Yesterday’s WSJ featured an article on our Headphones & Snowcones program, implying the concept further alienates and isolates in an already anti-social world. I appreciate the coverage, welcome the debate but fundamentally disagree with the premise and the sizable leaps the author makes to try and connect disparate arguments.
Comparing someone that tunes out their day to day environment by isolating himself inside a pair of headphones to a music fan that relishes a deeper connection to the nuance and artistry being performed live is missing the point. They are different animals; one is an escape, the other an immersion.
The idea of community is much greater than the people currently sharing your immediate geographical proximity. Headphones in a live environment connects fans to the band on a deeper level, one that fosters a different community, a community between the artist and fan directly. We relish our fan community and their interactions with each other, but we also relish our connection to each fan directly. If we can’t foster that community as well, what’s the point? Furthermore, as a musician himself, would the author argue about giving his own fans having an opportunity to experience his music in a potentially more meaningful, more connected way?
Should headphones replace the social experience of going to a concert with your friends and backslapping all night over $9 Budweisers? Certainly not. But everything in its right time and place. When you don’t feel like listening to those same guys reveling over your shoulder on a given night, do you not welcome an alternate option? Providing different experiences for different palates is practical for fans, appreciated by customers and sound business sense.
Not sure how many old Italian Operas the author attends these days but we’d welcome people playing cards at our shows as well. A great event should be a dynamic one, one where innovation is welcomed and boundaries are constantly being pushed. Luddites have never been big fans of UM.
Safe to say that Mr. Felten has never come near an Umphrey’s show if he’s concerned the “concert hall or dance club has turned into another lonely crowd.” You’ll be hard pressed to find a more connected, more engaged community that the one this band and our fans foster. That said, let me extend a formal invite for Mr. Felten to attend one of our upcoming shows at The Fillmore as our guest. Give the headphones a test drive, then decide if headphone wearers are “cocooned into a self-directed feedback loop, inviting the rest of the world to go off somewhere and take a bath.”
I’m confident you may feel otherwise.
P.S. Regarding the original article’s title, if you’re a journalist today and not readily available on twitter, you are sounding very, very isolated.