A few weeks ago, word leaked out that in 2009 Apple filed a patent that could, in theory, prevent iPhone users from accessing the video recording functions on their phones when they were in certain places, like live music venues.
The news sparked the sort of angry blogging you’d expect from an Internet that has been stealing albums its entire life. Not to say that I wasn’t filled with a little internal dread, too. Although I’m not much of an iPhone videographer myself, I do enjoy catching occasional YouTube clips of my favorite bands. But I didn’t feel like freaking out over this particular technology because I don’t think it will have quite the far-reaching effect that others do.
From what I’ve read, Apple hasn’t mandated that venues use the technology they’re developing, which means that any use of this hypothetical infrared tech is going to be mandated either by a concert venue or the artists themselves. My initial inclination is that unless your favorite bands are routinely going on stadium tours, you’ll probably still be able to annoy the person behind you with your bright iPhone to your heart’s content.
This gut feeling was reinforced even more after I spoke with Schubas’ Production Manager Paul Massaro about the patent. Chicago’s own Schubas Tavern is by no means a large venue, but bands of all genres generating buzz usually pass through their doors at least a few times before heading to bigger spots. Massaro can’t imagine the bands he books taking kindly to venues killing some of their publicity by preventing self-recording.
“Are YouTube HD videos really bad promotion for bands?” Massaro asked. “Most artists could use more exposure in a venue of our size.”
That doesn’t mean Massaro likes seeing dozens of people obstructing the view at a show as they record their favorite songs, either. But he had a few clever and more cost-effective ways to deal with the scourge of kids who insist on recording their concert experience.
“I think it would cool to have a funny commercial play before shows just like the theater’s addressing [texting],” Massaro said. “Another thing would be for every venue, artist, or even YouTube to have a pro-camera shooter just to ensure the YouTube videos would be of high quality at least. They could offer a free ticket and good seat to the videographer. I think it would be better money spent than Apple’s plan.”
It’s hard to say how feasible Massaro’s plan for a designated recorder in every venue would be, but it certainly represents outside-the-box thinking that appears to have eluded Apple’s creative team, at least as far as this patent is concerned.
But maybe we’ve got it all wrong. Maybe Apple just wants to stop the spread of all the instrumental post-rock bands out there. Take another look at that patent photo: two guitars, a drummer and no microphones. Sure looks like sonic discrimination to me. I bet they can’t even stand the Friday Night Lights soundtrack.
But if we’re right, there are two likely outcomes. If your favorite bands include U2 and Elton John, you might be out of luck if you try to record their performance in the near future. But if you spend your concert money on emerging artists, well, you’ll probably be fine. At least until someone else in the audience knocks the phone from your hand.