At Norway’s Oya Festival, a Sea of Hands but Few People Filming With Cell Phones


Cultural differences about not wanting to stand out or bother others are among the reasons why Norwegians are bucking the global obsession with smartphone videos of music events.

OSLO — Festival-goers accustomed to the ubiquitous smartphone-filming of shows in the U.S. and many other parts of the world saw something markedly different at Norway’s Øya Festival last week: a sea of hands in the air that were not clutching a cell phone.

It turns out that the practice of filming artists is not a thing in Norway. In fact, it’s generally frowned upon.

“A lot of Norwegians take pride in not always being on our phones,” said Rebekka Nilsson, a 30-year-old resident of Drammen, Norway, who attended the last day of the four-day festival, which ended on Saturday night.

Nilsson said she never films herself, and that she feels “sorry for people who are constantly using their phones during concerts, because it takes something away from the live experience.”

It´s certainly not a lack of smart phones that explains the lack of filming. In Norway, one of the world´s most prosperous countries, 95 percent of adults are smart phone users, and internet penetration is at 98 percent, according to Norwegian government statistics. Norwegians are also avid social media users.

Yet shockingly few people put their phones in the air while watching their favorite artists play.

That was the case, at least, at Øya in Oslo last week, where filming seemed almost non-existent, despite a number of big performances like The Cure, Sigrid, Robyn and Tame Impala.

Seen from an American perspective, the scene at the Øya festival felt more like the years before 2007, when Apple created the iPhone. In the U.S., filming at concerts has increased as cameras on the phones have improved, with attendees posting videos and photos on social media — or using the practice to escape having to socialize at the events.

At Øya, the few people that did film seemed to do it for a few seconds and then put their phones away.

The reasons why come down to cultural differences. Norwegian culture prides itself on being an egalitarian one, where people try not to stand out too much. And Norwegians are generally quite introverted, so breaking unwritten rules can often bring some unwanted attention and shame.

Strangely, festival-goers Billboard spoke to said there is almost a counter-intuitive generational difference in the attitude about cell phone filming. Younger festival goers expressed deep disdain for people who film for longer periods of time.

Milla Osland, 16, and Mathias Wiik Rafoss, 17, both agreed that more than a few seconds of filming is annoying. Rafoss said he has even told a concert-goer who was filming to put his phone away.

But Oslo resident Joakim Borgen, 30, said his father films a lot during concerts, which he doesn’t agree with. Rune Larsen, 52, admitted he often films during concerts, mostly to “show my friends what they are missing.”

Still, for Norwegians who are keeping the phone in their pocket or purse it boils down to making a conscious choice to enjoy the moment. “When you’re on your phone it’s impossible to enjoy the full concert,” Rafoss said. “It’s a complete experience, and much more than what a screen can encompass.”