London (November 19, 2004)–Despite the lack of sonic punch or immediacy experienced at a live concert, shows are often broadcast over the airwaves and internet, but now they’re about to get even further removed from the true live experience: Concerts are coming to your cell phone. On November 3, 3G, a UK cell phone company, broadcast the first mobile phone concert–a 45-minute set by BMG hard rock act Rooster, held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.
Roughly five minutes before showtime, a text message was sent to 10,000 people who had signed up for a pre-show reminder; the note sent them to a ‘virtual box office,’ where up to 1,000 of them could pay to take in the event via handset for £5.
While the concert set a precedent of sorts, it was largely a test by 3G to learn how its 1.2 million UK customers use their video phones. The company already has more concerts on the drawing boards for next year, and plans to use them as a lure to attract new customers as well as spur existing clientele to upgrade to video phones. Naturally, the concert content was repurposed–a free highlights reel and a live rendition of the band’s single, “Come Get Some,” were available for download to phones the following week. Now the songs can jockey for space in users’ phones with other 3G offerings such as its V-Girl “virtual girlfriend” software.
Rooster was relatively unmoved by the broadcast proceedings, according to UK newspaper The Guardian; singer Nick Atkinson remarked beforehand, “We’re not allowed to wear white or black, we have to wear something colorful, which isn’t really me….It’ll just be big, lairy, aggressive songs to leave people with their ears ringing.”
Well, only if they were in the audience. Guardian rock critic Alexis Petridis reviewed the show as seen via cell phone–once he figured out how to turn the handset on. Noting that the video and audio were out of synch, creating a “poorly-dubbed foreign film” effect, Petridis reported that the sound cracked and distorted, resembling “a Library Of Congress field recording from the 1930s. The problem comes when the novelty wears off. Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere of a live concert fails to translate on a two-inch screen.”
Live sound engineers can once again breathe easy.