Technology, Millennials, and Festivals

“Technology has grown to play one of the most important roles in the festival experience.”
- Hardwell


Tupac's Hologram from the 2012 Edition of Coachella

Tupac's Hologram from the 2012 Edition of Coachella

Technology, from light shows to live streams, has added an entirely new dimension to live performances. It’s taking the festival scene by storm. Arguably the most notable use of new-age tech in recent years was in 2012 when Coachella had a hologram of the deceased hip-hop artist Tu Pac perform on stage next to Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre [Ngak, p.1]. This performance stirred up so many emotions in the live music scene. People were asking questions like “Is this right?” Some were offended and outraged that his likeness was simulated, and others were incredibly impressed, even if the performance was mediocre and slightly awkward. People were put off by the simulation because by now people have adjusted to the rapper being deceased. The use of the hologram proved to be not the best way for money to be spent on festival technology. The hologram cost somewhere near $400,000 to create [Ngak, p.1]. For obvious reasons It has not been attempted at another festival since. This is an example of how forward thinking along the lines of festival technology did not work out, maybe because it was awkward, or maybe because the attendees had no connection to what was going on. Money does need to go into technology for festivals, but maybe in a different way. TomorrowWorld, an EDM festival that takes place in Georgia, USA seems to have figured out how.

Tomorrowworld Pass Bracelets are high quality, durable, and fashionable 

Tomorrowworld Pass Bracelets are high quality, durable, and fashionable 

TomorrowWorld is a completely cashless festival [Wilson, p.1]. How does a festival accomplish this task? Though bracelets that attendees must wear though the duration of the weekend long festival. The bracelets serve as their festival pass, and the way the attendees make their payments [Wilson, p.1]. Anytime someone wants to buy something they have their wristband scanned. It’s just further proof that we are moving towards a post-physical-money world. TomorrowWorld is probably the leading example of show how “experiential technology” will be the next hoop modern pop festivals will have to jump through. 

YouVisit in action

YouVisit in action

YouVisit is a leading example of experiential-technology that many festivals, like TomorrowWorld use [Wilson, p.1]. The service they offer to festival organizers is a way for people at home to have a virtual 360-degree, real time, live stream of the festival as it happens [Wilson, p.1]. From the camp grounds to the music performances, people at home have a way to feel as if they were there. P.J. Morreale from YouVisit says “It’s not just recreating the experience; it’s taking them places where no one gets to go.” And you may think “Wouldn’t this way of experiencing the festival from the comfort of my couch bring down sales?” No. It actually did the complete opposite. TomorrowWorld reported that it helped build excitement for the release of 2015 tickets, of which 360,000 were sold in under an hour of them being relased [Wilson, p.1]! 

Another way festivals are starting to make the next step into the future is though Virtual Reality. With headsets created by Google, Apple, Samsung and Oculus people can finally be in two places at once. TomorrowWorld, the festival of the future, have decided to bring their festival into the future with this technology. Anyone with a VR headset or a VR ready phone can jump into the crowd right from their living room. When you move your head to look to the right, you’ll see people who are actually in the crowd at the festival. Now, in 2016 there is even a festival that is all about virtual reality, that you only experience through virtual reality. Yup, things are getting that meta.

What can be called the big brother to virtual reality is the live stream. To quote Hardwell again “Live streams have provided a new way for people to have the second best thing…” Live streams allow you to watch the festival as it happens in real time, usually from angles that would normally be inaccessible to people at the festival in the crowd. It’s also a good way for the festival to show off what it offers. People watching the stream think to themselves “I want to be there!” “I want to be having the fun all of those people in the crowd are having” and “I want to go next year!” While other people are thinking “You mean I can stay in the comfort of my house all while still experiencing what is happening hundreds of miles away from me?” The live streams boost brand awareness for the festivals and generate larger amounts of word of mouth too. VR and live streams are also fantastic advertising for the artists on the lineups. It opens so many doors, such as being able to give people at home a way to experience the festival that people at the festival wouldn’t even get. Imagine being able to hang out with the artists before they go out on stage to do their sets. You can ask them questions, have a discussion, all while getting a glimpse behind the curtain. Obviously you can never compare the live stream, or virtual reality experience to actually being there, but, through these technologies you get the next best thing, and you are left wanting more. Festival organizers like leaving people at home with that feeling, because this will generate more people actually showing up in person to get the first hand experience that they desired so much after watching from home.

The disco and rave culture started a trend from the 60’s to the 90’s of people wanting to stay up, party, and dance all night. Festivals want to give people that option, but the obvious hurdle that many festivals face is that there are sound ordinances they have to apply themselves to, which usually give the festivals a clear time of when the loud music has to be turned off by as to not disturb the public living nearby. Well, not with the creation of what is called the “silent disco.” A silent disco is almost no different from any other show you would see at a festival other than the fact that you have to wear a pair of wireless headphones to hear the music that is being played. Without the headphones, the experience is just you standing in the middle of a crowd of people yelling senselessly, dancing, and flailing around aimlessly. The silent disco is a fantastic way to keep the party moving without sacrificing the music. They are a futuristic solution that many top billed DJ’s are getting into. While the performer usually has a slot during the regularly scheduled festival slots, the festival can use the gimmick to give the performer more time to perform. 
The smart phone is the last, and probably the most important piece of technology that we will venture to discuss. Humanity has moved on to put their phones onto a pedestal. We have become androids, part human, part smart device. A smartphone is a small device that we pour every ounce of our lives into. It keeps track of where we are going, why we are going there, when we need to be there, and how bad the weather will be when we finally get to our destination. Smartphones help us create and catalogue our memories. Through virtual reality smart phones can even have us perceiving the world differently. Funnily enough, the duality of smart devices is that we put them in danger all the time. 

We bring our smart devices with us everywhere so we can know what we can do when we get there, even if there is the danger of dropping it or breaking it and loosing that capability. In the great outdoors there are no outlets to charge the phone’s battery either. Many smart devices lack the battery power to last 2-4 days without a charge. Festivals are treacherous territory for smart devices. The outdoor elements can very easily destroy a phone and everything that is on it. People often lose or get their phones stolen. But this still doesn’t stop people from bringing them. Humanity, and more so Millennials are nothing without their cellphones. This is why festival organizers and third party developers have started to create festival apps. 

Many festivals create their own app that people can download and use while at the festival. The app generally tells you where, and when artists are playing, the lineup, a map to navigate the festival grounds, and even a social tab to see what other people at the festival are up to. It’s great because it answers attendee’s questions before they can even formulate them. The other type of festival apps are created by third party developers, people who are not attached to any specific festival, that create an app that allows for communication between festival goers. A new that app that has recently hit app stores and taken the festival world by storm is Radiate. The app catalogs all festivals that are currently taking place and creates a page where people can post anything about the festival they want, text posts, pictures, questions, and so on. From there, other users can respond to those posts. You can probably already guess that the app isn’t exactly being used as the developers imagined. It’s like many pieces of fine art, the audience, or, users in this case, create the meaning. On most festival pages in Radiate you will find posts from people looking for, or selling illicit substances, company, fun, and so on. Although, there are a great deal of people using the app to discuss events that are happening at the festival. They are talking about what makes them happy, sad, angry and or any other emotion. People can link up with other like minded people. Attendees can try and find others who are looking for a group to camp or travel with. It’s really great what this app is doing for the festival community. Finally, people have a place they can go to to vent frustrations, find help, and discuss their experiences. What Radiate does differently than other social media platforms is that it gives festival goers one neat, and tidy place they can to go to where they can have a real time conversation about their experience with other people at the festival. All the while they can check out what’s going on at other festivals happening concurrently. People have been using Facebook and twitter to get this type of information in the past, but now with Radiate you don’t have to bogged down by all the discussions happening that have nothing to do with festivals. That’s not to say festivals do not have their place on social media, quite the opposite. Social media is far and away one of the most important tools for festival organizers, workers, and goers. 

Millennials and Social Media

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     Data: Eventbrite - Harris Survey of 2,000+ U.S. consumers. July 2014

Data: Eventbrite - Harris Survey of 2,000+ U.S. consumers. July 2014

Millennials are the leading generation attending festivals by a large margin and if there is anything they care about; it’s how technology can hold the hand of their experiences [Eventbrite, p.2]. “Millennials are an experience generation; they want you to take them somewhere totally unique.” says Joe Silberzweig of SFX Entertainment, the organizers for TomorrowWorld. Millennials crave more experiences. Eventbrite, a platform that allows event organizers to plan, promote, and sell tickets to live events published a survey in the end of 2014 called “Millennials: Fueling the Experience Economy” which said More than 82% of Millennials attended or participated in a verity of live experiences in the past year, ranging from parties, concerts, and festivals, and more so than older generations, by 70% [Eventbrite, p.3]. From that 72% of Millennials say that they would like to be spending more time and money on these types of events [Eventbrite, p.3]. 

This has led to technology taking a leading role in shaping the new age of festivals. Technology lives in many realms of festivals. Probably the most obvious is seen on stage at the festival itself. The equipment on stage, the speakers, the light shows and everything else that lends itself to the production are all very apparent, but those types of technologies are non-tractable for the audience. The attendees are passively engaging with those technologies while they enjoy the show. Less so is the technology that lends itself to the audience’s active engagement. How the attendees use their cellphones, make payments, and chronicle their memories of these events.
Millennials’ festival experiences usually start months before they even step foot on the festival grounds. The ticket buying experience is the first hurdle, which is why every modern pop festival has a website. Is the website easy to navigate? Is it simple? Is the pertinent information easy to find? These are the types of questions festival organizers have to think about when making their website. Millennials want all of their questions answered before they even ask them. If festival websites do not own the qualities the organizers risk loosing ticket sales on Millennials. Social media has also made its way into this end of the experience. Millennials need a way to interact with the festival.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have opened that door for them. Facebook and Twitter serve as an easy way for people to follow and hear what the festival is announcing. Facebook and Twitter stay relevant throughout the year, not just during the time of the festival. Facebook and Twitter work well for the festival organizers as well because they have a way to hear from the attendees and what they think about the announcements being made. Instagram gives the festival organizers another way to divulge information to their audience, but more importantly, attendees have a way to chronical their memories in the form of pictures and video clips they had taken at the festival. Snapchat is a new platform a few festivals are using to interact with their audience. People can post quick 1-10 second pictures and videos to the platform, which if posted can be reposted by the festival on their account. All of these social media platforms have proved to be extremely important to the young generation. Nearly 8 in 10, or 77% say some of their best memories are from an event or live experience that they attended. 69% believe live events make them more connected to other people, the community, and the world [Eventbrite, p.4]. 
With all of these platforms right in the pocket of festival goers it’s easier to talk and gab on about what the festival was like. People love to give their opinions about what they just experienced, and they want the festivals to know what they thought too. The leading discussions that generally takes place on Facebook, Twitter or Radiate actually has to do with one large term. Policy

1. EventBrite. "Millennials Fueling the Experience Economy" Eventbrite. Harris Interactive Methodology, 1 July 2014. Web. 30 May 2016.

2. Ngak, Chenda. "Tupac Coachella Hologram: Behind the Technology." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 3 June 2016.

3. Wilson, Jeremy. "The Future of Music Festivals: How Technology Is Shaping a New Era of Experiences." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 3 June 2015. Web. 5 June 2016.