The Live Experience: The Memory or The Moment?

A sea of mobile devices in the air during a live performance is now an increasingly common sight, becoming woven into the fabric of our consumption of events.

Does the use of mobile devices improve the live performance experience for the consumer?

And how should we, as event professionals, react to this developing trend?

Smartphones and tablets have now become irreversibly integrated into our everyday lives, allowing us to create a digital souvenir of our favourite live performances with our mobile devices.


Long gone are the days of making an enthusiastic trip to the local supermarket to collect our developed concert snaps. Why now would we join the never-ending queue at our favourite music festival, for a poster of our beloved musician, when our mobile devices can provide an instant digital souvenir? Whether a digital image, audio or video; a digital souvenir can be accessed both quickly and easily, changing the way in which we now experience events.


Previously recognised as solely a method of communication, mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets) now have the ability to store and record some of our most personal live performance experiences. Think back to the last time you attended a live performance; you may have recognised that there is now a digital divide between those of us that would rather experience the event through our mobile device, and those who adhere to traditional live performance etiquette.

Should the digital divide be a cause for concern amongst event professionals?


Mobile devices have an unstoppable influence upon the consumption of live performances; we now have the ability to watch events through our mobile devices and relive the experience long after a performance has finished.

A commonly voiced negative of events is their intangibility; this is because once an event is over we tend to moan that we want to experience it all over again! Now more than ever, we are eager to capture our live event experiences to create a tangible digital souvenir. Mobile devices are the most personal technological tool that any of us own, enabling the personalisation of our event experiences.

How can the event industry embrace this growing trend of creating digital souvenirs at live performance events?

If you are someone who uses their mobile device to record a live performance, the odds are that you are more than likely to share your experience during or after the performance has finished. Event attendees are now creating a digital souvenir not only for their own personal use, but to also share with others. Photo sharing applications, such as Snapchat, are allowing live events to be experienced by people that have no physical event presence. Last year Snapchat launched “Our Story”; a feature focused solely on sharing live events and encouraging users to share their event experiences. Live events, such as EDC and Lollapalooza, showed a willingness to embrace the “Our Story” platform through the integration of mobile devices into their event programme. The result of which were views reaching into the millions, proving that photo sharing platforms are a force to be reckoned with in terms of their broadcasting reach.

We know that mobile devices are part of the contemporary event experience, but is there any identified best practice for their management at events?

The benefits of mobile devices within events have not gone unrecognised; at this year’s International Confex, there were sessions that focused on the presence of mobile devices in events as professionals begin to recognise its unstoppable influence.

“Technology is misused a lot of the time; people put it into events because they have to, rather than thinking about what it is going to do…” (Meetpie, 2014)

Why are we now making a conscious effort to record live performances for future consumption, when a live performance is taking place right in front of us?

Mobile devices have no way of capturing the event experience accurately; they are incapable of replicating the intangible energy of physically attending a live performance, yet we are so eager to incorporate this technology into our own personal event experience. Even when there is a physical presence, how can audience members fully engage with the event if there is no mental, social and emotional engagement?

Is it now a societal norm to capture the live performance on a mobile device, rather than being immersed in the moment of the event?

Rewind to Woodstock in the 1960’s, an era relatively untouched by technological influence; the quintessential hippy would be fully immersed in the event experience.

Fast forward to Glastonbury 2015, where the majority of event attendees are expected to experience the event through their phone or tablet. As time has progressed, the event experience has evolved to incorporate mobile devices!

Should event professionals consider reverting to the idea of the conventional event souvenir, such as visual event merchandise?

Recently the idea of banning mobile devices at live events has been the subject of debate. Live performers, such as comedian Marcus Bridgestocke and musician Kate Bush, are taking a stand against event attendee’s watching their performances through their mobile devices. Bush made a plea to her fans, asking them to refrain from using mobile devices during her concerts in order to “share in the experience together.”


Yes, there are positives in enforcing the ban on mobile devices at live events and essentially in theory this is a viable concept. However in practice, it is likely to fail because mobile devices are now a necessity in the lives of the event consumer.

The advancement of mobile technology and the popularity of live performances, which have flourished in the face of the recession, must be taken into consideration to remain competitive in the events industry. It is important for event professionals to never lose sight of the needs of the event consumer, yet by opposing the integration of mobile devices into live performances ultimately means fighting a losing battle.

Do mobile devices at live performances present a challenge or an opportunity for event professionals?

What do you think? Please take part in our poll and leave your comments below.


Daniella Buttice says:

Although not an event professional, I have noticed the digital divide as an event attendee. It seems that most people seem to be viewing the concerts through their phone rather than living in the moment. I cannot understand why someone would spend money to attend an event to them be “live tweeting” about it on their mobile. Just watch what is happen right in front of you. I have been to a number of concerts where people have been too busy on their social media sites. It ruins it for themselves and for others who might not have been able to attend the event or couldn’t get tickets. It also is very disrespectful to the artist or act who is engaging with the audience. They didn’t come to the venue to engage with a mobile phone. I personally think they are causing a problem, if you are going to be on your phone the entire time just stay at home, don’t even bother going to a live event if you aren’t going to be experiencing it live.

Hi Daniella, thanks for your input. You raise our crucial point succinctly – why attend a live event, if you view it through your smartphone? However, it has now become a way in which our society tends to consume life experiences, whether it is a concert, a conference or a wedding – we are always within arm’s length of a mobile device and are using it to create memories of the special day. Is it therefore right to prohibit usage of phones and tablets at live concerts or performances because attendees, such as yourself, believe that creating a digital souvenir of an event is not correct etiquette?

The thing is it would be hard to ban all phones and tablets, as you say we do live in a digital era where if we need anything, directions, recipes, photos our instinct is to ‘google it’. I think that banning photos would be a lovely idea but practically I don’t think it can work at every event. I did attend one event where they banned all cameras and phones and you had to lock them away. It was for a Secret CInema event set in the 50s and they wanted to keep up with the era. Everyone thought it was great because you had to just live and enjoy every moment. It also kept the event details a secret for those who hadn’t been yet. I think, also today’s society is now based around sharing. Everyone’s sharing what they did, where they are with their online audience, they want to make sure that everyone knows where they are all the time. Banning devices at events would be a lovely thought but practically I’m not sure it could work. Unless there was a way to combine the event with the mobile device to make it a part of the event, I think audiences need to also just be respectful and know when to switch off.

Hi Daniella, thanks again for your response. That is indeed one of the major issues with events and mobile phone usage, people love to share! The Secret Cinema idea is exactly the concept you speak of in that not using mobiles must fit with the event. Do you feel however that this notion is built too much around not involving mobiles though, rather than creating an event concept first? With regards to combining events and smartphones what are your views on having dedicated times where usage is encouraged in the hope that people will then want to put them away and spend time enjoying the experience?

Sian Prior says:

From mangement perspective, I believe the use of mobile apps provide a great opportunity for event managers and their use should be embraced. People are attached to their mobiles, and a ban I beilive would only make a live event seem ‘old fashioned’ or ‘out of tuovh’- unless your event has a relevant themeing of course. Things such as QR codes and apps on mobies give managers the opportunity to engage with their customers for longer.
From a consumer point of view however, I can think of times in events I have been so engrossed in documenting though checking in and taking photos during an event that I have missed large parts of events.

This is a really good issue to be discussed- How do we reach and provie that happy medium so attendees get the most out of events?

Exactly Sian, thank you for your thoughts! The integration of mobile devices within an event is vital to a good event experience, and we, as event professionals, are fighting a losing battle to think otherwise.

A potential opportunity for event managers of live concerts, would be to prohibit device usage and record the concerts without expensive equipment, by using start-up applications such as ‘Lively’, that can record and quickly deliver live shows so you can put your audiences can put their phones down and live in the moment.

Do you think that this is a viable option?

Abiraj Rai says:

There are pros and cons with incorporating mobile devices in live events. As an event consumer integrating such devices can certainly remove social/emotional engagement while live performances are viewed through a digital screen. From past experiences I have missed a number of essential parts of a performance because I was too occupied in updating my statuses. However, sharing these contents through YouTube and other social media sites can increase the recognition of up-and-coming performers. Also by sharing these contents the viewers can maybe appreciate and somewhat experience the past event. Overall I am 50/50 with the involvement of these devices, they can be an enhancer and also a problem. Since it’s a fight that’s already a loss in opposing the integration of mobile devices. It is up to the event consumers to decide whether they want to relive live performances through a digital screen, or switch off their phones to have a 1 to 1 experience in that particular moment.

Hi Abiraj, thank you for responding and sharing your thoughts on this emerging trend. We totally agree with you, there are both pros and cons when integrating smartphones in live events. However, you specifically stated when attending live events that you missed important parts as you were preoccupied with your mobile device. How did that make you feel at the event knowing you were not going to be able to relive that experience? We understand that sharing on social platforms is a great way in regards to making people aware of upcoming artists as well as fans being able to relive performances that they may have attended in the past, but the quality of live performance recordings being uploaded on YouTube are majority of the time extremely poor so do you think there really is any point of creating a digital souvenir at all?

Abiraj Rai says:

– Missing those essential moments of the live performance made me realise that it was one time thing only. It was quite disappointing when it came to discussing it amongst my fellow peers but I could not relate. Smart phones these days makes you isolated from your surroundings by keeping your head down you miss many important parts in live performances and on a daily basis.
– I agree with you most live performances uploaded on YouTube aren’t 1080p quality. However, smart phones are evolving every year, and the recently released iPhone 6 has a built in video stabilisation for steady shots plus 1080p HD quality videos. I know most people cannot afford the iPhone 6 but Apple introducing these features are a stepping stone for other companies to install these features in their phones at a much more adorable price. As of now it might be acceptable to create a digital souvenir but depends on the capture quality on your mobile device.

Hi Abiraj, glad to hear from you again. I’m glad that I am not the only one that feels that they are missing out on live experiences, because I am constantly viewing events through my phone. Smartphone technologies have most definitely advanced within recent years, which has improved the quality of pictures and videos, nevertheless this still diminishes the way that you remember the experience. You can remember taking the photo of the atmosphere, rather than feeling the atmosphere. Do you agree?
On the other hand, do you think there will be an increase in people recording live experiences because of the enhanced quality of the video or photos? Even though it potentially ruins the memory of the moment? I mean, why would you rather watch a performance through your digital screen, instead of staying in the comfort of your own home and watching the same performance on the same screen?

Salina D. says:

I believe the ban of mobile phones depends on what type of live event a person is attending. For example, going to a comedy show, ban of phones would work as there needs to be concentration from the auidence for the event to work whereas at a music event, people are there to listen and see their favourite bands so the chances are the music has been heard before thus, it depends on the stituation. However, I do believe event professionals should see moblie phones as opportunities as it can help intergrate the event further, making it a better and interactve live event. Mobile phones, thanks to its sharing ability, can help make such events popular through social media and therefore making the events’ social presence greater which is what most events are looking for. So, I feel mobile phones shouldn’t be seen as nuisance.

Hi Salina, thank you for your comment!

You make a great point, different events command the attention of event attendees more than others! Rightly so, it seems that you are all for the integration of mobile devices in live performances, as they can add an interactive element to the event experience. However, when attending live performances, do you notice a divide/visible tension between event attendees that record their experience, and those who adhere to traditional etiquette?

Saumen Kar says:

Mobile phones at events represent both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is to secure the intellectual property of the event and to keep the event engaging enough for people to still buy tickets and attend even though they can get information about the event through their mobiles and social media (ie watch a stream of the speech or hear the latest music release). The opportunity is that the mobiles can transmit what was played at the event to a global audience, thereby relaying the message of the event to a much wide audience than the limited number who had bought tickets to the event. A challenge in this for event organisers is to make the people at the event feel special for being at the epicentre of a global event. This can work for the first showing of a new fashion collection to an exclusive invite-only audience or for a band’s new music release being initially played to an intimate chosen audience of hard-core fans.

Hi Saumen, thank for your comment! It’s great that you support both sides of this debate. You make an interesting point: with the increase of mobile devices, event professionals are now faced with securing the intellectual property of their event. As mentioned in the video above, live performances are now becoming increasingly easy to access after recordings are shared online. Do you see any ways that event professionals such as yourself may be able to minimise or even stop this in the foreseeable future?

misshistoria says:

I think a balance is important. Personally, I used to film whole songs and found that I never really watched them back again apart from on the train home; it seemed pretty pointless, but I’ve never regretted filming something because I felt as if I wasn’t “in the moment”. As you state, there exists an “intangible energy”, which doesn’t necessarily vanish once you pull out a mobile device. Conversely, sometimes I use this opportunity to stop singing along for a second and actually take in the audience around me, sometimes turning the camera onto those beside and behind me. In those moments, I feel like a fly on the wall, and then happily remember that I can dive back in to living the experience of joining in. Nowadays, I really like snapchat because I can capture a ten second clip of some of my favourite songs to enjoy later (and I do enjoy these more than the 4 minute videos I never get around to watching), and then put my phone away for the rest of the song, to enjoy it with my own eyes. I don’t think people sat at the back of a concert or gig who are forced to look at the stage screens are necessarily experiencing their environment to a lesser extent, does holding a phone up for a few minutes really matter that much?

Thank you misshistoria for sharing your thoughts with us. You make some very interesting points. With the advancement of mobile technology and its endless capabilities we are now able to create a digital souvenir to take away from the event. But do you think the process of capturing those moments change the event experience, has it stopped you from ‘living in the moment’? Although, one can argue that by being present in the event doesn’t necessarily mean you are there, you are experiencing the event through the screen of your device. Technology allows us to capture every waking moment, but just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. What do you think?

Chloe Biggs says:

I recently attended a gig where every other person seemed to be filming the thing on their phone. After the first few songs the frontman told everyone to put their phones away and just enjoy; and they did (it was a small show so he was able to do this). I felt as though the atmosphere changed at that point. People were dancing more, and focusing on the band instead of trying to get the perfect shot.
I’m a huge fan of live music and have been attending gigs for the last 11/12 years so have seen the increase in the use of technology at them.
Although I think it would be a bit much to completely ban the use of devices, there could be an opportunity here for event professionals to record/stream the show which might lead to some people choosing not to use their devices – a video shot by the venue is going to draw in a bigger audience than a wobbly video shot on a phone.

Thanks for your response Chloe! I think that that is a crucial argument for how we as professionals need to react to this potential problem – by recording the live performance, so the event attendees do not need to. As a result, attendees can live in the moment and fully engage with the atmosphere, but also have a high-quality video recording, as a momento of the moment.

Do you think that event professionals should offer this service, free-of-charge, to event attendees to diminish the use of mobile devices at live performances? Would you?

You make the great point that we are in the digital era, and maybe it is down to FOMO & social media that we feel the need to record and share everything we do. Personally I think this is a fantastic opportunity for event professionals – fundamentally we should always be embracing technology, it will only be a challenge and hindrance if we don’t adapt and adjust to this digital age.

At the moment mobile devices at live gigs or festivals don’t improve the experience, other than allowing people to share with friends and strangers that they are there. Yes, it promotes the event for the organisers but it doesn’t add anything to the consumers’ experience. However as tech becomes more common, and therefore cheaper, I think we will start to see features such as augmented reality being used & special content being unlocked by phone users.

We should be looking at ways to make smart phones part of the experience, something that develops the way we interact and attend events.

I think this is a really great post and the topic is a really interesting one! Well done guys!

Hi Caitlin, thank you for comment.It’s great that you agree with our opinion that mobile devices should be embraced within the event industry! A suggestion previously made in this debate is that event professionals should start to incorporate recording and streaming live performances as this could reduce the use of mobile devices by event attendees at live performances.

As an event professional what are your thoughts on this suggestion?

I think that could be an interesting area to look into, however I think I would have to throw a question back at you – if you have attendees who’ve paid to attend the event in person, would you then charge people at home to watch the live stream?

I think Event Profs should be recording their events regardless because video case-studies are a fantastic ways for companies to showcase what they’ve done in the past. I don’t know if recording and live streaming will actually add anything to the overall experience for people who are at the live event, but it would for the audiences who couldn’t get tickets!

Thank you for your reply Caitlin! To answer your question, it may depend on the type of event. We are aware that large music festivals such as Glastonbury provide the public with live streams free of charge through the BBC. However our thought on smaller live performances, is that event professionals may want to start embracing streaming at a cost whilst providing event attendees with an option for downloading a digital souvenir (videos and photography) free of charge (through a code given) after purchase. The emphasis being that event attendees should then no longer have the need to record their event experience!

Aisha says:

I think there’s a mix between the two, and depends on the type of event and the audience. I do think it’s a great opportunity for event professionals, they are receiving a great mass of publicity from people like us posting videos on snapchat, vine, youtube, Facebook etc. without any extra costs and more people gain awareness of certain events around the world, which will encourage more visitors. But there is also some cons aswell…

When I go to watch live performances, I never think about getting my camera ready because I rather live in the moment. On the other hand, I love watching videos from other peoples experiences and in some cases start to have a high interests to attend that event. I do think the reason is from the great influence we have from social media and the great advantage we have with technology today.

This is a very interesting blog, I’ve really enjoyed reading this!

Hi Aisha, thank you for taking an interest in our blog and posting your views! We agree that there is a mixture between the two and there are definitely direct benefits for event professionals!

Its nice to know that you live in the moment when you attend live performances. Do you think more people can be like you? Or has the advancement in technology gone too far where people now rely on being attached to their technological devices and watching behind their screen instead of experiencing the actual performance itself?

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