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The future of festivals

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

Music festivals are facing an uncertain future as COVID- 19 puts a pause on large gatherings for the foreseeable future. In response, industry players and artists alike are finding innovative ways to connect with fans and in the process, redefining genuine interactivity.

Source: Epic Games

I hate to call it early, but it does seem that the live music event of the year may just have taken place, unaffected by the global lockdown – and within a video game. Recently, US rapper Travis Scott performed a live set in the online survival game Fortnite and in the process attracted more than 12.3 million players in merely the first night of the five shows. This does not consider all the streaming views on platforms like Twitch and YouTube. Scott was scheduled to headline the famous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival that typically reels in 250,000 heads in two weekends during this time in April. Undeterred by the disappearance of his touring market, the rapper “pivoted” (to use the word of 2020) his go-to-market strategy and in the process seems to have set a new bar for how fans will engage with music. The spectacle sounds other-worldly, when described by one gaming journalist:

“Instead of a rapping on a traditional stage, Scott took the form of a striding giant, stomping through the map before the entire thing took a series of even more psychedelic turns, transporting the player underwater, into space, and towards a floating amusement park for later tracks.”

Source: Music Feeds

While Travis Scott’s “Astronomical” concert has demanded the attention of all stakeholders within the music and gaming industries alike, are Australian festival organisers listening? This week, Falls Music Festival organiser made headlines when they announced the New Year’s event would go ahead this summer, despite uncertainty hovering over a host of other festivals around the globe. Festival organisers said it will feature an all Australian line-up as the future of international travel remains uncertain. Splendour in the Grass — already postponed once due to COVID- 19 — is still apparently going ahead in October, despite having an international line-up that may struggle to get into the country. Strawberry Fields in November is also advertising. There is apparently a great sense of optimism among festival organisers, which is music to the ears of Australians like myself - for whom a summer without a music festival seems unlike summer at all.

Source: Rolling Stone

However, with local medical experts in agreement that gathering hundreds or thousands of people together would be a mistake unless there was a vaccine, it seems likely that festivals, for the foreseeable future, will resemble nothing of the tradition that makes them special. What remains to be seen is how local festivals will adapt to not only keep punters safe, and if they will decide (or need) to compete with the new audience of virtual festival goers that Fortnite has cultivated. For large festivals that attract tens of thousands of fans, the possibilities of virtual live shows will increasingly mean fans expect genuine interactivity and striking visual displays when they attend.

Molly Bruce

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