Soloists, Like Krystian Zimerman, Now Have a Positive Option To Shape Patron Smartphone Use During Concerts

June, 2013 was a month of well publicized reports related to pianist Krystian Zimerman stopping a performance to verbally spank the audience after seeing a patron allegedly using a Smartphone to video record a portion of his performance. At the time, the culture community, myself included, was abuzz about whether Zimerman’s response was justified (it wasn’t) but we all apparently missed the direction we should have been purporting.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-088Instead of promoting stricter enforcement or attempts to illuminate patrons via catchy pre-concert reminders, we should have spent our time focusing on efforts to reward patrons for engaging in desired behavior.

Case in point, the 3/18/2014 edition of lifehacker.com published an article by Eric Ravenscraft that reports on an effort by Cinemark Theaers to automatically reward users for turning off their Smartphones during movies.

In a nutshell, Cinemark uses iOS and Android specific apps that require users to create an account and login in order to track compliance and offer rewards. The idea can certainly be developed for live classical music performances and soloists can take matters into their own hands by developing their own solutions to reward patrons for shutting down Smartphones during performances regardless the location or venue.

My development experience dictates that you can go one step better than Cinemark by avoiding platform based apps entirely and rely on a more user-friendly responsive mobile website platform (learn about the differences) that will be easier to manage and integrate with your standard website. Nonetheless, the very notion of focusing on rewarding desired behavior over demanding dystopian conformity will produce far better results, not to mention better headlines.

So if Mr. Zimerman, or any other soloist, chamber ensemble, large ensemble, or venue is interested in getting something like this going, get in touch and let’s make some history.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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7 thoughts on “Soloists, Like Krystian Zimerman, Now Have a Positive Option To Shape Patron Smartphone Use During Concerts”

  1. Has anybody thought of just making the experience compelling enough that

    1) People won’t be tempted to play on their phones during the performance, or
    2) People won’t be easily distracted by others playing with their phones during the performance?

  2. At least in some cases it seems to be less about using the phone for general purposes and more about using it to records audio or video. In those cases, creating positive incentive could be more likely to produce positive results. Otherwise those are certainly good discussion points.

  3. If that’s the main argument, I think it’s even sillier. Nobody would say that recording a violin concerto performance on an iPhone affects the market negatively for that live performance. It seems to me that the only possible effects could be either positive or neutral.

  4. If nothing else, there are the realities related to integrating good ideas in an environment that may resist necessary change. As such, even though an outcome may be neutral at best, the internal value related to addressing traditional concerns is worth its weight in political value, make sense?

  5. No argument here, I would never use something like this either but there are certainly those who would for what are a variety of reasons and if it makes the artist feel better offering it (and they don’t mind spending the money to develop it) then there you go.

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