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“Drop Highlight” Aims to Revive Original Clubbing By Suppressing Smartphone Use



We all have seen those rows of glowing rectangles instead of dancing people. Now one production company is waging war on smartphones in an unlikely battleground: the nightclub. The initiative comes from London-based firm Covert, who have introduced “Drop Highlight,” a technological solution to reignite the authentic, phone-free clubbing experience of the last decades when smartphones where not as prevalent as they are today. Aiming to curb selfie breaks and social media distractions, the company’s goal is to bring back authentic raving culture from a pre-technology world.

“We are solving a problem to drastically limit camera-use on the dancefloor so attendees can enjoy the full magic of live events. We feel it’s important for attendees to be fully immersed in the moment and spend some time away from the phone. Until now, solutions have been to take phones away or put stickers over cameras, rather than adapt to a time where humans are integrated with their mobile device.” – Eddie De Lewis (producer at Covert)

Here’s how it works. After entering a participating venue, its staff provides attendees with a wristband containing a unique QR code that connects to the “Drop Highlight” platform. The venue’s professional videographers work throughout the night to record content before uploading it all to the dedicated hub. Attendees can then scan their code to access and download videos the following morning.

The project is ambitious—and timely. Privacy violations caused by gratuitous phone usage have emerged as one of the electronic dance music community’s most explosive flashpoints. While many argue that people should be able to ignore the devices and enjoy the show, others bemoan the behavior for causing discomfort, especially for those who don’t want to be documented in a public setting.

The issue isn’t endemic to just crowds. Dance music superstars MEDUZA and James Hype recently launched a concerted campaign to raise awareness of excessive recording at dance music events.

“Musicians and performers often find it disheartening to see audiences through the lens of a camera rather than through their eyes. It can disrupt the intimate connection between artist and audience that makes house music so powerful as a genre of music.” – MEDUZA and James Hype

By removing the hollow impulses tied to the lurking presence of phones, Covert hopes to encourage clubbers to truly connect and experience the raw energy of the dancefloor once again.

Members of their team traveled to last year’s record-breaking Amsterdam Dance Event, the world’s leading electronic music summit, to conduct surveys exploring the nexus of nightlife and smartphone usage. The research unearthed a bleak data point, finding that 89% of people would like to stay off their phones but felt the need to capture moments for social media.

They then partnered with Rhythm Horizons, a London-based house music event promoter, to flesh out a proof-of-concept trial run in December 2023. After establishing overt signage and informing door staff to communicate the events’ “no filming” stance, 95% of attendees complied, according to Covert. Rhythm Horizons ultimately extended the partnership and has now committed to implementing “Drop Highlight” at their shows in London throughout 2024.

You can learn more about Covert via the company’s website.