In theaters and concert halls, the debate continues: phones on, or off? Audiences increasingly expect to stay connected during performances, but nobody welcomes the jangly alerts and rings that plague live concerts. This fall, New York’s Lincoln Center was one of several venues to test Yondr, a product that seals cellphones in locked pouches during concerts. At Lincoln Center’s annual White Lights Festival, concertgoers were invited to turn off their phones and put them inside the Yondr pouches, which were locked by ushers using a device similar to a department-store security tag. The pouches were unlocked by ushers at the end of the concert—and upon request during intermission, in a designated “phone use area.” Explaining the experiment, Lincoln Center Artistic Director Jane Moss said, “The promise of a hyper-connected existence through technology has, in many ways, made us far less connected to ourselves, to one another, and—importantly—to what can be deeply moving, communal experiences offered by live performing arts.” Postscript: The pouches are not soundproof, and humans are still humans. A phone alarm went off at a Lincoln Center concert when its owner forgot to silence the device.


Caption: An usher at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall helps concertgoers seal their cellphones in Yondr pouches during a November 2019 concert. Photo by Kevin Yatarola.