- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2017

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - Doniquea Luter can’t imagine going to a concert without her selfie stick.

“At a general admission show,” the Argenta-Oreana graduate and Richland Community College student said, “when a performer is on stage, you can’t get the person in the picture with you. That gives you a chance to get closer.”

Luter is one of many concertgoers who takes her smartphone and selfie stick to concerts. While rules governing the use of the utilities are unheard of or limited at this time, the world is changing.

In 2015, theme parks including Universal, Disney and Six Flags banned the devices.

National parks have issued warnings about the potential for life-threatening incidents including falls from heights and animal attacks. At least a dozen people died in 2015 after accidents while they were using a selfie stick.

Bans also exist in museums around the country, including The Art Institute of Chicago. Lollapalooza is among several concert events that doesn’t allow sticks.

The bans have arrived in Central Illinois with an edict from country act The Bellamy Brothers. Their contract explicitly bans selfie sticks. The group played the Effingham Performance Center last month.

“In this specific case, it’s at the request of the performer,” said Rich Zorn, Effingham Performance Center executive director. “It’s a new thing that’s out there. We haven’t addressed it specifically. It’s annoying to people.”

But it’s a necessity for diminutive people such as Luter, she said. She has taken both photos and videos with her selfie stick. “Always,” she said. “People with short arms need them to get into range. I’m 5-foot-2, and I have short arms.”

Before the Chicago venue closed, Luter used her selfie stick to record segments of a performance by gospel singer Kierra Sheard at Mayne Stage. And she wasn’t alone.

“Oh no,” she said. “All ages of people had them. There were older people who sat down in the back, and still used them.”

“I don’t think you can lay it at the millennials,” Zorn said. “I’ve seen boomers and Xers who will fight you when you try to take their phone away from them.”

“I’ve seen it happen,” said Lynn Cannon, the new executive director at Bloomington’s U.S. Cellular Coliseum. “Getting the camera above the crowd is easier with one. When you’re a teenager, it’s easier to hold a stick than to try to stretch your arms above the crowd.

“I went with my kids to see One Direction, and everybody there was using them. But then when we sent to see Taylor Swift, there weren’t any. So maybe that’s a difference in the artists.”

Decatur Celebration hasn’t set a selfie stick policy, and has no plans to.

“The one thing we worry about is when the artists request no video,” Celebration producer Lori Sturgill said. “They’re mostly OK with photos by now.”

The videos are not high-definition and high-quality. Those shared on social media - Snapchat is a favorite landing spot - are shaky, grainy and blurry. Sound is muddy, and results depend on the mix in the room, an individual’s location and the quality of the smartphone microphone.

“The selfie stick thing has never come up” at the Lincoln Square Theatre, vice president Jake Bonnett said. “We did have one come in, but they used it and put it away quick. And only a tiny one. We’ve never seen the extended ones here.

“Obviously, if they’re affecting people behind them, that’s another issue. But we don’t have people doing it during shows.”

“We honestly don’t have a policy,” said Jan Traughber, director at Millikin University’s Kirkland Fine Arts Center. “We’ve never needed one.”

“As new artists come along, they understand the importance of social media and of marketing. Sometimes we’ll get an artist who comes out and the first thing they say is ‘Hey, everybody, take a picture.’

“With some patron bases, it’s a whole other story. Audiences for the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra, there’s outrage even if people take out their phones to use them for light to just read the program.”

The day of reckoning approaches for selfie stick users. There’s the likelihood in coming years or even months of more far-reaching public bans. How will those users feel about surrendering their hardware at the door?

“I don’t know,” Luter said. “It would depend on where I was sitting. If I were at a general admission show, or in the middle of a crowd, I think I would try to negotiate.

“That would be a bummer. It wouldn’t necessarily stop me. If I could get my money back and see that person in a different location, I’d do that. If not, I’d just have to suck it up, and the memory would be just for me.”

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Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/2klibDi

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Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com

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