Chris Rock hates your phone

You wouldn’t record a comedy show… would you? image rehosted from urbanmogullife.com

Anyone going to Chris Rock’s show this Friday will have to check their phone into a Yondr pouch.  As phone cameras and microphones improve and their usage becomes more normal, artists are fighting back.  Enter Yondr, a relatively recent startup renting location-based, lockable, and knife-proof (it has been tested!) cell phone pouches.

Yondr offers both venues and artists a way of making sure people listen to a request not to use their phone during an event.  The pouches lock within a certain area, preventing the use of touchscreens.  Anyone who wants to use their phone at Rock’s show will have to move to a designated point at the venue, presumably away from the action.

Chris Rock isn’t the first performer to use Yondr, however.  Groups like Guns N’ Roses, Dave Chappelle, and Childish Gambino have also rented out the system.  Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses said in an interview with the New York Times that Yondr offered “the old-school feeling, where people were dancing and getting down.”

The recording section at a Grateful Dead concert – image rehosted from beardedgentlemenmusic.com

Reactions are decidedly mixed.  Some people love the way Yondr forces audiences to stay in the moment.  Audiences dance more and record less.  Not every opinion is as rose-tinted (heh) as Duff or Axl’s.  Recording concerts has been a live music tradition since before the Grateful Dead.  People hoping to watch a concert they couldn’t make, because of money or schedule, on YouTube or livestream now can’t.  No more Periscope streams, no more emergency access to  doctors or parents.

The LG V20, a phone made specifically to record and play back audio at near-studio quality – lg.com

Recording at events can never be perfectly prevented, however.  Just off the top of my head, I can imagine someone stuffing a phone, already recording, battery case and all, into a Yondr pouch, and capture the entire performance, just without the video.  Or bring a more-serious recording device (not that I would ever condone such shenanigans).  Will it be worth the trouble to most?  No.  But some fans (you might be one!) are truly dedicated to recording as much of their favorite artists as they can – you can find nearly 170,000 concerts on archive.org.

Yondr isn’t the only company trying to get in on the phone-free action.  Apple (yes, the people who brag about their phone cameras in all those ads) recently filed a patent for a way to disable phones via infrared emitters.  Ironically, infrared emitters were once a common feature for phones, useful as TV remotes.  But Yondr, as the earliest provider, is likely here to stay – unless audiences start refunding tickets at the door because of the intrusion.  What will you do?


  • I'm a Birmingham native who loves music, cycling, reading, and tech. Find me on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College, in Avondale, or hanging out with my cat