Questioning Technology

Column: Features   |   Date Published: Friday, 17 February 17   |   Author: Cody Atkinson   |   5 days, 15 hours ago

     "Live performance is meant to get us off the couch and enjoying the real world."

Recently an Australian security company suggested that sexual assaults at gigs could be stopped with the deployment of drones. But this isn’t the only way that technology has slowly invaded music, other than, y’know, speakers, microphones, stage lights and the like. This month, Questioning will look at the delicate balance of the role of technology in enhancing live performance.

So let’s get it out of the way, tech is critical to live performance, yeah?

Yeah, pretty much. Without some basic forms of technology, the live music industry as we know it would probably not exist. All we would be left with would be brass bands, drum circles and John Butler-esque folkers playing by campfires. And as anyone who has been on a camping trip with someone armed with a shitty guitar and a handful of Jack Johnson covers knows, that would end in imminent murder.

Yep, and we’ve all been there and subsequently beat those charges of justifiable homicide.

Getting back to the non-killing point at hand, a very large proportion of the live performance industry is heavily reliant on technology. Even looking beyond the obvious stuff normally present on stages, technology plays a role in the creation of venues, the writing and production of material performed, publicising any events with killer posters and the production of this very magazine. Hell, even hacks like me write up missives on typewriters in log cabins in the woods. None of this longhand crap for ol’ Cody.

(Hits return, turns feed roller.)


Well recently an anonymous Tasmanian security company (in the Launceston Examiner) suggested that sexual assault at festivals could be stopped by the use of drones at festivals.

Drones? Um, how?

Well you see they could use drones to fly over the mosh pit to monitor behaviour, and if someone threw their hands in the air, specially positioned plainclothes security guards could swoop in and stop what was happening.

Right. But isn’t that potentially dangerous? Couldn’t people just hurl stuff like beer cans at the drones? 

I mean they could, but most people surely wouldn’t do that. I mean there are still dickheads who would…

And how would the drones be any more effective than say, several fixed cameras from the top of the stage and the sound booth?

Better range I guess? It would be an improvement in being able to see where people are trying to do bad stuff while hiding?

The key element here seems to be the deployment of extra trained security with a constant communication system, not the drones themselves…

Hey, don’t question the expert. Are you a trained security advisor? No. He is. Probably. You know, we could check that if he disclosed his name. Which we can’t.

Yeah, you don’t say. So what other great/ludicrous ideas have people had to “enhance” the live performance experience?

Well in 2013 drones were used to deliver beer at the OppiKoppi festival in South Africa. This is amazing and dangerous and beautiful and terrible all in one. The drones dropped beer at random from 15m in the air, with a very small parachute to slow the delivery down a little. But, despite the early progress, I don’t really see the idea TAKING OFF. GET IT? It’s a play on words.

Yep, I get it. How about those hologram things, what happened to them? Wasn’t Tupac a hologram a few years back?

Yeah, at Coachella in 2012 with the ghosts of Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre (who aren’t dead). It seemingly marked the start of a new resurgence in hologram projections of dead artists, which it kinda sorta did. There was a Michael Jackson hologram at an award show in 2014, and a Patsy Cline hologram did a world tour in 2016, which is the first time those words have ever been written in BMA. Last month a French Presidential candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, even held a political campaign via hologram, which seems like a very desperate attempt to avoid kissing babies. But…

But what?

Technically they weren’t holograms, but “Pepper’s Ghosts” instead, which is totally a thing that I didn’t just make up. You can even Google that shit. But in reality, it’s more like watching a video of someone than a true hologram, which apparently is an important difference according to the internet.

The internet always has problems with things. So how about other amazing forward leaps in technology that potentially infringe on people’s liberties?

Well I assume you’ve heard about Yondr?

Nah, what’s that?

Yondr is a basically a sock that locks up people’s phones during live events, rendering them practically useless throughout. This serves the benefit of not seeing like a billion shitty mobile phones filming a given performance, and some pretty big acts have used it in the US, such as Chris Rock, Alicia Keys and Guns N’ Roses. For the performer, it gives the opportunity to increase the interaction and attentiveness of the audience, and perhaps connect on a deeper level with their fans. For punters, it means they won’t fondle their phones every 12 seconds.

But … what happens in the case of an emergency?

An emergency? Ah … shit, I don’t think they’ve thought through that. I think you’d be stuffed, yeah, if someone needed to contact you immediately, like if a family member went to hospital or something. Yeah, not a really good idea for that. May as well just leave the phone at home or in the car…

Yeah. On a similar not, how about those silent disco things?

Ah yeah, the answer to “I want to be in a room full of people half dancing, but hate everyone else’s taste in music,” which is actually the correct point of view. Soon in some cities it’s going to be the only way to listen to music, with ever-encroaching development around long standing venues with poor live music legislation and endless noise complaints.

So tech is a good thing in live entertainment, right?

Yeah, but there is a limit. Live performance is meant to be a visceral beast, something to get us off the couch and enjoying the real world. If we somehow devolve it to a bunch of people wearing VR goggles on comfy seats with personal headsets whilst someone performs on a stage, I think the entire endeavour will have failed. Humanity that is.



more features: