Through the Looking Glass; unauthorized audience videos on Youtube

A few days ago an audience member posted a video to youtube from my performance at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. I had chosen not to record the performance because I didn’t want to put any pressure on us to perform in a certain way, but of course I would have liked a recording just as a memento. So when I discovered this audience-posted-video, I was thrilled. I was so thrilled that I immediately wanted to share it with all of you (which I did), without thinking about whether or not the other members of the band would be thrilled. In this particular instance I was lucky and they were equally pleased with our memento from the evening, though that has not always been the case.

My very first appearance on youtube was in an audience-posted-video nearly seven years ago, which was taken at Birdland while I was singing with the David Berger Jazz Orchestra. As usual, I was thrilled and excited and immediately sent it around to all the musicians in the band, only to discover most of them were not happy at all! They had not been paid for the video, they were not aware they were being recorded, they were not happy with the quality of the video, etc. I was surprised by their reaction, and even though I could understand where they were coming from, I couldn’t agree with their point of view.

Being Interviewed in Cognac France

Being Interviewed in Cognac France

These videos, which usually seem to be recorded on a phone, are not of the kind of quality where people are going to make any money by selling the video. They are usually taken with the intention of sharing the moment with “friends”, or to replay for themselves. I have heard the argument that these videos are recorded so people don’t have to buy the music from the artist, or that more youtube videos equal fewer people who will pay to purchase a musicians album, but I don’t agree with this at all. In fact, I think people who take audience-videos (or pictures) are more likely to purchase your music, since the very act of taking the video is a demonstration of enjoying the moment and being a fan. Also, I think that many people listen to music on youtube to discover new artists that they can go see live and / or purchase their albums. So in that sense, these videos are exposure and advertising.

I have also heard the argument that live performance is a chance to try new material, new arrangements etc, and the artist should be able to do that without having it recorded and published prior to the artist being fully prepared to release the new material. Personally, I have never felt this way. If I do something on stage then I must be ready, on some level, or I wouldn’t be presenting it to an audience. Maybe it’s not “perfect”, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful. To me, Jazz is about a process more than a finished product, and I don’t mind sharing that with my audience, whether they are there in person or looking at a screen.

We all want to have control over our image, not only as artists, but as people. Every month I read another article about how it’s rude to tag your friends in photos if they don’t look their best, and I think that is common courtesy, but I think in this day and age we have to expect that the minute we step onto a stage, we should be prepared to share that moment with our audience, seen and unseen.

How do you feel about these kinds of videos? Do you post them? Do you hate them? Do you think it’s rude? Tell me in the comment section…..

Also, just to prove that I love them, I have a playlist on youtube dedicated to fan videos, check it out.Β 

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18 Responses to Through the Looking Glass; unauthorized audience videos on Youtube

  1. John says:

    One other thing, have any of you seen the Jazz Icon series of DVD’s from Naxos with live performances of the Jazz greats of the ’50s-’70s? It is fantastic and I am just glad they were recorded even in mono just to have these performances (many from Europe). They are on Amazon in sets of 6-8 DVD’s, many times less than $10 a DVD! We are talking, Pepper, Jimmy Smith, Art Tatum…

    I am sure they made minimal money if anything, but they are ESSENTIAL! Take a look for yourself.

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  2. John says:

    Not at all, especially when the videos are in such crappy sound. I know Mp3 is all the rage nowadays but that’s because most kids have never heard a decent audio system or even a real instrument. I remember playing a newer re-mastered copy of JT’s Aqualung, for friends of mine with kids. Let’s just say they were blown away and never heard an LP or CD or mp3 that ever sounded like that. When asked how to get stuff like that, I simply told them to record stuff on their computer as a .wav file instead of an mp3 file. True a .wav fille uses 10X the memory of a mp3 file, you record a fewer number of songs…but quality over quantity is better any day of the week.

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    • Hi John! When you say, “Not at all”, do you mean that it doesn’t reflect poorly on the artist to have badly recorded videos on youtube? If so, then I agree with you. I think most people don’t know what good quality audio sounds like.

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  3. As a TV producer, it’s very important to get clearance. I have to make sure everyone is OK with being on TV. I had a roundtable discussion I was producing and after the show, one person flat out told me, “NO”. Blew an afternoon putting it together. There are rights issues with the label, as well.

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    • Thanks for commenting! Yes, I absolutely agree if it’s going to be on TV or broadcast, it’s important to get consent. But do you feel it’s important for a fan who’s filming with an iPhone to ask for consent?

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  4. todd weeks says:

    Its Todd Weeks Not Todd Qeeks.

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  5. todd qeeks says:

    From the point of view of the AFM, unauthorized recording of any kind, be it poor quality cell phone vid, or high end digital capture, is a no no. That said, its nary impossible to stop people from recording and posting today. There has to be a middle ground. Why, one may ask, would the AFM continue to maintain such a hard line? This goes to standards of protection, established over decades, that are based on the principal that once captured content is in the hands of an individual, it has value. It has become monetized. Why bother prohibiting recordings at all? Because unscrupulous people can and do find ways to make money with your intellectual property; money that you as an artist (or non featured artist!) will never see. There are markets for your music that haven’t been dreamed up yet. Commercial content streamed via unrestricted, non web based platforms that we can’t imagine today. Promotion? Yeah, maybe somebody in China will stream your performance on a billboard in Chinghai and the offers will come rolling in. But more than likely, you will never be informed and will be kicking yourself around the block for allowing people to randomly record your intellectual property and then sell it to the highest bidder. Or not. But why take the chance? So be smart, and be selective. As an artist of talent and integrity, the world may be your oyster. Just don’t let others get a hold of the pearls before you’re ready and willing to part with them.

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    • Thanks for commenting! I see your point, but I don’t necessarily think iPhone recordings are a threat, because the quality is so low. Also, when you’re in front of a few thousand people, it becomes nearly impossible to even know if they are doing it.

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  6. Eddie says:

    I’m all for preserving the moment. It’s so difficult to do so because we’re usually so busy in the moment so, as a videographer and editor, I appreciate the opportunity to capture a moment for posterity because it’s awesome to go back and view it from another perspective. It’s like a newly wed couple enjoying their video and see things that missed their attention because they were so in the moment. We can also learn much from these videos about how people perceive a moment in time. Is it of enough value that they will sacrifice enjoying the moment by being fully present and instead focus on doing the best they can to capture the moment for posterity. Capturing video, whether professionally or as a hobbyist, definitely has value!

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    • Thanks for your words Eddie. I totally understand and agree. I don’t take a lot of videos personally, because I like to focus on the moment and not be distracted trying to capture it, but I am always happy to appreciate the videos later. Like you said, we can see different things we may not have noticed in the moment. Thanks again!

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  7. Morris Nelms says:

    I recently got to see a video of myself playing at a party that a friend posted. I did not know I was being recorded. I loved it.
    My biggest concerns in posting either videos or recordings of myself is copyright and any other musicians involved. I tend to only post things where the tunes are public domain or my originals as a result. In one case I put two recordings on my website of a big band where I have solos that I like, but I asked the bandleader/composer before I did. The musicians on the session knew the music being recorded would be distributed to help sell the arrangements. So I got a couple of nice big band cuts for my website.

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  8. rivertownman says:

    Hi champian..michael here from Instrumental the UK webzine! Fan videos? As a writer, a blogger and a fan I hate them. I think that a moving image is a different thing from a live performance or an audio recording. It too should have certain standards and values. I actually don’t think they stand up as a record of the event even as well as a good still photo. Mementoes are about memory and a moving image has to be evocative because it truly captured something that only that medium could at that time and in that moment. Think of family home movies and 35mm footage at Newport. The outcome is closer to a true memento because the subjects are also engaged participants. Live streaming is the way to go. I really liked the Wynton Marsalis stream from ronnies because it literally put you in the moment and stands up as a memento of the club’s very first stream. Fan videos can be useful ways of establishing whether an act (in any genre) can really play or show sequential development in those who can. Beyond that I think they really only do a disservice as does badly skyped video interviews on broadcast news. Don’t settle for less!

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    • Thanks so much for your comment Michael! I’m actually not a huge fan of live streaming (although I haven’t seen any of the Lincoln Center streams), because I think it encourages people to stay home and not attend live concerts. I understand that some people might live far away from the stream and be unable to attend, but there might be a show in their town that night that they are missing because they are at home watching a stream on their computer. I really don’t want live streaming to be the way we consume music in the future.

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  9. marchelle says:

    That happened to me…for me it was a honor and when would be together like that again it was a beautiful moment I thought…but when we see history on you tube of live performances of cats back in the day they weren’t getting paid …the video it was a documentary moment…since that happened to me I have asked them to work with me and they always say they are busy….I didn’t sell the video….now I ask first if I can or I just don’t do it…..people have to realize nobody is perfect…no performance is perfect…I actually cried about it..cuz they won’t work with me…they don’t tell me they won’t and I’m sure if it was a great paying gig they just might

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