's picture

One thing he fails to take into account- the people filming him (i.e. their fans), pay to get in in. As in, anywhere from $39.99-$100 from what Ticketmaster shows on the few seats not sold out. Usual better seats for those shows easily approach $200. Or to put it in perspective- the Peppers' booking agency quotes a "minimum fee" of $500k-$1mil per *show*. (

So while the guitarist does have a small point, the people taking the photos are people who love their music, pay the high ticket prices, make the drive out there, buy the albums, mp3's, merchandise, and basically provides for the band to make a sustainable living. I think it's a fair trade off, unless the band wants to pay for free and set the rules of no photography, right? You teach the crowd a lesson for only wanting to preserve the memory of the experience they paid for, and they'll repay you by finding other ways to get your music for free and not supporting you.

All he really achieved was making himself look like a jerk in front of the people that's paying his wages.

Anonymous's picture

Oh...I get it now. Depending on how much you pay to see a show, it also includes the rights to be rude. Well, now that you explain it that way...

Jay Jay's picture

As to being rude- be nice now. :)

Anonymous's picture

It's a struggle... :-)

Brian Schmittgens's picture

People's right to enjoy the show any way they want stops when it infringes on others' ability to enjoy themselves. Aside from the annoyance in general, the light emitted from screens is very distracting, and they're typically obstructing the view of other concert-goers. IMO (and the opinion of most real music fans), it's selfish.

Jay Jay's picture

I'll disagree on that. There's only a very scarce amount of photogs at any show- the larger ones have a pit, where they only allow credentialed photographers to shoot for the first 3 songs only, before they have to leave the pit.

Good photographers stay low, and out of the way of the crowd. We dont raise our cameras any higher than our eyes, so it's not us that blocks anyone's views. I not only respect the band, but i respect the crowd and people around me even more. Amateurs are the ones that check their screens every single shot. Once i lock in exposure, i shoot and dont even look at the screen- when i do it's for a very split second. What you might consider the real annoyance is a large part of the audience taking photos with their phones all the way through the show, as well as having it above their heads, filming songs, keeping those displays lit for the duration of the songs.Trust me, you'd never ever notice us photogs way up in the front shooting. :)

Anonymous's picture

Too many comments to reply to each one but, for those of you writing, 'I paid...I can do what I want,' you paid to see them do something but you have no control over what that is. If you don't like what they do (making fun of you), don't go. You guys don't realize it but you sound like a bunch of babies.

Justin Berrington's picture

Isn't he being a baby by protesting something he has "no control over"? And if he doesn't "like what they do", the fans, should he stop playing?

Anonymous's picture

I'm referring to the commenters here. Both the musician and the concert attendees are free to do whatever they like. As for the musician, how would you feel, as a photographer, if you were trying to take a group shot and some individuals were laughing, talking, looking away, etc.? It's not the same thing, I know, but it interrupts what you're trying to accomplish. Of course you can take the shot anyway but you won't. You'll stop playing, er... I mean shooting.

Justin Berrington's picture

I know who you are referring to. The people commenting here are free to do whatever they like as well. Comparing people screwing around while you're trying to take their picture they've asked you to take to people taking pictures and video in a crowd is a terrible comparison. The only reason it might be distracting to that guitarist is because he cares too much about what they are doing. It's out of his control and not really worth the protest. If that's how they want to experience the show then so be it. Their loss really.

Anonymous's picture

I can't know how he (the musician) feels but I've performed (I'm not sure I'd call it music :-)) and the reaction of the audience is real, tangible and affected my performance.

Kirk Darling's picture

Patrick O'Connor, that's not what they were told they were getting for their money. No, the musician is not free to do what he wants, any more than a photographer is free to do whatever he wants if he's been paid to produce wedding photographs.

Anonymous's picture

Well, I guess it's time for a little hyperbole...
If a member of the audience starts shouting, "BOMB," is the musician not allowed to run for his life because that wasn't on the playlist?
...I warned you! :-)

This makes absolutely no sense. Fans paid to be there to experience a show, and if they feel like taking photos on their phone, that's their choice. The musician's job is to play music, not to NOT play music. It's not "turning their behavior back on them" because the role of audience vs performer is different. If I go to the doctor, I'm not going to draw his blood, just because he's done it to me.

LA M's picture

That guy needs a lesson in "The customer is always right...if they paid". Never tell anyone "how" they should enjoy your films, music, pictures etc..just be glad they paid so you can afford your decadent lifestyle and move on. If those fans aren't frustrating others (majority) while taking pictures or footage, what exactly is the big deal?

BTW...those terrible low light pictures and footage...those awful things helps build the profile of the complaining "artists" when they are posted and shared thousands of times.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Except they likely ARE annoying other fans. I remember when I was younger a concert generally meant a bunch of dark head silhouettes along the bottom of my vision but really not much obstruction. Now a concert means trying to see the musician through a sea of lit up cell phones being held raised for the entire concert. It kinda ruins the whole experience.

Also, I one time had do an entire 2h concert right beside someone who recorded every second of the entire performance but didn't bother to put on deodorant beforehand so I got to enjoy is exposed arm pits 6 inches from my face for the entire time. That was an experience for a lifetime....

This is what all the "pro" phone guys seem to miss. It's ruining it for other people that also paid to see a show.

Kirk Darling's picture

I don't know that it's ruining the experience for other fans. Testimonies from old guys are not convincing. I'd need to hear that from Millennials. This is a part of their culture, and they may not mind it any more than people in my birth cohort minded standing up at rock concerts instead of sitting quietly with folded hands as though at an opera.

Alex Cooke's picture

Hi, millennial musician and concert-goer here. I hate it from both sides of the stage.

Kirk Darling's picture

I should have said I'm not counting musicians either. But I'll take your vote as audience and count every Millennial I see taking videos and pictures of performances as one for the other side. But more seriously, it's already been alluded that this is a matter of social media connection, and from my point of view as an old guy who hangs with a lot of Millennials and teens, "video or you weren't there" appears to be existential for Millennials and teens.

For those posting that "they paid they can do what they want"... If I paid to go watch a performer, I paid to watch them. Not a load of eejits in front of me with their phones and tablets. Venues should do more to stop people holding up phones and tablets. I saw Kate Bush a few years ago in London and it was fantastic, nobody blocking my view so I could actually see the whole performance in front of me instead of on a 4" screen.

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