What events matter to them and their lives?

Black Lives Matter die-in protest at Metro Green Line against allegations of police brutality in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is an international activist movement, originating in the African-American community, that campaigns against violence and systemic racism toward black people. BLM regularly organizes protests around the deaths of black people in killings by law enforcement officers, and broader issues of racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the United States criminal justice system.

In 2013, the movement began with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin. Black Lives Matter became nationally recognized for its street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two African Americans: Michael Brown, resulting in protests and unrest in Ferguson, and Eric Garner in New York City. The originators of the hashtag and call to action, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, expanded their project into a national network of over 30 local chapters during 2014–16.The overall Black Lives Matter movement, however, is a decentralized network and has no formal hierarchy.

Since the Ferguson protests, participants in the movement have demonstrated against the deaths of numerous other African Americans by police actions or while in police custody, including those of Jonathan Ferrell, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Laquan McDonald, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Samuel DuBose, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile. In the summer of 2015, Black Lives Matter activists began to publicly challenge politicians—including politicians in the 2016 United States presidential election—to state their positions on BLM issues.Founding
Nekima Levy-Pounds speaks during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Minneapolis.

In the summer of 2013, after George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the movement began with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.The movement was co-founded by three black community organizers: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.

Garza, Cullors and Tometi met through “Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity” (BOLD), a national organization that trains community organizers.[They began to question how they were going to respond to the devaluation of black lives after Zimmerman’s acquittal. Garza wrote a Facebook post titled “A Love Note to Black People” in which she wrote: “Our Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter”. Cullors replied: “#BlackLivesMatter”. Tometi then added her support, and Black Lives Matter was born as an online campaign.

In August 2014, BLM members organized their first in-person national protest in the form of a “Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride” to Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting of Michael Brown. More than five hundred members descended upon Ferguson to participate in non-violent demonstrations. Of the many groups that descended on Ferguson, Black Lives Matter emerged from Ferguson as one of the best organized and most visible groups, becoming nationally recognized as symbolic of the emerging movement. Since August 2014, Black Lives Matter has organized more than one thousand protest demonstrations. On Black Friday in November, Black Lives Matter staged demonstrations at stores and malls across the United States.

In 2015, after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, black activists around the world modeled efforts for reform on Black Lives Matter and the Arab Spring.[This international movement has been referred to as the “Black Spring”. Connections have also been forged with parallel international efforts such as the Dalit rights movement.Expanding beyond street protests, BLM has expanded to activism, such as the 2015 University of Missouri protests, on American college campuses.

Black Lives Matter incorporates those traditionally on the margins of black freedom movements.The organization’s website, for instance, states that Black Lives Matter is “a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of black people by police and vigilantes” and, embracing intersectionality, that “Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all black lives along the gender spectrum.

Some of the protesters actively distinguish themselves from the older generation of black leadership, such as Al Sharpton, by their aversion to middle-class traditions such as church involvement, Democratic Party loyalty, and respectability politics.Moreover, political Scientist Frederick C. Harris has argued that this “group-centered model of leadership” is distinct from the older charismatic leadership model that characterized civil rights organizations like Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.

BLM claims inspiration from the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power movement, the 1980s Black feminist movement, Pan-Africanism, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, Hip hop, LGBTQ social movements and Occupy Wall Street.

Structure and organization

The phrase “Black Lives Matter” can refer to a Twitter hashtag, a slogan, a social movement, or a loose confederation of groups advocating for racial justice. As a movement, Black Lives Matter is decentralized, and leaders have emphasized the importance of local organizing over national leadership. Activist DeRay McKesson has commented that the movement “encompasses all who publicly declare that Black lives matter and devote their time and energy accordingly”. Several media organizations have referred to BLM as “a new civil rights movement”.

In 2013, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi formed the Black Lives Matter Network. Alicia Garza described the network as an online platform that existed to provide activists with a shared set of principles and goals. Local Black Lives Matter chapters are asked to commit to the organization’s list of guiding principles, but operate without a central structure or hierarchy. Alicia Garza has commented that the Network was not interested in “policing who is and who is not part of the movement”. Currently, there are at least 30 Black Lives Matter chapters in the U.S., England, Canada, Australia and Ghana.Other Black Lives Matter leaders include: DeRay Mckesson, Shaun King, Marissa Johnson, Nekima Levy-Pounds, and Johnetta Elzie.

The loose structure of Black Lives Matter has contributed to confusion in the press and among activists, as actions or statements from chapters or individuals are sometimes attributed to “Black Lives Matter” as a whole.Matt Pearce, writing for the Los Angeles Times, commented that “the words could be serving as a political rallying cry or referring to the activist organization. Or it could be the fuzzily applied label used to describe a wide range of protests and conversations focused on racial inequality.”

Concurrently, a broader movement involving several other organizations and activists emerged under the banner of “Black Lives Matter” as well.For example, BLM is a member organization of The Movement for Black Lives that was established as a response to both sustained and increasingly visible violence against black communities in the U.S. and globally.In 2015 Johnetta Elzie, DeRay McKesson, Brittany Packett, and Samuel Sinyangwe, initiated Campaign Zero, a campaign aimed at promoting policy reforms to end police brutality. The campaign released a ten-point plan for reforms to policing, with recommendations including: ending broken windows policing, increasing community oversight of police departments, and creating stricter guidelines for the use of force.New York Times reporter John Eligon reported that some activists had expressed concerns that the campaign was overly focused on legislative remedies for police violence.

Strategies and tactics

Black Lives Matter protest against police brutality in St. Paul, Minnesota

Black Lives Matter originally used social media—including hashtag activism—to reach thousands of people rapidly. Since then, Black Lives Matters has embraced a diversity of tactics.

Internet and social media

In 2014, the American Dialect Society chose #BlackLivesMatter as their word of the year.BlackLivesMatter was voted as one of the twelve hashtags that changed the world in 2014.

Memes are also important in garnering support for the Black Lives Matter new social movement. Information communication technologies such as Facebook and Twitter spread memes and are important tools for garnering web support in hopes of producing a spillover effect into the offline world.
Direct action

BLM generally engages in direct action tactics that make people uncomfortable enough that they must address the issue. BLM has been known to build power through protest. BLM has held rallies and marches, including one for the death of Corey Jones in Palm Beach, Florida. BLM has also staged die-ins and held one during the 2015 Twin Cities Marathon.

Political slogans used during demonstrations include the eponymous “Black Lives Matter”, “Hands up, don’t shoot” (a later discredited reference attributed to Michael Brown, “I can’t breathe”(referring to Eric Garner), “White silence is violence”, “No justice, no peace”,and “Is my son next?”,among others. Songs such as “Alright” have been used as a rallying call at demonstrations.


Beyoncé’s most recent production Lemonade featured Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin’s mothers crying while holding the last images they have of their sons. The singer, along with husband Jay Z, reportedly paid tens of thousands of dollars to #BlackLivesMatter causes, such as paying bail for protestors and rebuilding infrastructure.The video for her single “Formation” (2016) celebrates southern black culture and features a line of policemen holding up their hands while a hooded black boy dances in front of them. The video also features a shot of graffiti on a wall reading “stop shooting us”.

The documentary short film Bars4Justice features brief appearances by various activists and recording artists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement. The film is an official selection of the 24th Annual Pan African Film Festival. Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement is a 2016 American television documentary film starring Jesse Williams about the Black Lives Matter movement.

“All Lives Matter”

The phrase “All Lives Matter” sprang up in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Several notable individuals have supported All Lives Matter. Its proponents include Senator Tim Scott. Richard Sherman supports the All Lives Matter message, saying “I stand by what I said that All Lives Matter and that we are human beings.

According to an August 2015 poll, 78% of likely American voters said that the statement All Lives Matter was “close[ to their own” point of view than Black Lives Matter was. Only 11% said that the statement Black Lives Matter was closer. Nine percent said that neither statement reflected their own point of view.

The use of ICTs facilitates the spread of the message “All Lives Matter” as a response to the Black Lives Matter hashtag as well as the “Blue Lives Matter” hashtag as a response to Beyonce’s halftime performance speaking out against police brutality.

At a performance during the 2016 MLB All-Star Game, Remigio Pereira, a member of The Tenors, held up an “All Lives Matter” sign and altered some lyrics to the anthem “O Canada. Mr. Pereira sang, “We’re all brothers and sisters. All lives matter to the great,” instead of the lines, “With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North strong and free.” Even after criticism, he defended his statement, tweeting “I speak for the human race and the lives of all sentient beings. Love, peace and harmony for ALL has always been my life’s purpose.”

Activists from Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter made news when they embraced during a “run-in” in Dallas. “We’re all brothers and sisters,” one of the protesters can be heard saying on CNN. “This is how you kick down a wall.”

Criticism of “All Lives Matter”

According to professor David Theo Goldberg, “All Lives Matter” reflects a view of “racial dismissal, ignoring, and denial”. On Real Time with Bill Maher Bill Maher expressed support for use of the “Black Lives Matter” phrase, stating that “‘All Lives Matter’ implies that all lives are equally at risk, and they’re not”.Founders have responded to criticism of the movement’s exclusivity, saying, “#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important – it means that Black lives, which are seen without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation.”

In a video interview with Laura Flanders, Garza discussed how “changing Black Lives Matter to All Lives Matter is a demonstration of how we don’t actually understand structural racism in this country”. She went on to discuss how other lives are valued more than black lives, which she strongly feels is wrong, and that to take blackness out of this equation is inappropriate.

President Barack Obama spoke to the debate between Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter.[208] Obama said, “I think that the reason that the organizers used the phrase Black Lives Matter was not because they were suggesting that no one else’s lives matter … rather what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that is happening in the African American community that’s not happening in other communities.” He also said “that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.”

On February 24, 2016, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, sent out a company-wide internal memo to employees formally rebuking employees who had crossed out handwritten “Black Lives Matter” phrases on the company walls and had written “All Lives Matter” in their place. Facebook allows employees to free-write thoughts and phrases on company walls. The memo was then leaked by several employees. As Zuckerberg had previously condemned this practice at previous company meetings, and other similar requests had been issued by other leaders at Facebook, Zuckerberg wrote in the memo that he would now consider this overwriting practice not only disrespectful, but “malicious as well”. According to Zuckerberg’s memo, “Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean other lives don’t – it’s simply asking that the black community also achieves the justice they deserve.” The memo noted that the act of crossing something out in itself, “means silencing speech, or that one person’s speech is more important than another’s”.
External images “All Houses Matter”, Chainsawsuit, Kris Straub, July 7, 2016. Cartoonist uses a house fire to illustrate why critics see “All Lives Matter” as problematic.

In July 2016, USA Today wrote that using the phrase “All Lives Matter” can be interpreted as racist. It cited three professors, including Joe Feagin, who said that white people use the phrase “All Lives Matter” to ignore the Black Lives Matter movement, which he described as “already about liberty and justice for all”. USA Today reported that some celebrities who had tweeted using the hashtag #AllLivesMatter, including Jennifer Lopez and Fetty Wap, had deleted the tweets and apologized. It also mentioned cartoonist Kris Straub, who tweeted a cartoon titled “All Houses Matter”, showing a house fire, to illustrate the problem with the term.
Criticism of “Black Lives Matter”

Critics of the movement include former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, minister Johnathan Gentry of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, author and minister Barbara Ann Reynold and Professor Carol M. Swain of Vanderbilt University.

Deroy Murdock questioned the number of black people killed by police that, he says, BLM reported. He wrote, “the notion that America’s cops simply are gunning down innocent black people is one of today’s biggest and deadliest lies. Some critics who also accuse Black Lives Matter of “anti-white and anti-police radicalism”.[218] Some black civil rights leaders, such as Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray, Najee Ali, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, have criticized the tactics of BLM.

According to former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani, “Black lives matter” is racist and anti-American.
Law enforcement

Following the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, the hashtag , #BlueLivesMatter, was created by supporters of the police. Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. of Milwaukee County has been critical of Black Lives Matter, stating that there is no police brutality problem in America and that “there is no racism in the hearts of police officers”. Marchers using a BLM banner were recorded in a video chanting, “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon” at the Minnesota State Fair. Law enforcement groups said that the chant promotes death to police. The protest organizer disputed that interpretation, saying “What we are promoting is that if black people who kill police officers are going to fry, then we want police officers to face the same treatment that we face as civilians for killing officers.” A North Carolina police chief retired after calling BLM a terrorist group. A police officer in Oregon was removed from street duty following a social media post in which he said he would have to “babysit these fools”, in reference to a planned BLM event.

Intraracial violence

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said about the “Black Lives Matter” movement, “I dealt with a best friend getting killed, and it was [by] two 35-year-old black men. There was no police officer involved, there wasn’t anybody else involved, and I didn’t hear anybody shouting ‘black lives matter’ then.”John McWhorter wrote that the Black Lives Matter movement had “done the nation a service” by bringing national attention to police killings of unarmed African Americans and encouraged it to expand its focus to include “black-on-black crime”.
Ferguson effect
According to Deroy Murdock, BLM has made it hard for police to do their job, leading to a rise in crime rates. He refers to this as the “Ferguson effect”.FBI Director James Comey suggested that the movement is partly leading to a national rise in crime rates because police officers have pulled back from doing their jobs. A study by the Justice Department, said there was an increase in homicides in 56 large cities over the course of 2015, and examined the “Ferguson effect” as one of three plausible explanations. Other researchers have looked for this “Ferguson effect” in the rise in crime rates and failed to find evidence for it on a national level. A report over the increased homicide rate in St. Louis concluded there was an “absence of credible and comprehensive evidence” for the Ferguson Effect being responsible for that city’s homicide increase. A similar analysis in Baltimore found that the attribution of a Ferguson Effect was “very weak” and that the only evidence in support of the Ferguson Effect in Baltimore was in declining arrest rates. Others have described the Ferguson Effect not as a result of de-policing, but as a political movement where people (especially blacks) are becoming more aware of their rights and standing up for their rights, or as a result of increased agitation with the police. A study from the University of South Carolina suggests that, while its effects on crime rates is uncertain, a “Ferguson Effect” may account for other aspects of a police officer’s job, such as a willingness to partner with community members.

White groups

In response to BLM, Facebook pages purporting to represent “White Student Unions” with the slogan “White Lives Matter” have been linked to college campuses in the United States.[240] The pages often promise a “safe space” for white students and condemn alleged anti-white racism on campus.[241] Many of the groups were not verified as legitimate student organizations and representatives of their schools said that the groups do not represent their values. Other students complained that attempts by the universities to remove these pages are a violation of free speech.

Jewish groups

Black Lives Matter has been criticized by some Jewish groups because the platform of the Movement for Black Lives, released in August 2016, used the word “genocide” to describe Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow described the platform as “a remarkable platform for social change toward racial justice in America” and recommended that every American read it. He wrote that although the platform has “thousands of words that address both comprehensively and in great detail what it would take to fully end the legacy of slavery and the constant resurgence of racism”, a single paragraph “and especially one word in it—’genocide'” has grabbed the attention of the American Jewish community. Waskow wrote that the specific allegations in the paragraph concerning “the Israeli government’s behavior and its effects in the US are largely accurate BUT—factually, it is not true that the State of Israel has committed, is committing, genocide upon the Palestinian people.” He added, “Oppression, yes. Genocide, no.”
Black Lives Matter protest at Herald Square, Manhattan

The February 2015 issue of Essence magazine and the cover was devoted to Black Lives Matter. In December 2015, BLM was a contender for the Time magazine Person of the Year award. Angela Merkel won the award while BLM came in fourth of the eight candidates.

On May 9, 2016 Delrish Moss was sworn in as the first permanent African-American police chief in Ferguson, where he acknowledges he faces such challenges as diversifying the police force, creating dramatic improvements in community relations, and addressing issues that catalyzed the Black Lives Matter movement.

Why Live Events Matter.

The spectrum we use—the UHF broadcast band—is going away, and the devices we operate—analog FM radios—are ill-equipped for the digital and database controlled ecosystems they are increasingly asked to inhabit.

Wireless microphone manufacturers are innovating, and end-users are changing how they deploy equipment for greater efficiency. But those changes won’t come fast enough. It is of great importance that regulators give wireless audio devices a gradual, lengthy transition out of UHF spectrum and, eventually, new spectrum elsewhere that is either exclusively for wireless audio, or can be shared with other devices without sacrificing the technical requirements demanded by our applications.

Making the case for why regulators should do that is difficult.

Although wireless audio devices are genuinely valuable, their user base is small when compared to other users, like cellular, and the value of wireless audio is harder to concretely quantify than the monetary value the incentive auctions will ascribe to UHF frequencies through free market forces—which does not mean that value does not exist.

Purely monetary arguments are bound to come up short, because we essentially have to make the case that a handful of wireless mics should be able to use spectrum worth billions of dollars to someone else for free, while other types of users, like LPTVs, are given the boot.

For wireless audio to move forward, we must communicate to regulators why wireless audio devices—the type we use right now—are uniquely indispensable to corporations, governments, non-profits, and society as a whole.

If you peel back the layers of rhetoric that have bounced around since the auction of the 700 MHz band a few years ago, you realize the case for wireless microphones doesn’t have much to do with the devices themselves, but rather the context in which they’re used: live events.

To understand why wireless microphones are important, you have to understand why live events are important, not just to the industries that produce them, but to everyone.

Those who work in the industry carry this knowledge implicitly. What we do is important. Right? It’s so inherent and obvious, that I think at times nobody thinks to state the obvious, because we assume it has been said before.

But if we are to be successful, we have to make that implicit knowledge explicit, and legible, to regulators, to everyone, and deeply explore why live events—of which wireless audio is an integral part—are valuable, ensuring that we look beyond easy definitions of “value” to include the other, non-tangible, but still real forms of value.

So, why do live events matter? Let me count the ways.

Proximity in the Internet Age

Digital media platforms and social networks have changed the way people everywhere perceive reality, and the way organizations do business.

The broken record spins: many of our interpersonal interactions now occur online. How does this bode for the “real” world, of handshakes and eye-contact?

Since the dawn of IT, pundits have predicted the decay of face-to-face interactions and events due to modern communications, and the rhetoric has not stopped. Forums, social media networks, Youtube, etc, suffer straw man arguments that point to digital interactions as the root of poor social skills and isolation.

And yet, face-to-face is not dead, or dying.

To the contrary, face-to-face is at a premium.

Corporations invest ungodly sums in lavish spaces that encourage “spontaneous interactions” between talented employees.

Urban life has exploded into a new golden age in every country.

Corporate events keep growing in complexity and scale, and trade shows are still a crucial part of marketing strategies.

Pollstar, which tracks the financial health of the concert industry, estimated that ticket sales to concerts and festivals reached $6.2 billion in 2014, up from $5.1 billion in 2013, and only $1.7 billion in year 2000. In fact Pollstar has reported staggering and nearly uninterrupted growth in the concert industry since 1990. And it’s not just because the music industry can’t make money selling records anymore. If concerts were overpriced, people wouldn’t go, and yet ticket prices have skyrocketed right alongside attendance!—from $41 in 2000 to $71 in 2014.

These days, organizations have so many different avenues for communicating a message and building a brand, but clearly still expend resources on the production of face-to-face gatherings because live events offer something that other forms of media and communications do not.

“There’s nothing that beats the live experience,” says Jim Kelley, Vice President of Industry Relations at PRG. “Face-to-face engagement is where the rubber meets the road, where you really start driving positive outcomes. Human beings like to be engaged with other human beings, whether that’s at a meeting or a concert.”

There is something inherent about face-to-face that ensures its relevancy as long as people continue being people.

But there is also something qualitatively different about why people go to live events in a contemporary, digital society that explains the quantitative growth.

Live events are powerful because they provide a caliber and quality of experience that digital mediums lack, one that is rooted in the “real.” A “real” life experience, especially one with others, is now a type of novelty, since we live so much of our routine lives alone in digital domains.

“There have been some studies that have shown the digital component has actually increased attendance at face to face events,” continues Jim Kelley. “In the sense that people are able to experience it and get their toes in the water and realize, ‘hey that was such a good experience online or digitally, that I now want to go experience the whole thing.”

Live events are where, suddenly, celebrities and leaders step out of fantasy to become an exhilarating physical object, previously existing only as a creature of shadow and color on a screen, or in memory. And to reinforce the existence of this new object are hundreds or thousands of other witnesses, all gathered within eyesight of one another around the same phenomenon.

Instead of keeping us isolated, for many, digital communication has had the counterintuitive effect of creating an impulse to come together. Gatherings are special and rare, and also foils of the digital mediums they complement.

Consequently, the expectations of audiences have risen; a spotlight and microphone are no longer enough. Central to meeting the expectation’s of today’s sophisticated audiences are the technically advanced and tightly coordinated entertainment technology products and services—wireless microphones and other audio devices among them—that make contemporary events so stimulating.

Live Events as Means of Production

We often think about the value of live events in terms of the money exchanged leading up to and during the event itself. And that is certainly one of the major and most easily measured kinds of value that live events offer. Construction companies are hired to build stadiums and theaters. Consultants and contractors and subcontractors and freelancers are hired and paid to coordinate and produce. Attendees pay for the event, and fan out before and after into surrounding communities, opening their wallets to local restaurants, bars, and parking garages.

But the value of live events does not end when the curtain closes. Many performances or presentations are professionally broadcast to a wider audience, or recorded for later rebroadcast, or diced, sliced, and blended into a dazzling variety and abundance of easily consumable free and paid entertainment products available across numerous digital and traditional channels, to be sold as a product, to increase a brand’s exposure and drive engagement, or to serve as fodder for news.

In other words, a major event (and all the technology used to put it on) is a kind of factory.

There is some monetary value in the actual event, but event stakeholders usually generate the majority of their revenues by producing entertainment products based off of that event, or by selling advertising slots appended to the event.

To illustrate this point, as an American, I have to jump straight to the NFL.

Bloomberg Business has called the NFL “the most popular show on TV and arguably the last totem of American mass culture,” whose revenues, though shrouded in mystery, may be somewhere north of $10 billion—which eclipses the total tax revenue collected by the country of Lithuania.

We like to think of football games as spontaneous play between honest contestants with a great deal at stake.

In reality, as much of what can be scripted is scripted and planned, to maximize theater that arises out of both anticipated and unanticipated turns of events within the game, which ultimately makes for a more compelling and watchable story, and therefore a more valuable product. The lenses of the cameras are carefully selected, the microphones are carefully coordinated and placed, the producers in the broadcast truck decide which feed should get pushed through, a broadcast mixer piping in the roar of the audience at key moments to heighten theatrical effect, etc…

What is so fascinating is that what is valuable is the continuity that is created between the real-time event and the ensuing entertainment products in the minds of consumers.

Sports broadcasts, and all the merchandised ephemera they generate, are worth paying for mostly because they take place in real time in front of a live audience of screaming fans. In fact, that may be the only reason they are worth paying for.

Sure, there is some importance in the characters who play on the field, and the way the game is played, as opposed to other games. But I think these differences only matter because they so happen to make the experience of watching sports live even more enjoyable.

Unlike something like, say, a theatrically released film, which has a beginning and an end, a football game is only one game of many games that serve to propel one of two teams onward to even greater victory in the future. At the end of the year, the game begins all over again. Football is such a powerful platform because it has no beginning and no end—only endless speculation, celebration, and analysis over relatively brief bursts of unpredictable live play.

Without the raw thrill of chance unfolding in real time on game-day, the discourse in-between games would not be nearly as intense, nor generate as many sales of TV subscriptions and merchandise. In-between games, you find a flurry of conversation and debate on past and upcoming games, on referee decisions, on the personal characters of certain players, on FM radio, AM radio, at the watercoolor, on ESPN. This stuff gets fans foaming at the mouth, so that when the actual game “the” game, is “on,” everybody is screaming and shouting as if their lives depended on it.

Literally they are screaming about a carefully branded entertainment product louder than anyone has ever screamed about anything, ever. Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs broke the record for loudest stadium in the world, measured at 142.2 dB—on par with a jet turbine, shotgun blast, or small explosion. The OSHA scale tops out at 140 dB, the “threshold of pain.”

Not only was the Kansas City Chiefs’ new world record a great way to violate OSHA noise safety standards, but it was also living proof of the power of live events.

Enough about OSHA. Let’s do a little thought experiment. What would happen if for some reason the NFL decided only to pre-record games for DVD distribution, and stopped letting fans into stadiums?

Wait, we actually don’t have to speculate.

This April, amid the tumult of the Baltimore riots, the Orioles played a baseball game without fans. As NPR reported, no baseball game has ever been broadcast without a live audience in the stands. The media almost universally described it as “surreal.”


The rules of the game were the same. A team won, and a team lost. Bright lights flickered on the billboards.

April’s “surreal” Orioles game gave the live event and entertainment industry a rare experimental treatment against controls; What happens to the quantitative and qualitative value of an entertainment product when there is no audience to enjoy it?—even though the nature of the game is unchanged?

I think it would be difficult to say that the absence of Oriole fans increased the value of the game. Certainly, 50,000 fewer tickets were sold, stadium staff did not come to work, and local restaurants and businesses never received an influx of game day business.

For the baseball fan watching at home, an otherwise carefully packaged, consistent product was suddenly missing a key ingredient—people—and, aside from some rubbernecking, probably suffered for it.

Without people, even the most expensive athlete transforms into a lunatic mime.

Without people, there is no proof that an event is enjoyed. That a brand stands for something. That a politician’s ideas are supported by a majority of voters.

If in some alternate universe the NFL’s stadiums were suddenly empty, American football would transform into a game of glorified chess played by large, muscular men, watched by almost no one.

I don’t think these are trivial points. I’m making them because I want to show that the financial success of live entertainment products rest on fragile and (sometimes) non-obvious variables.

Whether attendees and television or digital viewers enjoy a live performance depends on their subjective impressions of the event—and those impressions depend in a large part on the perceived “liveness,” a sense of raw unfiltered reality and chance, of the thing in real time. A microphone dropout, an apathetic (or non-existent) audience, crew-members being unable to communicate on headset and missing a cue, a shaky or unfocused camera, and anything at all that interrupts the “instantaneous experience” of an event are not just frustrations or embarrassments, they severely damage the value of the product.

Access to UHF spectrum for wireless audio is one of the non-physical variables contributing value to one of America’s most important industries—entertainment products—and one of the strongest arguments for why it should be preserved for that purpose, even though the entertainment industry itself can’t match the communication industry’s bid for spectrum in an auction.

I was going to go on—go on to a third reason why live events are valuable, “Live Events as Displays of Power,” but, looking down at my watch, it’s time to stop. I may break this post up into three sections later on, and include that final reason as the third chapter.

Let me sign off with this:

Live events are not self-contained systems, and a lot of their worth is contained in intangibles, like emotional pleasure, social affiliation, and political clout—which are very real, but won’t show up in a spreadsheet.

For today’s high profile live events—the kind of sleek, seamless, coordinated ones which are valuable to large audiences, corporations, governments, and non-profits—wireless audio, and the spectrum that it uses, is not a needless luxury.

Wireless microphones, intercoms, and monitors are essential organs—kidneys, livers, spleens—that are required to maintain the illusion of instantaneous experience. They are not an appendix or earlobe which can be removed without consequence. The loss of just one threatens the existence of the organism as a whole, and when they operate at reduced capacity the health of the organism suffers proportionally.

It is—and will be—possible to change how those organs function—digital modulation, improved filtering, intelligent networking—that alter how efficiently wireless audio devices consume spectrum. But those changes won’t happen overnight.