Other entertainers have since used Yondr, including Alicia Keys, Guns Nâ Roses, Maxwell, and the actor, musician and comedian Donald Glover, who goes by the stage name Childish Gambino. Some have employed it for special listening parties, festivals, or one-off shows; others, like Mr. Chappelle, have used it for entire tours.
Of course, an artist or venue can always state that cellphone use is not permitted and trust fans to comply. But often people rebel.
A phone-free event âis a very different experience,â said Graham Dugoni, who founded Yondr.
Chad Taylor, who manages Mr. Glover, among others, said, âItâs hard to meet people in the room when youâre busy texting friends who arenât there.â He added, âItâs hard to enjoy a concert experience when youâre looking at it through an iPhone camera and trying to get the best shot.â
When the rocker Axl Rose reunited with his former Guns Nâ Roses bandmates, Duff McKagan and Slash, for the first time in 23 years, the concert was phone-free.
âGod, it was wonderful,â Mr. McKagan said of the first reunion show in April, at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. âIt was the old-school feeling, where people were dancing and getting down. It was really cool.â
Credit Mike Coppola/Getty Images
It was far different from a concert he did with his other band, Loaded, a few years ago in CÃ³rdoba, Argentina. âI started playing, and I was staring into a sea of iPads and bright lights,â he said. He abruptly stopped the show and asked people to put their devices down, at which point the show improved vastly, he said.
Lesser-known bands might be more hesitant to try Yondr, as many rely on fans posting photos and videos to promote their shows.
And some fans object to not being able to disseminate and see live shows via videotape.
âIf there were no cellphones, and you couldnât capture any video, it would be disappointing,â said Steve Dintino, a Philadelphia music fan, who videotapes every concert he attends. He started filming shows in 1994 after attending a Frank Sinatra concert in Atlantic City, where he yelled âI love you Frankâ from the front row, and Mr. Sinatra responded âI love you too, pal.â A friend recorded the show, and âso I have the audio of that concert.â Ever since then, âI try to capture every concert that I go to in some capacity,â he said.
âThe ability to see it happening liveâ from the comfort of your living room âis incredible,â said Chris Kooluris of Manhattan, a hard-core music fan who has been to dozens of live shows and watched others online through Periscope, Twitterâs video feature.
âI stayed up all night long looking for periscope feeds from the Guns Nâ Roses show in L.A.,â Mr. Kooluris said. But when attending live shows, Mr. Kooluris said he prefers to see fewer cellphones. To resolve this issue, he suggests that bands allow one person to videotape the show and then give ticketholders access to the feed afterward.
But Yondr is not just for concerts. The company has been renting its devices to schools, restaurants and wedding venues, and to movie studios for prescreening events, in the United States and abroad. In the future, it could also be used during live theater performances, at sporting events such as golf tournaments, and in spas and movie theaters, Mr Dugoni said.
Mr. Dugoni, 29, was born in Portland, Ore., where his father is a physician and his mother is a homemaker. After graduating from Duke University with a B.A. in political science in 2009, he took a series of jobs â teaching English in Vietnam, playing soccer in Norway in 2010, working at investment advisory firms in Portland and Atlanta, and joining a virtual currency start-up, which failed, in San Francisco in 2013.
Throughout his 20s, Mr. Dugoni became increasingly aware of â and annoyed with â the way people were glued to their cellphones as face-to-face social interaction took a back seat.
He also saw issues with smartphones and privacy. âAt a festival at Treasure Island in San Francisco in 2013, I saw some guy dancing pretty drunk and saw two strangers recording the guy, and they posted it to YouTube without the guyâs knowledge,â he said.
With $ 15,000 in his pocket, Mr. Dugoni set out to build Yondr. He spent about six months sketching designs, experimenting with 40 fabrics and locking devices, visiting hardware stores, and consulting with manufacturers in China before developing a prototype in 2014.
Credit Justin Kaneps for The New York Times
But getting seed money to manufacture Yondr was a challenge. Silicon Valley investors thought the idea of phone-free events was preposterous and almost laughed him out of the room.
âThey just didnât get it,â he said. Undaunted, he turned to his hometown, where he raised $ 100,000 from angel investors.
âI thought the idea had legs and great market potential,â said Tony Arnerich, one of Yondrâs investors and a longtime family friend. The company raised an additional $ 75,000 in 2015.
Yondr makes money by renting the devices for $ 2 a case each day, although it offers discounts for large quantities or for schools that use them for extended periods.
The companyâs first paying job was in mid-2015, and within six months it had turned a profit, Mr. Dugoni said. The technology has been used in 57 venues and 300 schools in 2016, up from five venues in 2015.
Comedy Works, which has showcased such comedians as George Lopez and Wanda Sykes, has been using Yondr devices at its two clubs in Denver since May. âAll of the big artists have said: âWow. Thank you. This is amazing,ââ said Wende Curtis, the owner. Patrons have asked if they could buy the device for their homes, she said. (The company only rents the devices now, but is considering selling them in the future.)
Some fans have been disgruntled. A few demanded refunds rather than give up their phones, Ms. Curtis said. And one drunken party of eight âgot nastyâ and posted complaints on social media,â she said.
At a Dave Chappelle show, one inebriated fan chewed through the bottom of the pouch, recalled Corey Smyth, chief executive of Blacksmith Records, who works with Mr. Chappelle among others.
The pouch allows phone signals to get through, so someone can feel a phone vibrate when a message arrives. Anyone who needs access during a show may leave the room, have the device unlocked and use the phone in the lobby or outside â similar to the way smokers light up outside a nonsmoking theater. âSome venue staff have access to their phones at all times inside the space,â Mr. Dugoni said, in case of an emergency.
Yondr is not a fad; it is the wave of the future, Mr. Dugoni said.
âI view it as a social movement, and this is one piece of the puzzle,â he said. âItâs about helping people live in the digital age in a way that doesnât hollow out all of the meaning in your life.â