Jumping the fence: ‘No Cameras Allowed’ documentary raises questions about the business of music

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Marcus Haney documents his adventures while sneaking into music festivals in  "No Cameras Allowed." (Photo courtesy of Pulse Radio)

Marcus Haney documents his adventures while sneaking into music festivals in “No Cameras Allowed.” (Photo courtesy of Pulse Radio)

“So… are you going to Lolla?” We’ve all heard it before. As a college student in Chicago, the question of to go or not to go is inescapable. But for many of us, along with being a college student comes the struggle of having an empty wallet, which realistically leaves many students unable to attend music festivals. But what if you found a way to sneak in?

In the documentary “No Cameras Allowed,” that’s just what Marcus Haney did. The documentary follows Haney’s successes of sneaking into Coachella — not once, but twice — Bonnaroo, Glastonbury and City Limits. Not only does Haney continuously succeed at conning security and crawling under fences, but his experiences also allow him to tour with his favorite band and launch his career as a photographer and filmmaker.

As much as Haney’s story leaves the viewer wanting to drop out of school and hit the road, realistically none of us are getting into Lolla 2015 for free. However, Haney’s story does bring up an interesting question: is it right that Haney is able to capitalize off of a stolen experience?

The music business: if you think about it, should those two words ever be put together in the first place? While the music business allows music to be spread widely, many would argue that throwing money into the mix impedes creativity. How can something that is used to express emotion and communicate stories and ideas be justly commercialized? Can music genuinely be a form of art if it is monetized?

Singer-songwriter Regina Spektor has openly expressed her belief that music should be free to all.

“I feel very lucky to live in this time where people can go online and get everything I’ve ever made,” explained Spektor. “Whether they have a lot of money or not.”

And Spektor isn’t alone.

“It’s the democratization of music in a way,” said Colombian singer Shakira. “And music is a gift. That’s what it should be, a gift.”

While maybe it is a bit contradictory for Haney to profit off of his purloined weekends, “No Cameras Allowed” does successfully depict the pure sense of community surrounding music festivals, an experience to which all people should have access. Perhaps there are ways of experiencing such a sense of unity without breaking the law, but the film does more than provoke the audience to question the legitimacy of the music business.

“It was never specifically about sneaking into concerts,” said Haney. “I mean, that gets people to watch it, but when you see the film it’s so much more. At the heart of it, it’s not even about music festivals or music; it’s about looking outside of society’s parameters to figure out how you can get to where you want to go.”

Haney’s experiences ultimately lead to his decision to go against socially constructed expectations and voluntarily fail out of college. “No Cameras Allowed” not only depicts music festival culture and challenges the music business, but most importantly it also inspires its audience to get out and experience life. Be it hiding out in port-a-potties to be carried onto festival grounds or pursuing your dream job, Haney’s story serves as a powerful motivation to live life for no one but yourself.