Sunday, March 29, 2015

Crowdsourced Festival Control

Since I joined the festival circuit last year (count 'em, four festivals in one summer), I have noticed an interesting trend for summer festivals as time goes on. I knew that my wonderful experience at Osheaga last year would probably be beaten out by whatever those fine folks decided to do for 2015's ten-year anniversary, and I was sort of right.

You may have seen the digital mural created for 2014's Osheaga lineup that hid clues as to who the performers were going to be. If fans had the mental and musical prowess to solve the puzzle, or were really, really good at finding Waldo, they could guess at what the lineup would look like before it was announced. Check it out here, and the mural is below.

Well, someone decided that an interactive mural just wasn't awesome enough so this year, Osheaga released a third-person driving game available on iPhone. Developed by Behaviour Interactive, a Montreal firm and video game industry leader, the game will reveal the bands with every level unlocked. It's a pretty cool idea, gamifying the process of viewing the lineup. Screenshots below!

What about everyone's favourite festival (in North America, anyway), Bonnaroo? This year, the festival awarded artist announcements to its fans! How, you may ask? BLAM! Yep, the Bonnaroo Lineup Announcement Megathon. Fans were asked to call into the Bonnaroo hotline on January 13 between 6:00-9:00PM. They were given one artist each to announce through any social media platform they liked. The medium was handmade type experiments which were uploaded as photos. And boy were they cool. Check out the promo video and some of the BLAM posts below. You can check the rest out here.

I guess all of this power has allowed the fans to take their festivals quite seriously. Take this year's edition of England's Glastonbury for example. Its history, starting from small beginnings with 1,500 people on a farm in 1970, has hooked many followers throughout the years who have strong opinions about what the festival should look like. And these people have no problem voicing those opinions. Loudly. According to this article, many fans are upset by the fact that Kanye West has been invited to headline for 2015. They are used to seeing white rock bands, and Kanye is arguably neither of those things. On the other hand, he is incredibly famous and puts on amazing live shows. You can even check out the online petition to boot Kanye and bring in a rock band, which has almost reached its goal of 150,000 signatures. And here I thought music festivals were about being open-minded. But maybe that's just me.

This all reminds me of way back in 2009, when Rogers Picnics were still a thing. I think they were rebranded into Field Trip. But anyway, times were certainly simpler then. City and Colour had taken the stage to play the last set, and the jumbotrons were zoomed in on his precious bearded face. But then, all of a sudden, the jumbotrons flashed something of a different nature: I was being asked to vote (by text) from a choice of three songs for the encore. Shouldn't the artist get to decide that? Or at least the screaming fans within the artist's earshot? I thought it was very strange to say the least.

As technology allows us to micromanage more and more of our lives, I have to wonder if all this control is really a good thing. I love the idea of revealing information like lineups in creative ways, but I don't think that fans have the right to complain about who is headlining a festival. When they own the festival, sure. But if you don't like who's playing, don't go. That's true free will.

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