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.
We found this article interesting and really positive so thank you ABC Noth Coast and the reporter Samantha Turnbull
Silent discos, popular at music festivals and clubs geared towards Generation Y, have found a new posse of fans in aged-care centers across Australia.
Three facilities run by Feros Care in northern New South Wales have recently introduced weekly silent discos — where music is played through wireless headphones instead of a loudspeaker system.
Positive living co-ordinator Jennie Hewitt said the combination of music and dance was proving to have therapeutic benefits, particularly with dementia sufferers.
"One of the residents came along to the disco and he was in his wheelchair and he was quite withdrawn, he had his eyes closed and his head down, but as we put the headphones on, he started to tap his foot, and then he opened his eyes and looked around and in the end he was kicking his legs to New York New York," she said.
"When the class finished he gave an enormous round of applause and promptly stood up out of his wheelchair because he'd forgotten he couldn't walk and he walked back to his room.""It was mind-blowing."
Grants to conduct further studies
Ms. Hewitt said the healing power of music was relatively well-known, but combined with physical movement it had additional benefits.
"It's actually quite difficult to get our people with cognitive impairment to join in to exercise groups, they feel a little disconnected and have trouble following the instructions," she said.
"When you put it to music and they remember the words and they move at that base instinct, which doesn't require cognition, that's really the only exercise program that I've seen that gets people up and engaged and working as a cohesive group."Feros researchers have been so impressed, they are in the process of applying for grants to conduct formal studies into the impact of the silent discos on dementia sufferers.
"It's still emerging work but we want to be part of the bigger picture in finding out, how to use music to reach people, particularly with dementia, and to become involved in as much scientific research as we can," Ms Hewitt said.
Silent disco company discoDtours last year introduced a program called Moove and Groove for seniors in aged care facilities throughout Sydney, and is also conducting research into the benefits for dementia sufferers.
The company was awarded a New South Wales Government grant to develop the program in collaboration with a music therapist and exercise physiologist.
The average age of 90
Dance teacher Tess Eckert, who runs the discos at Feros's centers in Byron Bay, Bangalow and Kingscliff, said the program brought joy to all.
"It gives me a lot of hope that I can still dance until I'm 100," she said.
"I'm always shocked when I remind myself that most of them are over 90.
"If I could be doing this at that age, life is going to be fine.
Byron Bay dancer Jillie Richardson, 97, said she had only discovered her love of dancing in her senior years.
"I was a very late bloomer, but I think it's in our blood, it's part of who we are, and it loves to come out," she said.
"To see the fluidity, to know how we've inhibited our bodies with our upbringing, and to see the joy that comes out of the movements — it's a beautiful thing."
Nina Marzzi, 97, said the silent discos had reignited her love of dance and she had started going to the local pub once a week to keep it up.
"The moment we step on the floor, we dance, without sitting down until the very end," she said.
"How I last, I don't know, because I can't walk.
With warm weather comes outdoor events, and now, more often than ever we’re seeing silent discos as the selected format. In this article, we will explain the pros and cons of these events and tell you where to find them this Summer.
In 2011, the term “silent disco” was added to the dictionary with the meaning: “an event at which people dance to music that is transmitted through wireless headphones rather than played over a speaker system.” The first ever event of this type stateside was back in May 2002 in Chicago, IL with only one channel of music to listen to. Nowadays, technology has progressed massively and the typical silent disco event has up to three different DJ’s spinning simultaneously on their own channels. These events don’t use speakers, not even for the DJ’s, so hosting them in public parks and spaces is possible without special permits or permissions in most cases. In the midst of intense festival atmospheres, silent disco headphones offer a pleasant getaway for those not wanting to vibe at the main stage, and they are easy to use, too!
The headphones typically used have three controls, operated by dials or flip-switches: on/off, channel selection, and volume control. These headphones support up to three channels of music, each with their own color. Participants select between red, green and blue and then find other party-goers to dance with on the same color/channel. Finding others is easy since the headphones illuminate the color of the channel you are listening to. Not all three channels are always used, but often times promoters book different crews/genres so a good variety can be heard at any moment.
Another advantage of this individualized approach is the ability for users to fine-tune the volume to their needs. Friends can be found dancing together, or apart, while still enjoying each other’s company and personal tastes. It is also common to find folks hanging out with their headphones around their neck or on the ground, just having fun talking and catching up in the absence of loud music. If attending a silent disco event, make sure to bring a state ID to use as collateral for the headphone rental. Don’t worry though, the promoter only holds your ID safe to ensure that they get their headphones back at the end of the event. Though the headphones are expensive new, expect to pay only $10-15 to rent yours the day of.
Overall, silent discos are a great way to spend time with friends and enjoy dance music in a personalized way; they add a new dimension to Pacific Northwest dance music events with very few drawbacks. FW Events recently had a very successful Silent Disco Festival over Memorial Day Weekend with Turn It Down Music Festival 2018, Bumbershoot is offering a silent disco stage again this year, and local crews Heartbeat Silent Sound Systems and SoundDown Seattle host parties weekly. Look for the special headphones at Gas Works Park in Seattle and Laurelhurst Park in Portland this summer, among many other places!
To sum it up, see below:
These are the things where people dance with headphones on in a silent room. In the United States, the idea apparently originated with The Flaming Lips, who gave FM radio receivers and headphones to their audience at a concert in Texas in 1999. By 2005, The New York Times was on it, explaining that at that year’s Glastonbury Festival in England, “neighbors may well wonder if they have lost their hearing” because “plans call for a ‘silent’ disco, where the dancers will be equipped with headphones through which the music will be piped.” The trend came to Washington a few years later with pop-up silent discos at various events. (“People dancing with headphones on? Wacky,”
To be sure, it was cheaper than other plug-and-play New Year’s options in Washington. Novelty seeking is one of the few natural “highs” that works on me (yes, I know about running; no, that doesn’t work either). I had, of course, failed to make other plans, and as December wore on, I started feeling guilty about it.
New Year’s Eve is the day Soviet Russians celebrated fake Christmas, complete with a Santa proxy (Father Cold) and his child associate (Snow Girl). I forced my Russian family to move our Christmas to December 25 sometime in the early 1990s, but it’s clear the 31st is still the real deal to them. Not long after we wrapped up our Christmas dinner, full of American holiday recipes my mom had dutifully Googled, she asked me what my plans were for New Year’s.
“Silent disco,” I said. “It’s where you dance to no music with headphones on.”
“Oh,” she said. “Why?”
Her question echoed in my mind as I found myself suctioned into my “tummy control” panty hose and clomping up the steps of the Embassy Row Hotel. Why? Why? Why?
We walked past banners advertising the “Silent Dance Society”—the cult-sounding organizers of the event—and found ... a woman pushing her wheelchair through a mostly empty hotel lobby.
It was 10, and the place had not quite filled up yet. We were handed light-up headphones by a very stressed man in a red sequin blazer. “Last song is at 1,” he said. “TRUST ME, and I’ve been doing this for five years, you’re gonna wanna turn these in a few minutes before 1 to avoid the crowd.”
The disco was staged in the part of the hotel where continental breakfast is normally served, which is perhaps why the “bartender” poured me a full pint of Chardonnay when I ordered a white wine. Next to me, a sweaty guy in running shorts ordered a coffee to go, eyed us warily, then returned to his room.
Soon, though, the wine pint began to do its job, and we warmed to the dorky vibe. Plus, this being Washington, there simply are way more people than things to do, so gradually a respectable throng trickled in, and the dance floor grew downright packed.
The headphones had three channels, each controlled by one of three MacBook-wielding DJs in the corner. The red channel was what one might call wedding music. Another tended toward hip-hop, and another toward Avicii-style EDM.
For people like me, who have between zero and one dance moves anyway, the most fun was had by switching among the channels rapidly. Other people all switched to the same station, then formed tight circles to gyrate together. One woman grabbed onto the edge of a table and commenced twerking her heart out. The world, in other words, was your disco oyster, and as the night wore on it became clear we would be leaving our dignity on the dance floor. During “Shout,” I took off my headphones to hear a chorus of off-key “hey-ey-ey-ey”s from around the room.
We bungled the countdown—two crowds of people were looking at two different timers or feeds or something—but everyone promptly resumed dancing anyway. Toward the end, it was lit, as the youths say: A guy in a tuxedo T-shirt joined a group of hot women in the electric slide. A woman in gold muttered, “It’s. About. To go. Down,” as she walked by me, headphones on and drink in hand. Couples tuned their headsets to the same station, clutched each other lovingly, and swayed.
I felt--could it be?—mirth. The “Despacito,” the Backstreet Boys, the chasing “Waterfalls.” It reminded me of a foam party I went to in London once, where I danced with a boy I loved, but also everyone else, and also the FOAM, and when the sugary-sweet S Club 7 number “Reach” played, it seemed both cheesy and perfect. Sometimes things can be both.
It was around this time that we took the anxious man’s advice to leave a few minutes early. He rubbed our headphones down with disinfecting wipes as we waited for our Uber. Nearby, a crowd of balding men who looked like lawyers had crept out from the darkness of the dance-floor area and were, with headphones flashing, doing a gregarious YMCA under the lobby’s bright lights, in full view of any and all hotel guests. Which is good, because everyone deserves to have some fun now and then.
Event Vines celebrated the launch of Experiences and the Connect & Grow movement with part 1 of our 3 part series of Silent Disco Rooftop Yoga, with a theme focused on nourishing the MIND, BODY, and SPIRIT
We're thrilled to be teaming up with the University of Texas and C3 for all the home games for the official home game after party.
Come join us at the fountain on the UT campus
o Saturday, Sept. 8th – Approximately 11 p.m. – 1 a.m.
o Saturday, Sept. 15th – Approximately 11 p.m. – 1 a.m.
o Saturday, Sept. 22nd – Time TBD
o Saturday, Oct. 13th – Time TBD
o Saturday, Nov. 3rd – Time TBD
o Saturday, Nov. 17th - Approximately 11 p.m. – 1 a.m.
The Silent Disco was a highlight of the festival experience for anyone who weathered the oft-long line to get in. The crowd inside a relatively small tent all grooved out together while the sound is transmitted to personal wireless headphones instead of a normal PA system. To claim that the experience is surreal and a trip is an understatement. This one of a kind experiment should not be missed. I would not be surprised to see one popping up in an urban area near you soon.
Fact: One of the more annoying consequences of staying out late dancing is the laryngitis that you experience the following morning from having to scream to communicate with friends, place your drink order, hit on that cutie cute guy or gal, etc., over the thumping music.
Luckily, the geniuses at Silent Disco have eradicated this problem for the booty shaking people in Austin with their concept. Upon arrival, you receive a pair of nifty wireless headphones, through which the live DJ is pumping his or her music. The sound quality is impeccable and with the headphones on, there is no audible differentiation from being in a traditional nightclub. The beauty of this brainchild is that the once the headphones are muted or removed, you can actually carry on a conversation with others, understand people's names when they are introduced to you, and salvage your vocal chords from the typical beat down to the sound of backbeats.
The only real pitfall of Silent Disco is the newness of it all. Much of the crowd seemed hesitant to participate, or embarrassed to let loose. It is a wee bit awkward knowing that you look like a crazy hobo dancing to your own mental band, to the folks not wearing the headphones. Although initially "different," this method of party is spreading like wildfire internationally, and in Texas will catch on in time. It sometimes takes us a little longer, but we'll get there. We're hip ... we like to dance.
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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.