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Jack White, Rock and Roll, and How to Lead a Tribe

Published September 26, 2014 - 0 Comments
Jack White Live in Jacksonville

I saw something interesting this weekend. I witnessed a unique example of leadership in action.

A simple message presented before a rock concert led to a change in the entire audience.

This was not a magic trick and the audience was not bribed or threatened in any way.

Have you been to a live music event since the advent of the iPhone? If you have, you will have noticed that a large portion of the audience will pull out their smartphones during the concert.

They are used to film video, take pictures, tweet, text, and who knows what else.

Lots of people do this instead of living in the moment.

I have even seen people pull out iPads during shows, which if you are sitting behind these folks, your view of the show is pretty much dead in the water.

cellphones at a concert

Photo via jgoge

Jack White wants to end to all of this madness. In interviews he has explained that audiences today stink. They do not clap, they are not in the moment, and are distracted.

In his mind, a great show is one where the audience is in concert with the band…and in real-time.

A Simple But Brilliant Tactic

Ten minutes before the concert was to start, an MC spoke for a few minutes about this issue.

He explained point for point all of the reasons why you should leave your phone alone during the show.

  1. You are here to witness a live rock concert. Live in the moment. Watching it live is infinitely better than through a three-inch screen.
  2. If you are trying to take pictures to share about the concert, you need not bother. A professional photographer will be taking shots during the entire show. You can go online to download and share photos from the event. These photos clearly will be better than what you will be able to capture anyhow.
  3. It is rude. When you pull out your screen you distract the view for the people behind you.
  4. When you have your hand around your phone, you cannot clap. An audience is a huge part of the live concert experience. Without an audience, a concert becomes just a soundcheck.

Why don’t all musicians do this?

My wife and I were absolutely thrilled to hear this message. We were frustrated after all of the phones in our face during the opening act.

That…along with people talking loudly during the performance was very distracting. The opening act was surprisingly excellent too.

So how did this work? What kind of impact do you think it had?

It was amazing…

Despite a sold out show of 3,000 people and many being of the phone-addicted generation — I did not see a SINGLE person pull out a phone ONCE during the entire show.

I still cannot believe it.

In addition, I can say this was the most vibrant, loud, excited, joyful, engaged and in the moment audience I have been around at a show in years.

Probably since I was much younger and smartphones had yet to be invented. Back then we had no choice but to live in the moment — and it was awesome.

Jack White rocking Jacksonville

Jack White rocking Jacksonville

What is amazing is the message was not preachy, threatening, or challenging in any way.

The MC simply listed the negative impacts of using smart phones during concerts. Nobody was told they would be kicked out or covered in tar and feathers.

  • Leadership works even with a crowd of 3,000 strangers.
  • Leadership works with intoxicated people.
  • Leadership works with millennials.
  • Leadership works.
* Images courtesy of