Why We Tweet and Text During Concerts

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 I love when artists express themselves by making comments in between songs.  Because their comments are often expressions that show a side of them that their recorded music doesn’t reveal.  And, usually, once the comment is said it adds an element of unrehearsed and honest suspense to the show.

The comment that made me write this post, came from folk singer-songwriter duo The Watson Twins as I caught their opening set before reviewing M.Ward‘s show in Chicago back in April.

I got there just in time to hear the Watson Twins express their feelings about connecting with fans at a live show. And they had some very interesting things to say about how texting and emailing just can’t compare to the real face-to-face connection at a  live show.

I thought it was very interesting because as the Watson Twins were expressing their thoughts I was conducting a Live Fix Experiment and twittering their comments out into the Twittersphere via my BlackBerry.

Here’s what I tweeted: 

Watson Twins: “you can’t get real connection with text msgs. We’re glad to be with you here in person.”

Now, when I tweeted that quote, I fully understood what The Watson Twins were saying. But I think they might’ve been overlooking a very important part of how the live music experience is evolving right before our eyes, glowing screens and thumbs.

Thinking back on that moment showed me that I was doing something very special.

When my mind and thumbs raced to tweet that quote and other moments that night I  furthered and shared the connection I was having with the Watson Twins, M. Ward and the sold out crowd around me, out into the Twittersphere. And those tweets served as a connection between other live music fans who weren’t at the show or in the venue. I used to be annoyed when I would see people texting during concerts but then I began to learn and see the bigger picture of what is being shared emotionally. 

Yes, some texting done during concerts has nothing to do with the show but what I’m talking about here are the emotionally packed tweets and texts that capture the essence of that fan’s experience in that moment. Which is something that is so hard to truly capture because unless that fan puts their heart and mind into a text we never truly know what that moment meant to them. When I started to discover this side of live texting and tweeting I started to change my stance on whether it took away or added to the live concert experience. 

 Now, I’m still compiling my Twitter live concert research but as of this moment I believe that most of the texting and tweeting done during concerts is a beneficial route worth taking to understand how we process live music emotionally and as a community.

The other comment that The Watson Twins made about touring was so right on that I also sent it out into the Twittersphere.  

My Tweet:  Watson Twins : “touring is the big payoff of recording an album”

Yes,  the live show is the two-hour climax that fans wait months for.  And naturally that comment by The Watson Twins resonated with me because it was so genuine and true that it had to be sent out as it was said and experienced by me and the other fans in real-time.

Why We Tweet & Text During Concerts

As I see it now, texting, tweeting, or whatever else you do to connect with other fans or express yourself in real-time during concert, is an extension of our desire to be together, a desire to let everyone else who’s having the same concert experience know how much we’re enjoying being caught up in the great communal escape.

Seeing this desire captured in a text, or a tweet, is something I look forward to every time I go to a show or log in to Twitter.

And  when I see a fan use 140 characters to capture and share their heart with the rest of the live music community, I grin a thousand grins.

So tell me, how do you use your thumbs and 140 characters to express yourself during a live concert?

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  • JM Roche

    I certainly can appreciate the idea that reaching out and sharing a concert experience in real-time could make the event even more powerful. Unfortunately, however, until the technology can be improved I still have a problem with people who fiddly-fock with brightly lit electronic devices held over not just their own head but my head as well. When the technology becomes iris to brain to transparent transmitter to fans everywhere then it will be acceptable. I have witnessed people putting up with standing and waiting for hours on end to get that perfect spot in front of the stage only to turn around and put their device directly between themselves and the artist during the entire show. Tell me how they are experiencing it in such a way that they can accurately describe it to someone else? They are viewing it through a phone. Even a photographer puts the camera down and looks at the subject. In their attempt to so generously share the show (sure they just aren’t bragging?) the fan in front of me at the show has
    radically altered my experience as well. No artist intended the audience to watch their live show through a two inch screen under duress. Doesn’t that equate to forcing me to watch the television version when I’m supposed to enjoy the film version in all its glory? Even if the devices are held down, the light is not discreet and really detracts from my emotional experience.
    Yes, it is wonderful to reach out and share the event with other people who may appreciate it. Wouldn’t the other humans who accompanied the texting attendee qualify? Aren’t most of the people there because they share at least this one interest? Why not talk to the person next to you? What about the idea of getting up and writing down the dream to be shared? Picking the jewels from the garbage? That requires memory, concentration, and language skills. Spewing out raw emotion in rapid fire form can be exilarating but too much of that and people will both forget how to really effectively tell the story and how to receive it. Perhaps this role of instant gratifier could become a career path? Individuals needing to express themselves so badly for both recognition and even perhaps altruistic reasons could sit in an area just off to the side so as not to distract other people from truly experiencing the event. The press box perhaps?

  • JM Roche

    I’d like to re-post my previous response (it was not run (yet?)). I’ve had a wee-bit more time to revise. Thanks!

    If I Wanted my MTV I Would’ve Stayed Home

    It is certainly possible to appreciate the idea that reaching out and sharing a concert experience in real-time could make an event even more powerful. Unfortunately however, until the technology can be improved I still have a problem with people who fiddly-fock with brightly lit electronic devices held not only over their own heads but over my head as well. When the technology becomes iris to brain to transparent transmitter to fans everywhere then it will be acceptable. Until then bugger off with the damn phones.

    At this point I must interject that if you are under, say 25, you are not not likely to wrap around the spirit of this. You may as well stop now before you get violent. Or, go ahead and say this is geezerrificcc with 3 or 4 letter repeats at the end. I do not care – in fact, plainly put, some of you probably should have been a period. On the other hand, there are those of you who are are old souls and will whole-heartedly agree. Let’s be honest though, if you do agree it’s more likely because you like the idea of being called an old soul. Flattery is much too easy.

    At concerts I have witnessed people waiting for hours on end to get that perfect spot in front of the stage only to proceed to position their device directly between themselves and the artist during the entire show. Tell me how they are experiencing it in such a way as to be able to accurately describe it to someone else? They are viewing it through a phone. Even a photographer puts the camera down and looks at the subject periodically. In their attempt to so generously share the show, (are you sure they are not just bragging?) the fans around me have radically altered my experience. No artist intended the audience to watch their live show through a two inch screen under duress. Can’t that be equated with forcing me to watch the television version when I’m supposed to enjoy the film version in all its glory? Some nit-twits may think this does not apply to them. They may have praised themselves in the past for devising such crafty hand positioning to hide the glow. Well, sorry to explain to them that covering doesn’t help much in annoyance-avoidance. Now the other people trying hard to enjoy themselves are wondering if you are busy transmitting some picture that happens to include some unflattering view of them. But that point should be saved for future discourse on the willing loss of individual privacy.

    Yes, it is wonderful to reach out and share the event with other people who may appreciate it. Wouldn’t the other humans who accompanied the texting-attendee qualify? Aren’t most of the people there because they share at least this one interest? Why not talk to the person next to you? At least you can size them up and you know what they are doing with their hands.

    What happened to the idea of waking up and writing down the dream for later inspiration? Working to actively and purposefully select the most succinct descriptions and unique tidbits to share? That requires memory, concentration, and language skills. Spewing out raw emotion in rapid-fire form can be exilarating but too much of that and people will both forget how to really effectively tell a story and how to really listen to one. But hey, I’ll finally have time to write a novel because anything over 140 characters will qualify as one.

    Perhaps this role of instant gratifier could become a career path? Individuals desparately needing to express themselves for recognition or maybe even for altruistic reasons could sit in an area just off to the side so as not to distract other people from truly experiencing the event. In the press box perhaps?

    JM Roche

  • http://www.christophercatania.com Chris

    You make many excellent points JM Roche! I’ve actually heard an artist address the issue of “putting a device between them and the fan” directly with fans at a recent concert. It is certainly something that makes me wonder about why we do it. I’ll definiately be exploring this topic on future posts. I hope you’ll offer your feedback on that post as well.

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