A headphone concert is a live music performance where the audience, in the same venue as the performing artist, listens to the music through headphones. The idea originated in 1997 when Erik Minkkinen, an electronic artist from Paris, streamed a live concert from his closet over the internet to three listeners in Japan. The concept led to a decentralized organization known as le placard ("the Cupboard"), which allowed anybody to establish a streaming or listening room.
The first headphone concert taking place in front of a live audience took place March 20, 1999, at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. The American psychedelic band The Flaming Lips used an FM signal generator at the venue and handed out mini FM radio receivers and headphones to each member of the audience. A normal speaker system was also used so the sound could also be felt. This continued on their "International Music Against Brain Degeneration Revue" tour with mixed results, with technical problems including dead batteries and intoxicated audience members having trouble tuning to the correct frequency. Another headphone concert was performed in the Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff in April 2000 by Rocketgoldstar.
Later headphone concerts used specially designed wireless 3-channel headphones, better in-house custom made transmitters and no speakers or any live PA in the venue. Major events hosting headphone concerts included the 2005 Glastonbury Festival, 2010 Shift Festival in Switzerland, the 2011-12 Van's Warp Tours across North America, Sensoria 2012 in Sheffield, UK, the 2012 Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee and the Hoxeyville Music Fest in Michigan. In 2012, Kid Koala performed a "Space Cadet Headphone Concert tour" around the world.
A variant of the headphone concert involves live bands competing for the audience, who are able to choose which band's frequency to receive. In August 2008, the first silent Battle of the Bands was held at The Barfly music venue in Cardiff. The event featured bands going directly head-to-head, with a stage at each end of the venue, allowing gig-goers to choose which group they wished to listen to.
A silent disco or silent rave is an event where people dance to music listened to on wireless headphones. Rather than using a speaker system, music is broadcast via a radio transmitter with the signal being picked up by wireless headphone receivers worn by the participants. Those without the headphones hear no music, giving the effect of a room full of people dancing to nothing.
In the earliest days of silent discos, before 2005, there would be only one channel available to listen to music through. Over time, the technology moved along to where there were two, and later technology allowed for a third channel that three separate DJs could broadcast over at the same time.
Silent discos are popular at music festivals as they allow dancing to continue past noise curfews. Similar events are "mobile clubbing" gatherings, where a group of people dance to the music on their personal music players.
An early reference in fiction is the 1969 Finnish science-fiction film Ruusujen Aika (A Time of Roses), where characters wear headsets during a party.
The concept was used by eco-activists in the early 1990s, utilizing headphones at outdoor parties to minimize noise pollution and disturbance to the local wildlife.
In 1994, the Glastonbury Festival linked its on-site radio station to the video screen sited next to the Main Stage, allowing festival goers to watch late night World Cup football and music videos on the giant screen after the sound curfew by using their own portable radios. The idea was the brainchild of the project manager from Proquip, who supplied the giant screen, and engineers from Moles Recording Studio in Bath, Somerset, who were working with Radio Avalon.
In May 2000, BBC Live Music held a "silent gig" at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff, where the audience listened to a band, Rocketgoldstar, and various DJs through headphones.
In May 2002 artist Meg Duguid hosted Dance with me... a silent dance party at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago where she created an outdoor club installation complete with velvet ropes and glow rope in which a DJ spun a transmission to wireless headsets that audience members put on and danced to.  Duguid threw a second dance party at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago the following year, entitled Dueling DJs where two DJS simultaneously spun two separate musical transmissions various wireless headsets that audience members put on and danced to. This performance was repeated the following year (2004) at the Chicago Cultural Center.
The term "silent disco" has been in existence since at least 2005 with Bonnaroo Music Festival advertising such an event that year with DJ’s Motion Potion, Quickie Mart and DJ medi4 and headphones provided by KOSS. In the Netherlands, the traveling arts and culture festival De Parade already featured a "stille disco" [silent disco] earlier, for example in 2003.  Dutch DJs Nico Okkerse and Michael Minton have been described as "the pioneers ... in the legend of silent disco" because they started "stille disco" events in 2002. Okkerse claims his company 433fm.com "created Silent Disco in 2002" and its site does have photos from such events going back to at least 2003.
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Austin Silent Disco
We are the first locally-owned silent disco company in Austin, Texas. We are your one stop shop for any event you can imagine that can be enhanced by having your attendees wear headphones.