Is this the beginning of the end of cellphones at concerts?

Why Jack White's use of a phone-locking service could change concerts forever

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 23: Concert goers use their cellphones during the Fifith Harmony concert at Best Buy Theater on March 23, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

If you bought tickets to Jack White’s upcoming, sold-out tour that kicks off in Detroit on April 19, then you were notified that White is enforcing a strict cellphone ban at all of his shows. While you can leave your cellphone in your car, a tech company called Yondr will be at every venue to put your phone in an individual pouch that locks so that you, your concert buddies and Jack White can all enjoy a “100% human experience.” 

White said in a statement that, "We think you’ll enjoy looking up from your gadgets for a little while and experience music and our shared love of it IN PERSON." 

Comedians like Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan and musicians like Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake have used the phone-locking service before at shows so that their material doesn’t end up on YouTube, but White’s use of Yondr will be the first time a musician has used such a service for a full tour. 

So what will happen when you show up the venue ready to see White searing guitar melt your face off? A statement says that, “Upon arrival at the venue, all phones and other photo or video-capturing gizmos will be secured in a Yondr pouch that will be unlocked at the end of the show. You keep your pouch-secured phone on you during the show and, if needed, can unlock your phone at any time in a designated Yondr Phone Zone located in the lobby or concourse.”

The San Francisco tech company not only uses its Yondr pouches for concerts, but for schools and businesses as well. Founder Graham Dugoni told The Guardian that your mind is somewhere else when you’re glued behind your phone during a concert, adding, “As bizarre an experience it is to stand at a concert behind a sea of smartphones, it’s even stranger for the artists to see that sea of smartphones.”

While it’s unsure how this phone-locking experiment will go until White wraps up his tour, it brings up the question of whether this is the future of the concert-going experience. 

Nashville promoter Brock Jones tells Rolling Stone that some artists don’t like it when there isn’t enough bandwidth in the arena, meaning fans can’t post on their Snapchat or Instagram. Artists and promoters view cellphones as marketing and promotional tools. Jones adds that “the last thing [artists] want to do is shut down socials during the show.”

Cellphones also capture unscripted or shocking moments at concerts that then turn into headlines the next day, like when Beyoncé sneezed in the middle of a concert, or when Bob Seger unexpectedly joined Bruce Springsteen on stage for a rousing rendition of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” 

Despite the marketing incentives that cellphones can bring, many artists have been asking audiences to put away phones during shows for quite some time. Bonnie Raitt is known for doing this at her shows, and has no problem calling an audience member out for filming. At a show in Detroit, she told the audience, “If you’re all filming me, then why am I even here?” 

Some fans will grumble about White’s cellphone ban, but the former White Stripes frontman is doing everything possible to keep fans satisfied while still performing for a phone-free venue. White will post photos to the Instagram account @officialjackwhitelive, where fans can repost photos and videos from the show onto their own social media accounts. 

How would you feel if you weren't allowed to bring your cellphone into a venue to see one of your favorite artists? Let us know in the poll below and sound off in the comments. 

About the Author:

Jack is a Digital Content Editor with a degree in creative writing and French from Western Michigan University. He specializes in writing about movies, food and the latest TV shows.