Source: Krug6 on Flickr, used under Creative Commons
Although the essence of festivals has not changed since Woodstock 69’, where people came together to collectively enjoy their favorite artists, technology has revamped many elements of the live event experience.
This is the second in a series of blog posts which examine how technology is influencing and changing the festival and event industry.
Paul Koziara, Ottawa Festivals
Recently I wrote a blog post about RFID wristbands and how technology is reshaping the way live events are planned and how people interact with them. This is but one evident evolution in the ongoing digitization of the festival experience as new technology enables new means of entertainment. The advent of the Internet and the hyper-conglomeration of technology have opened up the floodgates for the pioneering of what I call Festivals 2.0.
Woodstock 69’, one of the biggest music festivals in history and a cultural touchstone for generations to come was, as one can imagine, a bit different than the live events of today. Artists such as The Who, Jefferson Airplane, and Jimmy Hendrix performed for hundreds of thousands of Bic-swaying, Polaroid picture-taking fans. Lighters have since been replaced by the glow of smartphone screens and the same goes for clunky photo cameras that used to be the norm.
Every year, performances by artists become increasingly elaborate. As audio and lighting systems advance, crews are able to up the production value of concerts and stimulate the visual and auditory senses of festival goers like never before. One such spectacle took place at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival when deceased artist Tupac Shakur took to the stage and performed a few tracks alongside Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Holographic projection technology and computer generated imagery (CGI) allowed for the late rapper to strut the stage as if he’d never died and a follow-up arena tour is already in the planning stages. This is surely something that even acid-tripping Woodstock fans never imagined possible.
In modern times, with live streaming of festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Rock in Rio being broadcast via YouTube, people from all over the world have the ability to experience festivals taking place across the globe. With the capacity to select various stages and camera angles with a click of a mouse, a personal and interactive experience is fashioned for the user like never before.
Mobile apps are quickly becoming a staple of well executed events. Schedules, maps, contests and other experience-enhancing capabilities are readily available at the tip of your finger. Not sure when the next band is playing, where the washroom is, or where the nearest watering hole is? No problem, just check your phone. Not to mention that rendezvousing with friends or family at an event is easier than ever. No need to wait in a line to use a payphone and establish a place to meet as once was the case; just shoot them a quick text. Also, smartphones have replaced traditional cameras in many instances. Snap a picture, share it online through one of the numerous social media channels, and comment on the experience in almost an instant.
In many cases, musical acts themselves have been quick to embrace the new digital environment. Pictures and videos taken by band members from onstage or behind the scenes are routinely posted on social media sites for fans to enjoy. This gives audiences an unprecedented inside look into the lives of celebrities, creating a link which was never there before. Some acts are taking their shows to the next level by hosting digitally interactive concerts where audience members request songs and engage with the band in real-time via text.
“We wanted to create an event that is collaborative, interactive and unlike any other concert people have been to before. People are always using their phones, so we wanted to include that as a part of the concert experience to facilitate voting for songs and interaction while we are playing.” – Joel Cummins (Keyboardist for the band Umphrey’s McGee).
Without a doubt, entertainment is evolving. Technology has facilitated novel, interactive and intimate means for individuals to enjoy live events. Deceased artists are able to ‘come back to life’ to perform for the masses and live events can be enjoyed by millions of people from the comfort of their homes on the other side of the globe. I’m sure it’s not long before Jimmy Hendrix or Michael Jackson will be performing once again. Although the essence of festivals has not changed since Woodstock 69’, where people came together to collectively enjoy their favorite artists, the means through which fans interact with them have fundamentally be reshaped. Hi-tech advancements have revamped the live event experience and the social capabilities that exist as a result. Welcome to the world of Festivals 2.0!