Top 40 radio station WHTZ (Z100) New York rounded up some of the format's biggest stars for its annual Zootopia concert May 22 at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. But the real s
Top 40 radio station WHTZ (Z100) New York rounded up some of the format's biggest stars for its annual Zootopia concert May 22 at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J.
It was no surprise to find Kelly Clarkson, Jesse McCartney, Jennifer Lopez, Gavin DeGraw and Black Eyed Peas on the bill. Frankie J rapped, Rob Thomas crooned, Simple Plan rocked, Backstreet Boys re-emerged, and Gwen Stefani ruled, totally.
But the real star of the show was not onstage. The headliner here was the cell phone-and it appeared at the ear or in the palm of virtually everyone present.
The concert attendees were-again, no surprise-overwhelmingly female and overwhelmingly teenage. Many were accompanied by mom or dad.
But all were on their phones. Text-messaging across the arena. Calling friends at home. Photographing choice moments with picture phones held high. E-mailing those images back home or around the globe.
Thanks to Z100's deal with Sprint, the concertgoers were able to broadcast their text messages to everyone in the arena on giant screens above the stage:
"J Lo we luv u."
"Cheryl n Lisa think Gavin is so-o-o hot."
And our personal favorite: "Mike pick up milk & eggs on way home."
In one defining moment, Simple Plan frontman Pierre Bouvier called out to the crowd: "Raise your lighters!" A few dozen flames flashed on.
"Glowsticks!" A smattering of purple and green.
"Cell phones!" A flood of 20,000 little squares of light.
Such ubiquity is not lost on the touring business. Already, cell phones are viewed as a new means of ticketing. Unique identifiers will be sent to phones and scanned at the turnstile.
Phones also provide a perfect way to deliver tour schedules and updates for favorite acts-not to mention downloads from recent shows.
But there is some static on the line. The use of phones to capture video or audio at public events can place First Amendment rights in conflict with artists' intellectual-property and publicity rights. This issue will only get more pressing as phones with video and recording capabilities become commonplace.
What about individual rights? Can venues that routinely bar cameras and recording devices also ban picture or video phones? (We wouldn't want to be standing in line at that turnstile.)
Some artists are already showing their displeasure with cell-phone culture. That New Jersey-bred traditionalist Bruce Springsteen has begun instructing fans to turn off their phones at his acoustic shows. Other acts will surely follow suit.
But there's little anyone can do to stem this tide. The flip-phone defines today's youth much as peace signs and roach clips were touchstones of an earlier generation. Only this time, the messages of "luv" are bounced off cell towers.
The music and touring businesses are getting this message loud and clear. Let's just hope fans remember why they are going to these shows in the first place.
And while they're at it, let's hope they don't forget the milk and eggs.