Last night, I joined the NY Giz team (and a throng of several hundred strangers) for a Microsoft-themed evening with Katy Perry. It was fun. But it was also clear that smartphones have changed concerts forever. Is that good?
On a technical level, the concert was no different from any other pop spectacle – flashing lights that pulsated to the point of distraction, an overwhelming array of speakers, confetti blasting everywhere – in short, pretty great. Katy Perry popping out of a cake at the show’s start was a nice little innovation, as was the very space age material her dress seemed to be made out of (I was studying it very closely – for science). But again, this was normal concert theatrics, unless you count Katy Perry’s bra as a new technology, which would not surprise me in the slightest.
But that was the night. The show isn’t just the music, or the glitter-wigged backup dancers, or the dress – my god, the dress – it was a pulsating glob of smartphone use. Whether the gradual conversion of the concert from an experience to a file format is good for you, and good for musicians, and good for music – we’ll see. But we’ll all have to keep in mind that we’ve only got two eyes, and if you’re looking at the screen, you’re not looking at something else.
Was the satisfaction of swiping through my photos from last night and reading my friends’ OMG texts worth whatever I was too busy multitouching to notice? I don’t have an answer for that yet. But the fact that I’m contemplating it is good news for the people offering – or pushing – this change. Microsoft threw the show to sell phones – but their marketing team has an easy job. The hardest part is done with. People were at least equally excited about Katy the App as much as Katy the Singer. They wanted her on their phones as much as they wanted her in their ears.