Lane 8 Explains Why Banning Cell Phones at His Live Sets Was the Best Decision Ever

The deep house producer and DJ breaks down why he prefers to play without smartphones and cameras in the audience.
December 17, 2016, 7:05am
The American-born, Germany-based producer and DJ Lane 8 made a splash online earlier this year when he decided to ban the use of cellphones at one of his shows. This fall, he expanded the ban to his current tour, This Never Happened.

Here, Lane 8 explains why he decided to ban the use of cellphones and what he has learned after touring across the country in a social media-free zone.


A few months ago, I began a new tour called This Never Happened. The goal was simple: we wanted the audience to experience live music how it used to be–no cell phones, no cameras–just real, human interactions and emotional connections. We don't allow any cell phone use, photography or recording of any kind at the shows. We take this concept very seriously by taping everyone's cell phone cameras as they enter the venue and quietly policing it in the crowd with security.

We've done 17 This Never Happened shows to date, and they have been the best shows I've ever done. Here's what I've taken away from the tour so far.

1. If you build it, they'll come (and participate).

We had zero idea what to expect when we announced this concept several months ago. We knew that we were frustrated with how live music was changing. Whenever I played one of my better known tracks, like "Diamonds" or "Hot As You Want," instead of lifting the atmosphere and creating a memorable moment in the crowd, the response was flat. Half of the crowd was on their cell phones, recording the moment, instead of experiencing it. It didn't really make sense to me. I've always felt like the whole reason to go to any live event is the atmosphere!

It was a big question mark. Could we actually pull off a show where the audience didn't use their phones at all? We got to work implementing strategies for how we'd accomplish that goal.

We realized right away that the #1 key was getting the word out and getting fans on board. I wrote a series of long messages on social media trying my best to communicate the concept to the people. I explained why I felt it was so important that we all try to embrace it with an open mind. Luckily, it worked. We built the framework for This Never Happened with those social media posts and then the fans made it a reality by engaging and embracing it.

2. People are ready to leave their phones behind.

I've been blown away by the response of fans on this tour. During the 17 shows we've done thus far, we have had serious issues with just a handful of people who refused to stop recording. 99.9% of fans have simply shown up, left their phones in their pockets, and had a great time. In this day and age, that is truly remarkable. I think it's a testament to the fact that fans are willing to try a different experience if you communicate it to them properly and give fair warning of what they should expect at the show. I think it's also a testament to everyone (myself included) realizing that we ALL spend way too much time on our phones. We should embrace experiences that refocus on human interaction and connection because they are rare.

3. Shows without cell phones are so much better.

I don't have a video or pictures to prove how awesome the atmosphere has been at these shows. Ultimately, that is the point. All I can say is that the interaction between audience members, the connections to the music, and the reaction to those moments has been overwhelming. As a performer, I have never experienced anything like it–an entire audience on the same page, giving in to the moment. It has blown me away. It's something that has to be seen to be believed.

4. Dependence on social media "buzz" is a myth.

One of the most asked questions we get about This Never Happened is: what about all the social media buzz you'll miss by not allowing pictures?

It's a fair question. Will people actually remember or bother to talk about an event that "never happened?" Luckily, the answer so far has been yes.

After we tape the audience's phones, we hand out little business cards that have our motto printed on them.

The tape and those cards have become a sort of "badge of honor" for those who have attended the shows. I've seen many social media posts with pictures of the cards or tape, usually accompanied by an in-depth description of the fan's experience. The fact that those fans take the time to write about their night and how the show made them feel is, in my opinion, worth more than 100 blurry Instagram videos and hashtags. That kind of word of mouth–the communication of a feeling–is why we started this in the first place. I don't care how many people we reach and how much of a spectacle we create. If the few people who come to our shows have a real emotional experience and leave the show happier than when they arrived, we've done our job.

5. When it's good, three hours go by fast.

At the risk of sounding like another DJ complaining, I must say playing an entire tour of three-hour sets is exhausting. I am not the kind of performer who puts on a tune, kicks back and has a glass of champagne until the next track comes on. I decided a long time ago that I'm not going to play a single track that I don't stand 100% behind. When I play a three-hour set, I am playing three hours of my absolute favorite music on the planet right now.

I get into it. I dance. I nod my head. I sing along. I jump up and down. By the end of the show, I am usually soaked. But when the audience is into it, and they are right there along for the ride with you, three hours goes by way too fast. I have never enjoyed performing more than I do right now, and for that I'm truly thankful.