Sometimes during the 80s and early 90s, as Compact Disc had made a breakthrough, people started wondering if this means an end to the concert institution. All of a sudden, the market was pumped up with great recordings which became cheaper and cheaper to buy. It was easy to gather a collection of hundreds, even thousands of records. So, who would bother going to Haitink and Concertgebouw when they already have Haitink and Concertgebouw in their shelves with Perlman as soloist.
But people still go to concerts. How come?
Well, first of all, concerts are social happenings and they include certain interaction in comparison to listening at home. Few of us start clapping enthusiastically after a wonderful, wonderful recording of "Till Eulenspiegel" comes to an end at our living rooms. So it's safe to say that interaction remains a basic human need, no matter how the world and our habits may change.
Yet our habits have changed in the way that we now communicate more (in quantity) and at a faster pace than we did some decades ago. It seems that social media has tapped into that change by providing us with means to tell our stories anytime, anywhere. It's therefore worthwhile asking if this has changed our expectations in regard to interaction as we go listening music in public events such as concerts. What about the idea that the audience could live up to their spontaneity by sharing their feelings about the performancereal time in social media?
Some concert venues have even started experiments where members of audience are encouraged to use twitter and tweet live from the concert while they receive programme notes and backstage information by twitter in exchange.
This will of course raise some eyebrows, as any use of electronic devices is normally prohibited in concerts. Some people will be sure that tweeters forget or are unable to mute their smartphones and tablet computers, and thus future concerts will inevitably be accompanied by a chorus of Nokia Tunes all the way.
While human errors always happen and while since the invention of mobile phones there always were a couple of Nokia Tunes to accompany the most beautiful English Horn solo, I'm not necessarily sure this will ruin our concert institution. First of all, people who tweet on their mobile devices are likely to be technically fit. And they will also be more aware of the fact that they should take all the precautions while operating those devices.
Secondly, concert halls are also doing their part on this: There are special tweet seats located at the back rows of the auditorium to keep all the disturbances to a minimum.
If tweeting will establish itself into concerts, we could call the present day a transition to a socially networked music consuming world. If social networking will remain an established part of our lives, then this will happen anyway. The key question will be, whether it helps to intensify the listening experience or if it merely distracts people from listening. My guess is that it depends on a person. Some people react spontaneously to everything and want to express their feelings straight a way, while others take a longer breath and process their impressions over time.
So in the best case scenario, future concert goers might have more choice.