Modern Bootlegging

First of all, the very word "Bootlegging" has to do with clandestine action, and what started me thinking about this issue was the extremely overt and non-secretive manner in which people currently are reproducing live music.

We have all had that thought when someone holds their phone up to record a shaky, badly lit chunk of video from a live music performance. What are they thinking? Do they lack the presence to enjoy the experience without proof they were there? Do they love their phone more than the outside world? Will they ever look at this again? And then there are the issues of copyright, did they space out when the announcement was made not to reproduce this performance in any way?

What is the best case scenario here?  Maybe someone is filming to show to someone who couldn't be there but wanted a taste of what it was like. Maybe they genuinely are going to watch over and over again because this was a special moment in their life. I have a great little cell phone video a friend took of Terry Tufts at my wedding reception that made me wish I had more clips like it. But I'm not going to post that on YouTube, it's going in a folder with the digital wedding photos.

The artists are generally the ones hurt most in these scenarios. There are so few remaining revenue streams for the performer that by sharing a live performance of a ticketed event with others you are stretching your agreed upon experience into something longer. This is not a new thing, in Robin Kelley's Monk biography he recounts how Monk would often sit at the piano at parties after concerts in Europe instead of socializing. George Gershwin also did this, and I'm sure many other pianists would gravitate towards a piano in a place filled with strangers. Monk's wife had to keep an eye and ear out for the click of a tape recorder turning on, whether for a memento or an eventual illegal release. And this is from over 50 years ago, before the technology was as affordable as it is now. 

While I don't think there should be a total ban on people taking souvenir photos and videos, I tend to think there are few situations where that would be worth the distraction in your enjoyment of the show itself.  How do we impart this kind of social etiquette on people?  When artists complain about it, they sound petty.  The best argument I've heard is the appeal to put your phone down as it is more than anything distracting to those around you.

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