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Slipped Disc editorial: We need to change concert hall rules

The furore surrounding Krystian Zimerman’s objection to being filmed on a phone by a member of his audience is a classic sign that our times have outworn the old rules.

Most people now have phones in their pockets. Many use them to capture highlights of their daily lives. Some use them in live performance.

In pop concerts, private filming is not just legitimate it is practically obligatory.

In classical music, there is an assumption that phones will be switched off before a concert. Most patrons do so when requested.

Some artists and venues, however, allow audiences to share the experience, pop-style. A few, such as Valentina Lisitsa, actively encourage them to do so, regarding the act of sharing as a democratisation of their art. This tendency is growing more popular and cannot be reversed. We will see more Zimerman-like incidents in the coming months where performer and public do not regard the concert in the same light.

What is needed is a new set of definitions.


concert phones

Concert hall managers should reread their terms and conditions and decide how they might be relaxed or reformed. Some concerts yes, others not. It may be that zones could be provided in a concert hall for part of the public to film and tweet without disturbing other, more traditional sectors of the audience.

Maintaining a categorical ban serves only to deter a younger audience for whom instant communication is an essential of their social lives.

Artists must have the right to refuse, but some – pehaps many – will welcome the change, especially if it lowers the audience age.

Perhaps the managers of Carnegie Hall, the Barbican, the Salle Pleyel and others could offer us a new set of rules.


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  1. David B Teague says:

    As long as the person recording doesn’t get in the line of sight of someone behind, I have no problem with recording part or all of a concert. I believe you are correct.

    As far as rules of behavior, I will point out a behavior that I find reprehensible beyond measure: shrill whistling as part of an audience member’s applause. That is annoying to nearly everyone, painful to many and simply agonizing to me. It should be prohibited, but it will not be. That ship has sailed, and I can only rail impotently. Thanks for listening.

  2. Perhaps those rules could include something about yelling out rude boos and other obnoxious comments that are out of place in a true classical concert experience. I get that this is tradition in many opera houses; however, it is rude to everyone: the soloist, the chorus and orchestra, the behind the scenes people and to the audience trying to listen. It amazes me that this type of rude behavior which would not be tolerated in a student recital hall occurs constantly in professional venues.

  3. David Boxwell says:

    Why capitulate to those people who can’t “unplug” for even 45 minutes. Why can’t _they_ learn what it means to experience music without the mediation of gizmos?

    • Why? Because we need more people attending concerts and buying tickets if we want classical concerts to continue to remain available and classical musicians to have paid employment. There are many people in the millennial generation who simply will not attend events where they have to unplug entirely. (Or they’ll attend and simply not unplug.)

      • Maybe we should let them set up barbecues as well? Maybe hang out with their friends in the aisle?

        People who tape are not paying attention. They’re taping. That’s reason enough to ban them– plus, their taping can be a distraction to the rest of us.

    • PWattis says:

      So agree!

  4. I am a 27 year old who frequents classical music concerts. I find cell phone usage repellent during concerts, and I applaud artists like Zimmerman and Alan Gilbert who stop concerts when the sanctity of the concert hall is disrupted.

    As a young person, I firmly do not agree that cell phone use is an essential part of my life. In fact, I love going to concerts to escape my cell phone. I sincerely hope that concert halls do not take your advice and encourage tweeting or any kind of cell phone use. This will not encourage a younger audience. Honestly that would make me even more inclined to stay home and just listen to CDs. There is nothing worse than being taken out of a concert, a play, or a film by somebody fumbling on a bright cell phone screen.

    • I agree. And look at this:!/articles/conducting-business/2012/mar/28/attraction-annoyance-orchestras-invite-audiences-use-smartphones/

      I don’t buy the argument that when tweeting is restricted to an area that it doesn’t disturb others… This is not a sporting event. Tweeters should be place in a separate room attending the performance on closed circuit television. But seriously, is this the audience member you want in a concert hall? Someone who prizes their own voice and opinion over the voice of the performer? Because who made them God? Did they practice eight hours a day for twenty years? Did they get an advanced degree in music so they could learn how to appreciate, express and communicate every nuance of the composer’s intention? Did they spend the whole day or week mentally preparing for this moment? Because… no, of course not. So they can tweet to the whole world anything they think at any given moment during a concert when someone is playing or singing their heart out? It disgusts me to think about it.

      • Theodore McGuiver says:

        Agree wholeheartedly. It’s the notion that the opinion of some half-baked cretin with phone in his or her hand is somehow more interesting than what’s happening on stage which is so unhealthy. Still, we now know that talent is not important; the only thing we relly have to aspire to is visibility. It’s hideous.

      • kat van K says:

        Had the exact same thought. I also don’t think the audiences are compatible. Someone who has the attention span of a full minute without needing a cell phone, is usually not the guy to buy a ticket to hear a live performance of Beethoven’s 9th. I don’t think they understand that someone needs to sit there for 8 hours a day for 20 years before they can do what they do. I don’t even think that’s generational. There are plenty of young people engaged in classical music that understand the difference between entertainment and art.
        Maybe if Snoop doggy dog or whatever his name is wasn’t revered as a musician, we’d be putting it all back into perspective.

      • Yeah, the self-indulgence of these ‘millenials’ is ridiculous– if indeed they’re all that bad.

    • Sanctity of the concert at a Zimerman’s or Gilbert’s concert?! What are they, then, gods?

      • ken scott says:

        Perhaps it is the concert where sanctity lies? Is there much use of the cell phone in churches? If not, why not? Respect for others spiritual beliefs, perhaps?

      • John Parfrey says:

        Perhaps ‘sanctity’, if taken literally by some, is too strong a word. I think the implication is an assumption that we’re all at a concert to hear and see a musical performance. Anything else is probably going to be distracting. While it almost never happens, the ideal for me would be to have a personal link between me, the performer(s) and the music being performed. That’s why, for me anyway, coughing, cell phones, candy wrappers, etc., aren’t welcome additions to that experience. Occasionally, I have been hit with a coughing fit, so when I think that might happen, I sit at the end of a row so I can leave the hall quickly so I’m not a distraction to others who are there to have that same quiet communion between with the performer and composer.

        While the visual experience is secondary (except, for example, for opera) visual distractions, like cell phone screens, can also distract.

        I’m no snob about this, but when I pay $50-$100 for a ticket, I do have some expectation that I don’t welcome that experience disrupted, at least until the music has concluded. That’s true for movies, plays, anything that involves an being in an audience that is present to experience some kind of performance.

      • Fabio Fabrici says:

        If you don’t respect the spirituality and human effort that condenses in the classical performance by artists of that caliber, then maybe better don’t attend. There are also some lighter classical concerts, more toward the entertainment side. Avoid the “deep” artists in the future, it’s not for everyone.

      • Fabio Fabrici says:

        Ideally, in a good classical concert, everyone is for moments close to “God”. Unless you are in the wrong place because you are not looking for “it”..

  5. Francis Crociata says:

    Allowing audiences to share pop style–isn’t all that new. The late Jorge Bolet did not object to pirates and, in fact, often put collectors of his concert performances in touch with one another.

  6. Marshall says:

    Really unbelievable-selling out to this electronic crap, and then justifying it by calling it democratisation.
    What is wrong with-during a performance-shutting up, sitting in a normally acceptable manner, and concentrating on what’s going on?

    Obviously all of us participating in this blog are part of the electronic/computer world-but it doesn’t have to intrude on every experience. I wish it were legal to jam phones in concert halls and opera houses-it should be. I’m paying for an experience that has certain simple rules-do I need people waving their f_____g phones around. Texting during a concert-why go?

    I hung up once on someone who called me during an intermission at a Met performance-saying if it all means so little to you that you need to talk to me-goodbye.

    My phone is turned off before I enter a hall-I do not check messages-I do not turn it on until I’m leaving.

    Very sad that for so many life is no longer real unless it is filtered through a device.

    • violinista says:

      Generally agreed, but intermission is intermission — that seems a bit strict. I wouldn’t get up to relieve myself in the last act of Traviata either. That’s what the break is for.

  7. Personally I would object to being filmed on a mobile phone during a concert. Young people need to learn about intellectual property rights and this includes an artists performance. Now they have deals with companies so they get paid. One does not rip a film off by film it at a cinema so why film a concert.

    Kristian Zimmerman may earn a decent wage, but many Classical Musicians are not. Training costs money and so does clothing and food. The young need to halt this something for nothing culture and start to pay for their recordings.

  8. Musiker says:

    Don’t know what the legal situation is in other countries, but the performing rights watchdog GEMA has a big say on this issue in Germany.
    And from what I understand, it also becomes more complicated if a particular performer has an exclusive contract with a record label.
    That said, it never seems to be an issue with performers who agree to meet fans and sign autographs afterwards. Or at least in those situations, I’ve never heard objections on the part of the singers/soloists when people take their photos then.
    Any copyright lawyers out there care to shed light on the legal issues involved there and in concert halls/opera houses in general?

    • youngsop says:

      Photos with fans afterwards are one thing, filming of a performance is quite another, affecting not just copyright and intellectual property, but the control of the personal ‘brand’ of the performer – the existence of which is now a fact of life, and affects work opportunities significantly.

      Susan Graham, I think, recently talked about the huge pressure performers are now under when every performance may end up on YouTube or other sites, without context – was there an announcement that such-and-such was unwell but unwilling to disappoint ticket holders and would therefore continue with the performance beforehand, or did a piece of scenery just miss their head two minutes earlier, for example! A single ‘off’ performance may now be found circulating the world wide web before the last note has been sung or played.

      Not even the very greatest performers can replicate their peak-performance recorded (and edited!) sound in live performance – things happen – a little dust, not enough sleep, an unflattering acoustic, a distracting person in the second or third row waving a phone/camera about – but this trend makes that unachievable and inhuman goal the imperative by which we performers are essentially forced to live, thereby compromising our ability and willingness to take risks in performance, from which true art often emerges.

  9. Reggie Benstein says:

    I agree that no concert goer should have the right to film a performer without their consent. If Lasitsa and others are willing, then that is fine, but in all other circumstances, I think a performer should have the right to refuse. They should not have to protect themselves on their own.

    There’s then the issue of distracting others in the audience which is already a huge problem with the constant coughing, flipping of programme pages, fidgeting, conversation, and so on that goes on during performances.

  10. Point taken, but Zimmerman’s behavior was tacky. His job is to play the piano. He should have left audience management issues to hall personnel, not go on a childish tirade. His rants are becoming a little old. His LA temper tantrum was also way over the top. He should have reported the offender to a hall supervisor, who could have made sure the video was deleted and the culprit thrown out. He should NOT have addressed the issue himself.

    Last month I had the privilege of hearing a recital by the great pianist Grigory Sokolov. What struck me like lightening was his consummate respect for his audience. No matter what they did, his concentration did not break. He played, it seemed with an understanding that many present had paid high prices for their tickets and traveled from far away to hear him. He didn’t let a few rude jerks ruin it for the rest of us. He performed with utmost respect for his audience.

    It was a packed house & the public was enthusiastic but unruly, applauding after every single movement of every piece he played. People stood up and walked around and even got up and left as he was playing his encores. Nothing phased the artist. He continued, fully concentrated, determined and committed to performing his best for those who were listening.

    There were members of the audience visibly videoing Sokolov’s encores on smart phones & Ipads. I was sitting near the stage, with a view of the audience & the screens stood out like beacons in the darkened hall. You could see exactly who was videoing, and what device they were using. There is no way Mr. Sokolov could not have been aware of them. His visual perception is legendary.

    And yet even these disruptive video cameras did not deter Sokolov. He carried on with 6 encores, a 3hr. recital. His cds, on sale in the lobby sold like hotcakes. He treated his audience with dignity and respect, although there were those present who did not deserve it. And we felt honored and uplifted by his stunning performance.

    Zimmerman, in comparison to Sokolov, seems like a petulant, childish divo. I understand his objection but he should have handled it differently. He should also keep in mind that there are great artists like Sokolov who do not find it necessary to behave in such a manner.

    • Ferenc Gabor says:

      Lago says : “His job is to play the piano” ….

      Are you serious?
      And if you don´t like it, you will ask for your money back!?
      Don´t forget to check your e-mails during the concert.

    • From your description of his behavior, I agree Zimmerman should have shown more dignity and respect. Hopefully, he will mature and learn decorum or he may not have an audience. He is highstrung, perhaps, and that may be a key part of the excitement of his performance. If playing the divo makes him more in demand as a temperamental artist, it may sell tickets by getting him media exposure. But truly, he could overplay his hand. Of course, he has the option, like Glenn Gould and others, to stop performing live and restrict his output to recordings where he may control the environment.

      However, I object to your flippant comment that “His job is to play the piano.” That shows disrespect on your part. He is not a monkey for hire.

      It should be the performers’ choice, not the audience, and while Sokolov may have had great concentration despite the distractions, audience members, who paid high prices for their tickets, have a right to expect that they will get to enjoy the performance without distractions of other audience members.

      We don’t allow smoking on planes anymore because it only takes one cigarette to affect everyone else. Your rights to enjoy a performance your way ends when it infringes on my right to enjoy it my way. Sitting quietly and attentively does not impose on others. If you want to yuck it up with your friends during a performance, go to concerts outdoors or at unconventional venues such as cafes and clubs, or wait until the gala party with dining tables.

      There is a reason they turn the lights down in the concert hall. It is to shine the spotlight on the performer and to signal to the audience that it is their turn to participate in a respectful manner.

      • Musiker says:

        Huh??? Was Iago at the concert?
        Doesn’t sound like it to me.
        So his “description” of Zimerman’s alleged behaviour has NO basis in fact. He is in no position to judge whether or to what degree Zimernan showed dignity and respect.
        He is in no position to call Zimerman behaved like a “petulant, childish divo”.
        iago wasn’t even there, for heaven’s sake.
        He has no idea to what degree the person with the smartphone was intrusive or distracting, not only to Zimernan, but also to the rest of the audience.
        So who on earth are you or Iago to say so patronisingly that you hope “he will mature and learn more decorum”?

        • Lorenzo says:

          Musiker,: Dude, read the news. It’s been described in newspapers everywhere. He stopped the concert. He “stormed offstage”. He addressed the audience and told them why he objected. He did not play any encores. He canceled his appearance at the post-concert reception. Those are the facts.

          For any professional musician that’s really unprecedented. It’s childish behaviour and shows a lack of respect for your public.

          • Musiker says:

            Lorenzo, “Dude”. none of the newspapers were there either, certainly none of the English-language ones. So they cannot say either that he “stormed off”.
            They do so because it makes a better headline.
            But it is by no means a “fact”.

            I bet my bottom dollar that the only media present were local newspapers and the German news agency DPA, whose report triggered the deluge of interest in the story in the first place.

            When I spoke to the festival’s press spokeswoman, she told me that Zimerman was calm and didn’t shout or storm off, even if he was firm and decisive in what he said. And that the whole interruption lasted one or two minutes at most.
            And the fact that Zimerman apologised to the remainder of the audience and explained his behaviour is a sign of respect.

            Not playing encores? There are plenty of artists who don’t do that.
            Ditto for not turning up to post-concert receptions.
            But again, these so-called “facts” are used to “prove” that Zimerman threw some sort of childish tantrum.
            I’ve also attended concerts by Sokolov, Iago’s hero.
            I don’t think he’s the sort of person to attend post-concert receptions.

            Alfred Brendel once walked off stage during a recital because he was distracted and annoyed by the persistent coughing of an audience member who made no effort to stifle it.
            Are you going to tell Brendel that he needs to “mature” and show “more decorum”, too.

            “Respect” works both ways. Maybe the audience, too, ought to learn to show respect for the artists and desist from talking, coughing loudly, playing with their mobile phones, so that everyone can concentrate and listen to the music.

          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            It’s not unprecedented at all. These things happened all the time with artists like Pollini or Svjatoslav Richter etc. Clearly you have no idea how it is to be in the mental state of an exceptional highly sensitive artist.

          • Fabio Fabrici said “Clearly you have no idea how it is to be in the mental state of an exceptional highly sensitive artist”.

            Fabio, I’m afraid I do, which is exactly why I feel Zimerman’s behavior was unprecedented.

        • To Iago’s credit, the article linked in the first paragraph described the performance as follows:

          “During the Ruhr piano festival last night at Essen, the Polish pianist spotted a member of the audience filming him on a smartphone. He stopped playing and asked the person to desist. Resuming the recital, he soon gave up, leaving the stage. He returned after an interval, saying, ‘Apologies, I am now on Youtube’. He then played some Szymanowski pieces and left, refusing to return for encores, or to stay for the post-concert reception.”

          It is therefore fair to describe Zimmerman as a “petulant, childish divo”.

          We have no reporting whether Zimmerman took all the appropriate measures with management and the concert promoter to respect his wishes. I suppose if he did, he had a right to make a stink.

          As far as my comment, it is not patronizing to suggest that if he makes the bed he must lay in it. If he wishes to behave badly, he must accept the consequences. If you read my other posts, you will see that I strongly object to the electronic misbehavior of audience members. I find it inexcusable to do and inexcusable to permit. It is a bad trend.

          • Lorenzo says:

            Here’s one report of his previous rant, when, playing at Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, he suddenly decided to announce his opinions angrily on US foreign policy to his audience before playing.


          • Fabio Fabrici says:

            Good for him that he has the courage and the culture to be more than a musical prostitute who does only satisfy his “customers ” by giving them the “job” of playing the keyboard.

            Reading through the comments here one clearly gets the idea, that a certain “culture” has been very distorted by it’s “money first” paradigm.

          • Lorenzo says:

            Fabio Fabrici wrote: “Good for him that he has the courage and the culture to be more than a musical prostitute who does only satisfy his “customers ” by giving them the “job” of playing the keyboard”

            With all due respect, if Mr. Zimerman wishes to opine on foreign policy publicly, perhaps he should consider a career in politics rather than music. To oblige an audience who have come to hear his artistry on the piano to listen to his political views, is, IMHO, disrespectful and inappropriate.

            Just as I believe that his rant on filming was inappropriate. He should have had some one else handle the problem rather than deal with it directly. People are have come to hear him play, not to be chided by him or forced to listen to his political idealogy. Perhaps “job” is too blunt a word, let’s call it “artistic responsibility”.

          • Musiker says:

            Thankfully, there will always be artists who care enough not only about their art but also the world to make their opinions heard.
            They see that, too, as part of their “artistic responsibility.”

            Someone doesn’t have to “consider a career” in politics merely to formulate a political opinion or express it.
            Anyone and everyone is entitled to their political opinion and to express it.
            Doing so does not constitute a “rant”.

            Politicians meddle with the arts all the time, almost alway to the detriment of the arts.
            Do you complain then?

            But as soon as artists express a political opinion, you accuse them of going off on a rant and forcing others to listen to their political ideology.

            You seem to believe that artists are some sort of serfs who are there for your entertainment only and woe betide them if they have the audacity to think for themselves.

            How dare they, they aren’t paid to do that are they?

          • Lorenzo says:

            Musiker said “But as soon as artists express a political opinion, you accuse them of going off on a rant and forcing others to listen to their political ideology.”

            Musiker, it’s admirable when artists hold strong political views but I believe that there is a time and a place for these views to be expressed. It is my opinion that when an audience has come to hear an artist play, it might not be the most appropriate time.

            You continue “Politicians meddle with the arts all the time, almost alway to the detriment of the arts.”. Yes, they certainly do! We all complain about this, and it should be strong proof that the inverse might also be true. If I were spending money to attend a political event, and the keynote speaker suddenly felt compelled to sit down and play the piano while he/she had a captive audience – as fine a pianist as that speaker might be – I think it would also be inappropriate.

            Look, this is a simply a difference of opinion. I am a professional musician and I would never dream of interrupting a concert to chide my audience for their poor behavior or to express my political views. Knowing that Mr. Zimerman is inclined to do just that, I probably would not buy a ticket to one of his concerts. You would. It might be interesting and inspiring to you. To me it would be offensive.

            Both points of view are fine. It’s just a difference of taste. Artists have different audiences with varying tastes and opinions, and it’s perfectly OK.

          • Musiker says:

            “Both points of view are fine. It’s just a difference of taste. Artists have different audiences with varying tastes and opinions, and it’s perfectly OK.”

            I certainly can’t disagree with you there!

      • “Zimmerman…. should also keep in mind that there are great artists like Sokolov who do not find it necessary to behave in such a manner.” “Hopefully, he will mature and learn decorum or he may not have an audience.”
        Musiker -THANK YOU!!!
        To all the iagos and davids:
        Do you have ANY IDEA WHO you are talking about??? Are you saying these extreme stupidities about one of the most renowned pianist on this planet whose name you do not even know how to spell correctly and who has won the whole world over countless times?
        Krystian Zimerman and Grigory Sokolov are of the same generation and of the same standing in the music world, among piano lovers and more. Shame on you, both

        • Lorenzo says:

          “lala”: Excuse me, but there has been nothing but praise here for the great Grigory Sokolov.. He has been simply held up as as an example of how an artist can choose NOT to react the way Mr. Zimerman did.

          It seems to me that the writers reacting here (Lala & Musiker) with lots of punctuaction marks and capital letter shouting, screaming their opinions angrily in broken English, are the ones who are being pompous and judgemental. You are the shameful ones.

          • Musiker says:

            Broken English, pompous and judgemental?
            I think you’d better look those words up in a dictionary.
            I was merely questioning Iago’s ability to pass judgement on an event at which he wasn’t present and about which he’d only read newspaper reports written by journalists who similarly weren’t present.

            I think it’s “pompous” and “judgemental” to offer an opinion about something merely based on hearsay and personal prejudice, don’t you?

          • Musiker says:

            PS. it is also “pompous” and “judgemental” in the extreme for another poster to express the “hope” that Zimerman — 56 years old and regarded as one of the greatest pianists of his generation — “will mature and learn decorum.”

    • Martin Locher says:

      As long as Sokolov doesn’t record enough, he knows the tech savy guests will take a souvenir home. Audience members however should do this in “hidden” way, so they don’t distract others. I would be pretty annoyed if people would flash their mobile phones during concerts.

      We have to find a way to make classical concerts less sterile without getting into the pop concert fashion of basically focusing on the filming of the event, rather than listening to the music.

      I can give you an example of a day I spent in Las Vegas, which shows you two extremes. 1st I attended Terry Fator’s show. He allows the audience to film bits and pieces, but not the full event – well I filmed pretty much everything and he saw it, but noticed I turned off the camera now and then and he let it go. Very nice. I felt very welcome and well served for the money I paid. Then I went to the Blue Man Group show, where the audience was visually and orally raped by annoying signs and announcements of “do not take pics”, “do not film” and then even was encouraged to verbally express a vow not to take pics. They lost my interest even before the show started. $100 or whatever for a ticket and I can’t even show the family a pic of what I saw? Never again!

      Surely there are more disturbing things, than a person who films some parts of a classical concerts. I.e. a famous Swiss economics professor who come late into the concert hall, despite having been at the venue for a pre-concert snack, and stamps throw serveral rows loudly before sitting down. And no, I’m not annoyed by latecomers, as long as they just come into the hall and then try to be as silent as possible. Our local concert hall, to my knowledge, doesn’t have the facility to listen to the concert outside on a screen, so I prefer these ticket buyers to have the chance to get some value for their money – of course others disagree and think they should not be allowed to enter. Surely the discussions will continue next season :-)

      Another little thing that just came to my mind: I prefer taking pictures without me standing in the way. When I showed my vacation photos to a friend he said: “You’re nowhere to be seen on them. How do I know you have been there?” Maybe because I say so? So well, if one tweets, the one is at a concert, surely some people won’t believe it, if one doesn’t attach a live picture. A usual phrase of the young people of the intenet is “pic or it didn’t happen”.

      Surely we can find a “middle way” between constantly tweeting during concerts and not being allowed to film silently.

      • Martin Locher says:

        What a lovely Freudian slip.. Throw. I’d have loved to throw the professor over the balcony rail, but that would have been inappropriate. I could have hurt innocent people in the stalls.

  11. L Turner says:

    I don’t see the issue really. As long as patrons respect the people around them the artist should be thrilled. There is no intrinsic value to these videos, or photos. The value to the artist is clearly more fame among the general public. Frankly, people taking photos with their phones using the “flash” is far more distracting.

    • youngsop says:

      But it does compromise the artist’s ‘value’ in terms of work and recording opportunities. ‘Fame among the public’ is all very well, but it doesn’t pay the bills when no-one will hire you or offer lucrative recording contracts because a less-than-stellar performance (which we all have), or a proliferation of pirate videos of live performances of repertoire you wish to record, with poor sound quality, are available for free all over the internet. Ease of access to free material also significantly reduces the incentive to pay to attend a concert or performance, especially for the young and impecunious.

      An artist’s performance and the ‘brand’ associated with that are their only assets from which to earn a living, bought at great expense over many years. Your logic seems to suggest that artists should be happy to essentially give away those assets for free. I can’t think of any other profession where this would be expected or tolerated.

  12. I for one would like to see the incriminating video of the Zimerman incident before passing judgment on that one.

    With regards to concert rules, applauses, attire, brand of refeshments served etc… demagoguery tries to mask that, perhaps what happens on stage is not as interesting as what the glossy brochures, the newspaper previews and the artists’ agencies sell? Hence audiences trying to occupy their minds with the toys of the epoch, desperately sharing what was supposed to be an emotional journey and turned out to be a mere entertaining commute.

  13. robcat2075 says:

    We need to agree on a different word than “filmed”.

  14. People who appreciate classical music in a concert hall properly condemn distracting behavior among fellow concertgoers. In the past, this included things that made noise that disturbed the listening experience such as talking, whispering, seat back kicking, snoring, coughing, nose blowing, foot tapping, applauding between movements of an extended piece or songs in a song cycle, opening candy wrappers, and clicking cameras. People are expected to turn off pagers (remember those) and phone ringers.

    People sometimes giggle uncomfortably when the audience members following lyrics in the program all turn the page at the same time during a vocal concert. This behavior demonstrates that maintaining silence for deep listening is an essential, desirable and appropriate expectation during a concert. Yes, deep listening. Music appreciation is not taught in schools anymore, and it is likely that growing up one’s exposure to classical music is limited to high school orchestra or televised performances. There is a lot going in the first few notes of a Beethoven sonata. There is a tremendous amount of concentration, listening, watching and communication going on between an orchestra and a conductor. Instruments are meticulously maintained and tuned to produce the subtlest distinction in sound that elevates it above the typical. When I attend a concert I want to listen to that Steinway or Stradivarius– a singular experience. I want to hear every timbre of a singer’s voice. When a top cellist pulls his bow across the string, there is incredible expression going on in every moment of every single stroke. I pay good money to hear that, and don’t need my focused attention to be pulled away by someone’s need for a souvenir on their iPhone. If you want a souvenir, wait at the stage door for an autograph.

    At a popular music concert, the showmanship of the performer is prized more than the subtlety of the composition. Not only is the music amplified, principally to be heard over the drummer, but vocal audience participation is encouraged as part of the performance experience. In a classical concert hall, the audience participation involves listening quietly with full attention and not distracting your fellow audience member, but also to applaud, and cheer at the ends of pieces, not during the playing. Texting, emailing, playing video games in one’s lap are already a problem for the person trying to attend to a performer’s interpretation. Holding a smartphone camera aloft blocks the audience sight line and creates a major distraction for anyone sitting nearby.

    The suggestion in this article is that performers are now expected to relinquish further control of the distribution of their product, without compensation. Their performance may not be their best on that occasion, but even if it is, it may be distributed on the web recorded in low fidelity, making it look and sound amateurish in any circumstance.

    When a performer makes great efforts to have the best instrument and performance conditions possible, offstage and on. This includes the right to eliminating distractions from audience members and the performance anxiety that may result from fearing that a less than optimal representation of their work is being recorded and preserved. I know pirate audio recordings are ubiquitous, and deliver their own pleasures to the aficionado, but they still deprive the performer of financial benefits they are due.

    There are good reasons to be a diva, not least of which is that their reputations are at risk at every single performance. Except in a few instances, concert performers are not celebrities, and do not aspire to be household names. They aspire to produce a performance worthy of memory and mention. Performing opportunities are limited, and some singers in particular have shorter careers than other concert performers due to aging. Perhaps Liberace would have permitted amateur video, but he made a career as an entertainer and personality and not as a serious artist.

    Let’s show some respect for the performer’s wishes, and if some wish encourage popular music style interaction during a performance to the detriment of a serious or trained audience, let that be their option, not something foisted on them.

    • You are right on, David
      A piano recital can not be compared to to a live R&R concert.

    • Martin Locher says:

      “Holding a smartphone camera aloft blocks the audience sight line and creates a major distraction for anyone sitting nearby.”

      Not if the one holding the phone is doing it right,. And some cameras, not sure if smart phones are this smart yet, have a function which allows you to turn of the mini screen, so the camera doesn’t even produce much light. I don’t see how such a behaviour would distract you unless you want to be distracted.

      • Hartmann says:

        Martin, your explanation is totally whack. You’d be annoyed if someone next to you were digging in their purse for a cough drop or if they suddenly threw up in your lap. The point that you seem to miss is, anything that might remotely considered offensive by other patrons – be it rustling, vomiting, or filming – is not allowed in a concert hall. By your not taking the legal considerations of filming into account demonstrates that there is an entire generation which doesn’t understand the word respect.

        • Martin Locher says:

          Comparing someone holding an object silently to noise making digging or even getting vomitted onto you is totally whack. And actually wrong too, vomitting is allowed. You can’t disallow someone to get sick suddenly. If you want to disallow that, you have to forbid entrance of all patrons. You surely don’t want that.

          I’m all in for respect. I.e. I take off my “noisy” shoes in concert halls. I have them and love them, but in none carpeted halls, they squeak at even the slightest movement.

          Filming is not allowed when it states so when you buy the ticket. I don’t see it as disrespectful and also not as illegal per se, especially not when it is announced only on arrival on site. A recording which might be sold will be of different quality than any “pirate” recordings. I for one would probably never have made my way back to classical music concerts without all those wonderful, according to you, disrespectful and illegal, videos on Youtube.

          Or as someone once stated a few years ago: The world changes, change with it or die. The music industry is dying.

  15. Rgiarola says:

    It is interesting to observe the reactions. Although Mr. Lebrecht clearly propose changes “without disturbing other, more traditional sectors of the audience”, many people are still replying here as if it’s means the end of the whole experience of concerts as they are used to.

    Sorry, but you aren’t afraid of any P2P. You are just afraid of any change in your world. I can understand it and I won’t judge you, since it is the most common feeling in any place.

    • I think there are appropriate venues where recording and audience participation may be appropriate. These exist today when concert performers choose to appear in relaxed settings such as clubs, cafes, outdoors, living rooms, and generally anyplace they don’t turn the lights down in the hall. Concert performers have fewer and fewer opportunities to perform in concert halls due to the decline in audience members, but good artists and impresarios find creative venues and distribution channels, which exist in increasing abundance in the wired world. However, to produce and to receive an exquisite performance experience, there is nothing to match a quiet, appreciative audience. Perhaps inviting audiences to video tape encores would be a reasonable compromise.

      • Martin Locher says:

        “Perhaps inviting audiences to video tape encores would be a reasonable compromise.”

        Good idea.

  16. Timon Wapenaar says:

    Problem solved. Stockhausen style.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      I love how at 0:42 the computer in the middle of the back row pukes out the CD after being hit with the energy beam.

  17. I am also usually against taking pictures or videos without permission. But today I just couldn’t hold it. Well, it was my husband’s concert, so I didn’t feel like asking for permission.

    But then our daughter decided to be part of the show. from 6:20. and then was almost arrested by a security guard, and she is not even 3 years old!

    watch till the happy end! (translation: this is my daughter….We go home, she is already tired)

  18. Videotaping at a Stockhausen performance might have been welcomed by him for all we know. He is a horse ofa different color.

  19. José Bergher says:

    The next step in the new rules should be to install portable toilets in the aisles, so that nobody feels that two basic human rights (relieving oneself and flushing toilets during pianissimo passages) are being violated. In a big venue like, say, Carnegie Hall, about 258 portable toilets ought to suffice.

  20. My irritation at seeing people whip out their phones is not a function of the phones themselves; I would have to just admit the phones don’t bother me. What bothers me is the knowledge that so many people simply cannot have an authentic experience in the present moment without putting their phone in between it and them. It baffles me on a deep level

    But frankly, I know old prigs who act scandalized when they see a man in a concert hall without a collared shirt on. And you will NEVER stop people from getting bent out of shape when someone claps between movements in a symphony. That’s on them. So maybe this phone hatred is just on me and I need to deal with it myself.

  21. Theodore McGuiver says:

    Re-write the rule book? On this occasion, why? Why do we go to concerts? To experience the live, immediate performance. If our concentration is compromised by fiddling with a recording device of any description, then we’re not giving our full attention to what’s happening on stage; ergo: there’s no point in being there.

    I once knew a man who would pay vast sums of money for exotic holidays, yet all he would do was run around taking photographs. No mingling with the locals, no tea or beer on a terrace, nothing. Just photos. He’d return home a week later and – as was the case in those days – have his films developed. He would sit down with a glass of wine behind his slide projector and enjoy his holiday.

    When asked why he did this, he replied: ‘It’s often so unpleasant in those countries: too hot, strange people, horrible food. I spend my time taking photos so I can enjoy the holiday in the comfort of my own home’.

    These people have something in common: they’re afraid of opening themselves up to an experience which may move them. It doesn’t auger well for emotional honesty, and that’s bad news for the arts.

    • Martin Locher says:

      You apply that all concert-goers are going there for the same reasons as you do. They don’t. Some go to see and be seen, some go to brag to friends (might be a reason why they film), some go for a certain thank you action by their girlfriend or boyfriend, wife or husband. Some go simply because they bought a subscription.

      • youngsop says:

        So? Does that exempt them, somehow, from behaving with respect for the enjoyment of their fellow patrons or the necessary concentration of the performer?

        • Theodore McGuiver says:

          Absolutely right, youngsop. Doesn’t matter why they’re there: if they agree to go, they should show respect.

        • Martin Locher says:

          I don’t see where I said they shouldn’t.

  22. Sam McElroy says:

    The performer calls the shots, not the public. He/she has absolute legal and moral rights over what is recorded in recital, enshrined in copyright laws worldwide. The performance itself is the performer’s intellectual property, and until he/she wishes to relinquish the rights to that property, it is illegal for another to assume any rights to it. Buying a ticket to a concert does not confer recording, production or distribution rights to that performance. It grants the permission and privilege to attend the performance, and nothing else.

    The fact that recording devices are more prevalent these days does not change these basic copyright laws, just as the prevalence of guns does not make shooting someone less egregious. It was illegal to record a recital without permission thirty years ago with a cumbersome videotape camera, and it is still illegal to record without permission on any kind of recording device today, whatever the convenient online distribution outlets available.

    There are very sound reasons for this, and nobody reading this blog should need to be educated as to them. Some have financial considerations, others are matters of quality control – few artists want their music trivialized by a bad cellphone recording, nor do they want any mishaps edited into short clips for the purpose of ridicule.

    On the other hand, the wonderful possibility to share does exist, and should be utilized as much as possible for the good of all. The point is that ONLY the artist has the right to dictate when such sharing is appropriate and desirable. Because the possibility to share does exist, I recently spent a few thousand dollars on HD video equipment to record my partner’s piano recitals, mainly because the second half is always composed on the spot, and will be lost forever if not recorded. In the event that she is happy with the content, and that includes the video and audio quality as well as the obvious content quality, she shares those videos on youtube. For FREE! But if she is gracious enough to give something precious away for free, whether the exposure benefits her or not, she should be able to decide what, when and how! As a musician, I strenuously defend that legal and moral right.

    Finally, legalities and moral considerations aside, there is nothing that drives me more crazy than people’s inability to disengage from technology for the duration of a recital (or a conversation, for that matter), to just BE there experiencing the magic of it without distraction. I am one of those people who appreciates total silence in a recital hall, because I only want to hear the music. That is why I am there. I want to give to it as much as it gives to me. (Don’t get me going on sweet wrappers!). I certainly do not want to see the light of a camera screen while I am trying to give my entire attention to THIS Schumann “Fantasie”, say, nor do I want to hear its accompanying bleeps. Nor does the pianist want to see the penetrating red light of a light-meter shining out from the audience in their peripheral vision. It totally breaks the mood and focus required to do what classical musicians are trained and paid to do, which is to create another world for us, the listener. Why not hand over to that other world, and be blissfully happy with that?

    • Sam, I agree with pretty much everything you have said here and have very little add. Only that no-one seems to have mentioned the publishers. Artists are NOT the only ones who hold rights in a concert – the publishers own the music and therefore hold the copyright for its use. Clearly, a lot of classical music is out of copyright. But it’s a very complicated area and shouldn’t be ignored.

      I simply do not understand why people can’t experience a concert (classical or pop) with their own eyes and ears, rather than through a tiny screen.

      And the idea that allowing young people film at concerts will save the classical concert industry is simply rubbish. In the UK, at least, concerts are booming. Concentrate on the art – what really matters – and people will come.

    • John Parfrey says:


    • I ask everyone to read very carefully Sam McElroy’s extremely thoughtful, well-argued and intelligent post, and to recognize the truth of what he has said. In the course of five days in April, I found myself being videoed on a smartphone by a tourist sitting in the front row, directly in my line of vision, as I commenced the first piece in my recital. A few days later someone held up an ipad in mid-air to video my concert. The first incident was paticularly distracting, but I did not stop performing. In common with the strict ‘show must go on’ training of most London musicians, I would only stop playing if a fire broke out, water came through the roof, or a bomb went off. In addition, I have a duty towards my duo partner, as well as to the audience, which would preclude making a unilateral decision to leave the stage. In fact, during the same recital, unbelievably but truly, several pneumatic drills started up outside, about 15 mins into the concert, and kept going noisily to the very end. I and my pianist simply played on. After the concert the Italian woman who filmed me came up to me full of joy about the performance, and very kindly thanked me. I did not correct her for her actions, as I did not want to make an audience-member feel uncomfortable, particularly one who is a guest in my country. However, after these two filming incidents, it is now my practice to ask the concert promoter to make an announcement before the concert begins stating that there is to be no filming or recording of the concert through any medium, at any time. If audience-members want a memento of the event, they can buy my CD at the end, or watch the professionally-produced videos on my YouTube channel, which I have chosen to make freely available to all.

  23. On the BBC News website Jasper Hope, chief operating officer at London’s Royal Albert Hall, said filming at live events was not a problem – as long as it did not disturb the artist or the audience.

    There is your problem. What a twit.

  24. Getting your phone out at a concert, whether it’s to text a friend or to video the performer, is just trashy behaviour and I think Norman is acting in poor taste to suggest we espouse it. Both the activities I’ve mentioned involve a bright screen; a bright screen irritates fellow concert-goers; ergo this is bad etiquette. End of debate.

  25. Jennifer Wilson says:

    You are basically proposing the final nail in the coffin of the classical music recording industry. Why should anyone buy a DVD of a live performance if the same performance is available on youtube for free? Why buy a CD or an MP3? And then there is the question of accuracy. What if someone posts a recording that has distorted the performance in some way? Does the artist have no recourse? Does he have to sue? Please don’t drink the Kool Aid.

  26. Were it not for respectful but surreptitious bootleg recordings placed on youtube, I should have missed some wonderful performances; performances not recorded for DVD or CD; performances which would have simply disappeared forever.

    We live in a viral world. If we want classical music to be embraced by the next generation, we must find ways to have it enter their world. That world is youtube and all other internet platforms that speed performances around the world.

    There must be a way to accommodate the times while honoring the traditions of the concert hall. To simply say – not at all, never, is to appear unwelcome to many in the next generation.

  27. So much pandering to millennials by oldies who don’t want to feel old. What kind of music lover is it who would allow the use of a cell phone to be a main deciding factor in their evening plans? This isn’t innovation, it’s straight out appeasement, and for fear of what, exactly? Some “with it” hack elsewhere will write a column about how stuffy Mr. So-and-so is? Well so be it!

  28. violinista says:

    Why can’t we be *present* in our lives as they are happening?

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      Couldn’t agree more, but it seems to be hard to find many people with that view any more…

    • David Boxwell says:

      Now and in the future: One’s life only matters if and when it is recorded for “sharing” with others, whose lives only matter if and when they are recorded for “sharing” . . .

  29. It is, to my knowledge, still not permitted/acceptable to film in a movie theatre or at a live drama performance. Beyond the issue of intellectual property rights, it’s simply a matter of not distracting other audience members, or the performers. Let’s not get hung up on the idea that this is all about the stuffiness or irrelevance of classical music in the modern world.

  30. Benjamin Gordon says:

    I’m really grateful that Zimerman stopped the concert and that this issue comes to light. It is simply preposterous – as this “editorial” insinuates (isn’t Mr Lebrecht simply prodding us, as he does so well?) – that a concert patron should be allowed to document the concert. Unfortunately some audience-desperate orchestra or conductor is going to start encouraging their audience to record concerts as a desperate marketing ploy, and then every gormless orchestra thereafter will panic and jump on the band wagon as it rides over the cliff. There have always been bootleggers, who discretely broke the law without disturbing the rest of the audience. And their behaviour was generally tolerated, since their aim was to capture the AURAL experience. Recording a concert with a cell phone has nothing to do with savoring the performance at a later date; it is the blatant disregard for conventions as well as the adolescent and pointless display of power, i.e. I can record this concert, so I will. I don’t care if Celibidache comes down from above and proclaims, THOU SHALL RECORD: I can never condone someone recording a classical concert with their cell phone.

  31. There is a passage in Woody Allen’s excellent movie, “Small Time Crooks,” where one of the main characters — a total philistine who, after having made it big financially, now wants to become a person or culture in order to attain her image of perfect success (and, to that effect, even hires someone for that very purpose!) — where she actually takes a phone call during a concert, talking out loud while a poor cellist is attempting to continue playing his Bach solo sonata, to the dismay of the rest of the audience. This idea of allowing people to take out their smartphones reminded me, for some reason, of this scene. I find it to be a rather sad commentary on the current state of our culture, where we are becoming less and less able of genuine concentration, incapable of sustaining true experiences — substituting to musical events, genuine knowledge, and even relationships the virtual and often empty info-tainment provided by a little screen. Personally, I feel the word “decadence” is not too strong to describe such a sad state of affairs. This is ultimately not about copyright infringement, nor about new ways to “connect” with today’s audiences — incidentally, a desperate and purely financially motivated philosophy, which in my opinion is taking the entire music world and industry on a rather slippery slope — but rather about a basic from of respect for whatever we might be engaged in, whether it be a concert, a real piece of information, or even the relationship with another human being. I think Mr. Zimmermann’s response, far from being “childish” as has here been described, stems perhaps from a genuine sense of outrage at a culture incapable of truly respecting anything — i.e. being truly in the present, which is perhaps the true meaning of respect — and ultimately incapable of remaining with itself (despite the fact that, paradoxically, it is incredibly narcisstic), thus escaping itself incessantly in the flow of constant updates, emails, and the joys of empty multitasking. An audience that needs to keep a record of concerts is obviously not an audience that can do justice to the concert experience, and I doubt it will ultimately serve well the music industry — financially and otherwise. It pollutes the concert experience for the rest of the audience and turns what should be an occasion for reflection, perhaps even self-improvement, into just another item to be added to one’s social media account: “look, I was there!”

    • Francisco says:


    • David Boxwell says:

      I couldn’t have said it better–and I actually read every word! (You must surely know by now that if you can’t say it in 140 characters, you are risking people tuning you out and you will thereby become a social failure . . . )

    • Timon Wapenaar says:

      “Decadence” – the difference between ourselves and the Romans of the fourth century is that we can still read what they “tweeted” on the walls of the baths and the forum. None of our pithy electronic observations will survive the next 15 years.

  32. My life as it happening may involve going to a concert, but in doing so I am interacting with other people and it is only right that I respect their wishes.

    That person, the performer may not want me to record their performance. If that is the case. Do I have some empirical right to foist my views as they are now part of my life on them?

    No I do not. Especially if they are a professional performer and have a recording contract with a third party company. Then there is the issue of the actual music being performed. That has been created by someone else too. What about the affect on the people sitting around me? As a short person I find it irritating when someone very tall sits in front of me and the venue does not have raked seats. I’m certain I have habits that other people find irritating, however I attempt to take into account their needs. They are attending the concert too and also want to enjoy it.

    In this world of modern technology too many people are focused on what “I” can do without a consideration for the rest of the world around them. Aristotle was right with his golden rule aim to “do as you would be done by” with the premise that that way you might be “done by as you do”.

  33. I am also a young audience member (21 years), and would like to endorse the point made by Adam above. For me, a live concert is a place where I can have refuge from the pressures, demands, and noise of the outside world, and I would be deterred from attending concerts if halls relaxed their rules (it is bad enough that they struggle to enforce them). I hasten to add that I do not feel that all music should be relaxing: I find that the best performances of the best music (whether instrumental or vocal, whether abstract or programmatic) disturb and provoke me to the extent that something inside me is permanently altered. The nature of this perturbation is very different from the superficial distractions that blight our everyday lives; in fact, the latter need to be suspended for the former to be at their most effective.

    Many people criticise classical concerts on the grounds that they promote some sort of “stuffy” or “museum” aesthetic. Personally, I do not think it is a question of “stuffiness” here, rather it is a question of what we want from a concert. I think the desire for the suspension of the superficial that I have expressed above is, in fact, a fairly fundamental human instinct that transcends any given culture, class, or tradition. Why else would silence be an integral part of so many rites and ceremonies, both religious and secular? The struggle to maintain the live concert as a special occasion should not be interpreted as conservatism, rather as a means to keep us human.

    I really fail to understand why so many people think that concert etiquette is complicated or daunting; as far as I am concerned, there is one very simple rule: make no noise whatsoever during the performance (I must confess that I am guilty of occasionally chuckling extremely quietly if I recognise an obscure cross-reference), and wait until both the last sound has completely decayed and the conductor/performers relax/turn to the audience before commencing any applause (there is normally a palpable difference between the brief relaxation between movements and that at the end; where I were unsure, I do not applaud until I were sure that it were the latter).

    Finally, I would ask that people desisted from treating my age demographic as homogenous and from making spurious calls for controversial reforms in our name (by all means make such calls for reform on the basis of personal conviction and reasoned argument; but do not trot out the simplistic and lazy “young people want this” line).

    • Musiker says:

      Ah, wise words, eloquently put, Sasha.

    • I agree with you!
      There is something really special about the silence in a concert hall. Unfortunately I think it is true that many young people these days are not able to appreciate that. I’m not trying to make general statements about this age demographic (which, at 20 years old, I am part of), I’m simply looking around and this is what I see (of course there are exceptions).
      But I am not sure if the right way to react to this is to change the rules, so here I agree with you again.
      “I think the desire for the suspension of the superficial that I have expressed above is, in fact, a fairly fundamental human instinct that transcends any given culture, class, or tradition.” – This is so true.
      With the extreme overflow of sensory impressions that we experience in everyday life these days, silence can be the most beautiful experience. I think many young people need to learn that again and I believe that they could be able to appreciate it.
      Personally I think there is nothing more powerful than the absolute silence right after the last note of a piece of music. To me it always feels like every single sound I’ve just heard is lingering in the air. There is so much suspense in those few seconds that it always makes me shiver. For me, it would be a pity if that were lost.

  34. As pointed out before, there’s no such thing as a “basic right” for audience members to capture a performance. Period. It’s up to the artist, and I fully understand Krystian Zimerman’s reaction. You need an enormous amount of concentration to play on his level, and being recorded by some idiot who doesn’t even take the effort to conceal it is more than a little disturbing.

    There are many things that may be in need of a little refreshing in the classical concert practices, but this isn’t one of them.

  35. I think Norman makes a valid point here. We live in an age where people want to share their experiences on social media. Classical music risks being left out in the cold yet again if it doesn’t make some effort to try and bend to changing social norms.

    Also: filming is already pretty widespread – just search on Youtube for Lang Lang or Yuja Wang – dozens of audience videos pop up (which both artists seem to encourage with their eye-catching stage presences). Zimmerman should realize that times are changing and one can’t be completely unyielding in this regard.

    • Armando says:

      I really wish people would learn to spell the guy’s name correctly.
      It’s NOT Zimmermann or Zimmerman.


      Z I M E R M A N.

      And his first name is K R Y S T I A N
      Not Kristian.

      Spelling someone’s name correctly is also a matter of respect.

  36. I’m someone who frequently goes to classical/opera performances and pop/rock gigs. There seems to be a different set of behaviours for each of these. I would never dream of videoing or photographing at The Royal Opera House possibly because the personal enjoyment experience would be spoiled but more that I would stand out like a sore thumb. I might be tempted if others did it. At rock gigs, I behave very differently. I would like a souvenir so I’d capture some photos and the odd video (but just snippets, not the whole show). Why? As a momento, to share with friends, to post of YouTube for the benefit of others – a number of reasons. Nobody seems to mind. So why is this more acceptable than at a classical concert? Probably it is down to centuries old attitudes as to what a classical experience should be. I’m sure that if those of the Victorian age did it then we all would today, it’s just conventions that take a lot to change.

  37. Stephen says:

    I scanned the comments. Apologies. I just finished reading a thin little book (always dangerous) entitled “The Musician’s Soul” by james Jordan. While he spends time talking about singing and rehearsals, there are some salient points he makes about music.

    Mostly it’s about center, core, truth and love. Concerts have always been symbiotic. Everyone is involved and that includes the audience. If we could, for a second get ourselves away from ourselves and our opinions, and take a look at what are really the elements of this whole concert thing, we might find some ground.

    Any performer who works as a performer will tell you that very concert of live music is a new performance. The music is fresh for the first time. It doesn’t mattet if the music has been played (and heard) a thousand times. The venue, audience, instrument, climate, are all different every time, as well as the psyche of the people so engaged.

    A concert, in the classical sense here, is about the making of music. And music is about te making of experience. It requires everyone to be engaged in that process including the audience. Part of the the audience’s “job” since that word was already used to describe the musician, is to help create the space and ambience that allows music to be present and for most performing musicians I have talked with and experienced, that means being able to stay centered and focused. It is a fragile house of cards really.

    I believe that using a mobile electronic device requires one’s complete and undivided attention. If you disagree, or if you are better at these things than me, fine- but they demand your attention which means that at that moment- one is not engaged in the performance but outside it and competing for the center. It will affect the music to a greater or lesser degree but it will affect the music.

    Maybe rules should be relaxed, but I would hope that we don;t lose sight of the reason we’re all sitting in a space and sharing a communion of music. By thew way- I have an old recording of a live performance of a pop band where one of the songs starts very soft. Guess what- for the first 28 seconds, you know there’s sound but the screaming and audience noise is the only thing you discern until the elbows and the shushes reached the very last row of whatever the venue was. This in the late 60′s.

  38. michael turner says:

    I would agree with Joanna Debenham that what many people seem to forget are the regular musicians who are always overlooked whenever a performance is recorded and placed on youTube. Let’s be clear about this: this is a form of theft. Consents over filming and distributing public performances have to be paid for. Musicians have for many decades been paid for this, and future generations of players will be far poorer if we allow unauthorised filming to take place.

    I took part in a Opera Gala at the Royal Festival Hall recently, playing in the orchestra. The following morning a well-known journalist (who really should have known better) posted a review of the performance on their blog which included a link to a Youtube video taken (stolen) at that performance.

    I would like to see the Musicians Union issue a bill to the person who placed the recording on YouTube and also the journalist who must have known that this was a bootleg recording. A successful prosecution would make anyone think twice before doing it again. And in the longer run musicians might be able to earn the proper fees as is their right from authorised filming. These illicit recordings are driving down fees for legal ones, and this should be a concern for all professional musicians, and their union.

    • I don’t, for one second, think that this is to do with stealing a musician’s livelihood. If a photo or video is taken for one’s own personal use, with no monetary intentions, then it is hardly copyright infringement. I think the law in most sensible countries recognises that (in the USA, the music/film industry may intepret it differently). YouTube does allow the monetising of videos captured from live performances so that the performer (and their agents) can use revenues from advertising placed against the said video. That does not mean that these recordings are ‘illicit’.

      As an interesting asid, the peer to peer download market on the internet has been hammered, so where are the increased revenues then? This is nothing to do with stealing or theft but about the rights of concert goers to take their digital memories without disturbing fellow audience members or performers.

      • youngsop says:

        I think the key phrase there is ‘for one’s own personal use’. Uploading something to YouTube or any other internet site does not qualify – this opens the recording up to the whole world, unless very specific controls are applied.

        A concert-goer does not have any inalienable ‘right’ to create digital memories in the first place, and even less so when their taking of that material fundamentally breaches the performers’ intellectual rights, the copyright of the composer and/or his/her publisher, and even, arguably, the performer’s right to control their own work and its’ dissemination.

        More often than not, these recordings are taken, and I use that word deliberately, in direct contravention of stated regulations prohibiting photography and filming, which are commonplace in theatres and concert halls – choosing to breach these rules, which are there for a reason (as a performer, I find that little red light or held-up phone both insulting, infuriating and deeply distracting, quite apart from the financial and contractual considerations apertaining to the free distribution of my work), and are usually well-publicised, means that the filmer/photographer knows full-well that what he/she is doing is wrong, yet somehow thinks he/she is above the rules, the law, and showing respect for the enjoyment of their fellow-patrons, and the hard work and dedication of the performer. To compound that by broadcasting footage without the assent or knowledge of those involved is profoundly disrespectful, at best, and illegal, at worst, on the basis of copyright law.

        • Peter Lewis says:

          I don’t agree that taking photos or videos, even uploading nthem on Facebook or YouTube is ‘against the law’ in that they are not criminal acts. They may contravene venue or promoter rules nbut that does not lead to criminality. This articles about behaviour and respect. Introducing the law has its own redress ans struggles to keep up with the digital age. As far as I’m aware, nobody has been prosecuted for uploading onto YouTube a concert video they have recorded on their phone. The action would be for the vieo to be removed, muted or the account holder’s account suspended.

          As for the ‘regulations’ of the venue, normally a person filming may be asked to desist or to have the camera confiscated until the end. After all, buying tickets that are non transferable doesn’t prevent them from being sold on, at a profit. Football apart, that isn’t illegal either.

          • Rgiarola says:


            You’re right. People are clamming here about law, but they are forgetting that this situation is not happening in one country or even continent. Perhaps they aren’t aware that law is different in every place. I’m quite sure that these people had no idea about the law definition for copyrights in China, and the Hercules works would be to find a lawyer to sue someone that commit something that is illegal only abroad, for example. They would be surprised to know that in some countries such in Latin America, they would be the criminals after call someone as a “Thief”, if they couldn’t prove it formally according to the law of that countries.

            Again you’re right. The only possible actions are the video to be removed, muted or the account’s holder suspended or even banished. It is possible due to the storage company of the data rules, conditions and penalties. Also they are well known companies such Google or Vimeo, that have a physical address and under the laws of a specific country. Nevertheless it is difficult to these companies to prevent new uploads of the same material using a new account or moving to other company.
            The problem is that in 3 or 4 years these uploaders will be able to share and play these videos or MP3 without the need of these companies, after the development of the cloud computing. What we will do? Are there anyone thinking about it?

            Even the definition of “immoral but not illegal” is very different between cultures. All this reactions won’t cause to much effect on the other side conscious. They aren’t able even to understand that I’m just pointing practical facts, as any lawyer would do without defending any bias. While there are doing it, the world keeps changing and new dilemmas emerging constantly, but they will remain incapable to solve efficiently anyone.

            The accurate is exactly the Lebrecht’s proposal – “Concert hall managers should reread their terms and conditions and decide how they might be relaxed or reformed. Some concerts yes, others not” , “Without disturbing other, more traditional sectors of the audience”, and “Artists must have the right to refuse, but some – perhaps many – will welcome the change”.

            Please, pay attention that he is emphatic on “No disturbs” and “Artists decision”. He is not proposing the end of the world as you knew it.

          • A musical performance is considered intellectual property in the EU, the USA, and many other jurisdictions besides, therefore unauthorised recording is copyright infringement and thus illegal.

            As for the suggestion that there is nothing to be done, I beg to differ: Google (the owner of Youtube), one of the world’s richest and most powerful companies, could impose far more rigourous moderation procedures, insist that the uploader provide proper metadata, and improve the infringement reporting procedure so that anybody (not just the copyright owner), including those without Youtube accounts, can flag offending content. IMSLP, a non-profit website operating on a shoestring budget, manages it admirably.

            Rgiarola might also be interested to know that it is already possible (and has been since before Google existed) to upload audio and video content onto the worldwide web without using big companies such as Google, as anybody who is familiar with FTP can tell you.

          • Rgiarola says:


            I’m sorry for start to make a lot of questions, but It is to invite us to reflect about the things you said.

            Google constantly since 2007 isn’t showing any intend to do more about it. It might be against their business strategy. Why any attorney, union, musician, association, manager or any interested side had already inflicted the law? The reason is due to the difficult to apply it to any real situation but specially to this one, since it isn’t totally clear to the courts the understanding of any infringement. Let go to some examples:

            Why Viacom is always losing in court against YouTube/Google?

            Why all copyright defenders cannot act even as a group?

            Let’s remind about Lenz v. Universal Music Corp, 2007 at the Northern District of California. Lenz posted on YouTube a video with a famous pop star song. Universal lost the case.

            Now I’m talking about law in the USA and Google. Can you think about the same issue in China now? Do you know the number of potential net users there? What about the number of potential users in Brazil, a country that has serious problems with very complex and slow court process? Let’s think about wikileaks. Why the US govern cannot shut down it after the espionage accusation? (An accusation also based on law, and perhaps more hideous than copyright). What will happens if Google move their storage and HQ outside the US? If the situation on courts isn’t easy inside the US, it can be even worst outside.

            I was talking about a faster, large scale capacity without the need of any specific intermediary, but above all accessible in any place even far from strong network backbones. It is already in use by some huge companies and it will be for regular users in some years. I work for one of the major developer of this next step on internet, so don’t underestimate me. However, I’m not saying anything new even to Technology dummies, since It is obvious to anyone that internet frontiers is decreasing constantly and quickly. Besides it, cameras will be more and more small and with better quality, and soon no one will be aware about the presence besides the user. What copyright defenders will do along this scenario? They will try to sue someone? What a lack of efficient and innovative solution.

            Perhaps Copyright defenders should take a step forward developing their own video system. They could provide better quality than YouTube and Vimeo, and also they could have better appeal to the eyes of uploaders. They could provide artists pages, where the video would be displayed. They could demand total silence during the recording process in order to protect artists and the rest of the audience, but silence will be naturally desired by the moviemakers since it is necessary for good sound on the tape. After sometime, these amateurs movie makers would turn to be the silence keepers at all concert hall. Artists would choose how far they want to go on it. Development of an APP that could upload the movie, but also detect and block concerts and artists that did not allowed it. All revenue could be shared according to copyright requirements to artists and management or even a small portion to the amateur movie maker (It could convince then to use you, but not Youtube or Vimeo). Anyway, it is just a five-seconds idea. There are many qualified people to find an accurate solution, that it isn’t this waste of resources trying to do the same comfortable thing, they used to do in the 20th Century.

    • Thank you Michael.

      Not only is it theft, but the idea that people should beable to capture their life in this way are forgetting that this is the artist’s or artists’ performance, Out of courtesy they should ask whether they want their life captured for posterity in this manner whether it is theft of not.

      If I take a photo of someone I offer them a copy of that photo. If they really object it is deleted. What I do not do is share it on the internet, and I certainly do not sell it for profit unless I have a release form from that individual.

      Maybe I’m odd, or maybe I actually care about the feelings of other people.

      • Peter Lewis says:

        Theft – an emotive word. Morally it may not be right but I don’t think that applies in the legal sense. Ask the Duchess of Cambridge, or indeed any well known person photographed going about their business. I don’t suggest that this is right, but, in my opinion, it is largely harmless except when seeking personal profit or its use is malicious.

  39. I think it should be up to the musicians. The performance is their work and their intellectual property. If they don;t mind, fine, but for some orchestral musicians and starting composers, royalties and payments for their music are undermined by free recording in my personal opinion. Having said that, I think I do understand what you are saying, but it must be preceded by guaranteeing better protection for musicians first.

    • Martin Locher says:

      “The performance is their work and their intellectual property.”

      It is their work, yes. But without an audience, their work is of no commercial value.

      Obviously many today, including legal experts, disagree, that intellectual property goes as far, that no performance should be filmed by an audience member. Rather than creating a “war on video” we should find a way to be able to live with the modern way of life, which includes sharing via Social Media.

      I’m aware that some artists get nervous when cameras are around, in respect to them, the “no recording announcements” should only be made when they perform and not because some rich recording company thinks their releases are devalued by little amateur recordings.

      It’s my strong belief that sharing can lead to more interest and therefore it’s likely that the performer will actually profit from a video or picture, rather than lose money. Again, I’m talking about filming bits and pieces, little clips of performances, not whole shows.

  40. I’m a young artist in my twenties and I don’t want people coming to my shows recording me. I want them coming to my shows living and experiencing them- rather than living through their fucking phones!

    Put your stupid phones down and just enjoy! My art is my intellectual property and you do not have the right to record it and tweet it without my permission.
    The light from them is disturbing to your neighbors anyway.

    • Terry van Vliet says:

      You are so right, Meaghan. I recall a performance of Parsifal at the San Francisco Opera a few years ago when I was seated next to a young couple in Goth attire equipped with cell phones, not to record, but to text throughout the first act. At the interval I suggest that they might not use their phones because they were a distraction to me and to the others seated next to them. Their reply: Go fuck yourself. Perhaps they were music critics in Frankenstein drag.

  41. Marguerite Foxon says:

    I put this whole issue in the same bucket as allowing cell/mobile phone use on planes – sooner or later both will be a fact of life. I agree with Norman – lets at least think about the way to best handle it now, not later when it becomes an enforcement issue. At the very least – have seating areas where you are allowed to film/tweet but nowhere else. Kind of like the smoking lounges in some airport terminals (eg Atlanta).

    • Marshall says:

      I don’t know what “bucket” that is? It’s bad enough on planes etc. but, comparing that to a concert-well I can’t help you.

  42. I think this is the attitude that is killing classical music. I think that the only reason that people aren’t allowed to to photograph or record on their cellphones is because money is involved. This is about greed, it’s not about respecting the music. With how advanced technology is now a days all that people have to do is mute the phone and put the flash in off and I doubt that would interfere with an artists performance. As a classically trained musician it is my opinion that this is the sort of attitude that ruins a classical music concert/recital for a younger generation. No wonder young people have no interest in classical music and I’m in my early 20′s! Its time to stop treating classical music like its some strange holly deity that only a select few can worship.

  43. If I become aware of someone filming me when I’m performing, my immediate thought is “uh-oh, better not screw up”. Some artists can deliver a spectacular performance regardless of interruptions, while others would prefer to not be exposed to the risk of a less than perfect account being immortalised on youtube. But venues and artists need to agree a policy, publicise it and enforce it so that audience members understand what sort of gig they are going to see. I would personally prefer to not have my listening experience disturbed by people making their own recordings.

  44. Hi Norman,

    Wondering why my second comment disappeared? Started… “Reading the comments, it seems like the vast majority here want to go back in time.” It was posted, but then went poof. Would like to know so as not to repeat same mistake. Thank you!

    • Don’t know. It’s not in the spam-catcher. Please repost.

      • Thanks, Norman. Will do so in the new thread on this topic.

        • Not to worry, Janey: your comment is alive and well in a different thread – the one under the post entitled “Just in: Kristian Zimerman halts concert quits reception over illegal video” from June 4.

  45. Marcus Crompton says:

    Great. I’ve already stopped attending most gigs because it’s like being in a phone showroom. Now you want me to sit behind a load of home tapers waving hi-tech Glo-Sticks in the Philharmonic Hall too.

    Sorry, I’m off. I hope the phone-waggler who buys my ticket has a big memory card : because they’ll need it if they want to tape as many concerts as I attend every year.

  46. This all comes back to the issue of whether or not people will be deterred from attending classical concerts because their preference for capturing photos or video is denied, either by enforcement or by the distain of fellow attendees. Aside from a few people, most pop/rock attendees still turn up, even in the knowledge that their neighbour will be waving their phone in the air. Has any research actually been done to determine this? Is there more of a revenue loss as a result? I doubt artist earnings have been downwardly affected by YouTube videos but do we know? They may have increased by the exposure.

    • Martin Locher says:

      I can’t see why artists or composer wouldn’t want some of their work appear on Youtube. When I notice an artist, I usually check him/her out on Youtube. I have found quiet many composers or works I would not hestitate one second to travel some distance to hear the pieces in a concert hall.

      They might in the short term lose a few record sales. But I’m convinced in the long run they profit from the exposure on Youtube.

      I even made Youtube playlists for our local symphony concerts, just to show people what is going to be played. This lead to additional tickets being sold. When I receive next season’s program the 1st thing I did was checking out the unknown pieces on Youtube and you know what? I can’t wait to hear some of those live!

      • bratschegirl says:

        The point is not that artists or composers don’t want their work appearing on YouTube. The point is that it should be the artist’s decision whether or not they do. John Q. Public in the crowd with an iPhone doesn’t have the right to make that decision on his own.

        • Martin Locher says:

          I agree that whole performances should not be put on Youtube without consent.

          Sharing little video clips though, is part of today’s social life of many. We shouldn’t disallow these “share addicts” from attending classical concerts, but find a way to life with them in a more peaceful way.

  47. Not long ago there was an announcement at the start of concerts and a printed request in programmes about patrons turning off mobile phones before the concert began.

    If this was to be made again with the ticket Ts and Cs stating that anyone caught violating this would be ejected from the concert hall then the problem would be solved.

    Also how about printing no recording on the ticket. If an artist wants to record the concert then that is one thing. Concerts are routinely recorded and broadcast, but that does not mean that any old Tom, Dick, and Harriet can go and do the same. Arrangements have been made with the Artists on stage. All the necessary licences have been purchased.

    For the record, organists and singers who play and sing at weddings normally double their fees as soon as the wedding is video recorded. This is because the event is now more than event, it will be repeated by family members and may end up on youtube. This practice has beein standard ever since the recording of weddings in this manner. I bet Krystian Zimmerman was not given another fee by the chap with the smartphone!

  48. Barbra Streisand at the O2 in London had ‘no videoing/photographing/recording’ printed on the tickets. Cue hundreds of phones and cameras appearing, though heaven knows why anyone would bother recording her. Certainly I didn’t see anyone enforcing it. I bet it made no difference to her performance or income.

  49. It feels sometimes like redcarpet on stage, when you see from stage all the phonecams in the front row. I am not signed with a major label and I did never lost a deal because of being recorded- and there were never “worst of” my concerts published on youtube… I sometimes ask the people filming to give me a copy and I guess this could be a good deal:
    If somebody films the musician at such a level that it would be great for him to have it published, the person should give it to the artist for his youtube ( meaning that youtube should offer a new category in their publishing rights: filmed by fan, authorized by artist) and then mention the filmer in the credits of the video!

  50. Gabriela Montero says:

    Part of the dysfunctional disease of today, is the fact that we find it so difficult to live in the present. If you are witnessing an artist give a personal and committed rendition of a great, classical piece, then the audience member should not only respect the seriousness of the occasion, but the amount of concentration and selflessness that it entails for the artist to give a performance of stature. When I hear a phone, see a camera or its little red light pointing at me, it disrupts that selfless state I am trying to tap into. I’ve always hated it and always will, because it banalizes the experience for myself and for the rest of the audience. Live performances are meant to remain in us, in our memories as an imprint of who we were that night and what we shared with that particular artist and composer. Aside from the fact that phones, ipads and other gadgets don’t have the quality of sound to even really capture a fair rendition of the night, visually they are disturbing to everyone, and obvious to the performer. The audience very often thinks the performer is in a bubble, immune to noise, restlessness and disruptions, but believe me, that’s not the case. We hear and sense everything. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Zimerman in this case and I hope that promoters, ushers and audiences will help to educate those who trespass the rules of concert etiquette and thus, allow us to create that very special space we artists strive to create- in silence and in respect to the composer and performer.

    • Martin Locher says:

      I disagree, that using a camera banalizes your performance. But the red light, that can disturbing indeed.

      “the rules of concert etiquette” – they might be a little too elitist and too old and actually just need a wee bit of technical upgrade… Turn off the red light.

  51. Why do audience members believe they above the Ts and Cs? They would soon complain if they had their smartphones confiscated.

    There is a solution, but it would delay entry to the performance venue: namely a baggage and pocket search. Again when tickets are issued make it clear that this is going to happen and ensure it is. When a patron is found to have a smartphone note where they are sitting and get them to turn their phone off there and then drawing their attention to the precise term about keeping phones turned off during performances and the terms about no recordings of any kind.

    Of course there will be nothing to stop the patron from turning their phone on again, but by using the extra stewards to watch for illicit recordings and confiscating the recording device (in this case a smartphone) and ensuring any such recording is deleted before it is returned to the patron, then whole audience will soon get the message. Ticket prices will need to go up to cover the price of loss of seats for extra stewards and payment for stewarding if the stewards are not volunteers, however it would end this practice that many performers object to.

    Ts and Cs need to be transparent and inforced. An audience member who is fiddling with their smartphone is distracting for the performer and the audience members around them. What they are guilty of is obtaining something for their own gain at the cost of other people’s enjoyment and in the case of the performer their intellectual property.

    Never mind any legal imperative to get this practice stopped, there is also a moral imperative.

    Society is getting increasingly selfish to its detriment. Professional performers may be getting paid, but they have the right to earn a living through their music. What they do when they perform is extremely altruistic in sharing their talents with a wider audience. Performance is about giving. That some members of the audience are on the take is morally repugnant and this needs to stop.

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