How concert LED wristbands work
And giving Coldplay credit for being the first to use them for a worldwide tour
Coldplay pioneered the use of light-up wristbands during their 2012 “Mylo Xyloto” tour, and it’s since been picked up by Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and others. The wristbands – or Xylobands as Coldplay fans call them – are handed out to audience members to create a colorful light show throughout the concert.
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting new “Tech Behind” video on YouTube that goes in-depth on the tech behind these wristbands. Check it out below.
But one thing the WSJ video fails to mention is some of the backstory on how these bands were first created.
Coldplay fan Jason Regler had the idea for the technology in 2005 after seeing the band perform “Fix You” live. After all, “lights will guide you home.”
From a 2012 interview with Regler published on Coldplay’s website:
When did you have the idea?
In 2005, when Coldplay did the Glastonbury Festival. I remember I was going through a few down days and I saw them doing Fix You. And there was just such a feeling of it bringing everyone together, as well as the line “lights will guide you home”. That’s when the idea of a wristband came to mind.
So it was specifically invented with Coldplay in mind?
Absolutely. To this day, I still have my doubts that this would really work for anyone else. I feel Paradise, Charlie Brown and MX are almost too perfect for them, really. Like Chris said, it’s quite freaky how he wrote a lyric a long time ago about glowing in the dark and then all of a sudden it all comes together and we’ve got wristbands making people do exactly that.
After the [first show], I had no idea what the band had thought of it. But when I got back to the hotel and charged my phone up there was a message from Chris saying well done, that it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen and that he wanted to do it again.
The first version of Xylobands used radio-frequency signals, but they’ve since evolved to use IR spotlight tech that gives more control over which parts of the crowd are lit up with different colors, as the WSJ’s video explains. PixMob is the current company that provides Coldplay with the bands – hence why the band no longer refers to them as Xylobands.
On their current “Music of the Spheres” tour, for instance, Coldplay uses the bands to light up certain parts of the crowd to make red hearts during the song “Human Heart.”
As good as the video below is, I do think it does a disservice to Coldplay and Regler by not properly crediting them for pioneering the use of this tech for concerts. Coldplay is merely mentioned as an example of an artist that hands out wristbands to concertgoers, not as the first band to use the technology for a worldwide tour.