Making music festivals unmissable

MGMT
MGMT Photo owned by fyunkie (cc)

I went to Oxegen last year and while I didn’t go this year, I was a little disappointed that the promoters haven’t really capitalised on the potential of the festival. Music festivals just like Oxegen and the Electric Picnic come once a year, but shouldn’t they be building a profile all year long?

There was an absolute dearth of tickets available from fans selling on at the last minute this year. More so than last year. Shouldn’t promoters be trying to hit home the uniqueness of the experience more and making their festivals an unmissable part of a music fan’s Summer diary?

Being more mobile-friendly

I went to last year’s Oxegen and the Vodafone mobile coverage was a joke. It was difficult to send and receive texts. This year, from reports I’ve heard, Vodafone seemed fine, but text messaging on Meteor was frustratingly slow. Were you there? Was it that bad? Can’t a temporary tower be erected for the weekend like Coachella?

Reception isn’t the only mobile problem, keeping your mobile powered for the entire weekend can be a problem. A lot of festivals offer a service like Giglocker, where you can store your valuables. Oxegen 07 did, but it appears to have disappeared this year. Giglocker is fine and nice, but wouldn’t be handy if the lockers had power outlets installed to recharge your mobile devices, right? Perhaps, they could charge a little for lockers with universal phone chargers installed if cost was an issue?

Pushing the video button

I’m not a marketing professional, by any stretch of the imagination but there are lots of common sense ways to get music festivals in the public eye amongst music fans. Ignoring the hoo-has that youth-oriented music festivals like Oxegen are more about depraved sex, drugs, drunken lunacy than music, there are lots of ways that festivals can comfortably plug into the music fan’s consciousness.

For example, what are promoters actually doing with the archived video clips that have recorded each year? Nada. Looking to Oxegen’s sister festival, T in the Park, they have a partnership with BBC3 whereby concert coverage is broadcast in carnival fashion. There’s dedicated coverage on the BBC. Real coverage. Programmes that go on for hours and hours. A music festival in your living room, sans crates of Heine and men peeing on your tent. And I’m not even going to mention how there was extended coverage on the Beeb’s digital service, ‘cos none likes to hear they missed out on the sprinkles, right?

Why isn’t Oxegen and the Electric Picnic being leveraged in much the same way? Recent years have seen piecemeal coverage of Oxegen and the Electric Picnic on national television. You know the coverage where Mary the reporter puts on her pink and yellow polka dot wellies, braves the fresh grass on festival eve and talks to B-list Irish stars that sing on commercials. The sort of interviews or festival coverage that the BBC would laugh at. (And Rick, I’m not talking about you. You did an excellent job this year)

Oh, but if television stations aren’t interested, wouldn’t it be nice if festival organisers stood up and got proactive about releasing this coverage? Promoters, after all, are the real beneficiaries of our festival Euros. If promoters are happy to work with artists on the legal restraints of releasing videoed music to the BBC, can’t they work to free the content on the web too. Yes, it’s a spiny proposition, but freeing festival footage online would be the ultimate calling card for a festival.

“You wouldn’t believe the set that REM did at Oxegen 08!?!”.

“Really? I thought they were depressed navel-gazers.”

“Here’s a video playlist of their performance”

“Cool, I’m off to send a link of some of these to my friends”

And wouldn’t it be nice to have a whole archive of these on-tap, just to share the festival experience; advertise what festival represents? Instant recognition. Make these videos embeddable and you have a ready-made story about the festival. I’d love to share some of the memorable performances I witnessed at Oxegen 07, like the Arcade Fire, Tori Amos and Brian Wilson. It can’t be that difficult.

The world of music performance is headed to Live Nation vision anyway. A place where concerts are the bread and butter of the music industry. Where concert tickets * are * currency. Music sales and video footage are just extended adverts for live shows. If iPlayer provides this service to UK residents on coverage for T in the Park, couldn’t promoters go a step further and push for global distribution of festival footage? Go, go embeddable footage.

Oh, and Oxegen’s 08 Greenspace TV experiment? Not big enough. Get actual performances online!

Inviting bloggers

I would love to see more bloggers get invited to shin-digs like Oxegen and the Electric Picnic where they could cover the event in their voice. Ordinary bloggers. Not just the music kind either (and I’m not looking for a free ticket).

They’d be invited free of commercial pressures from organisers too. Just to give an honest appraisal of the event. Imagine what kind of blanket coverage photobloggers could give an event like the Electric Picnic? Of course, there would have to be given safe, secure places to deposit and store laptops, camera gear and the like. The provision of seating, wifi, electricity and tickets seems like a very cheap punt for promoters, right?

Making Christmas come more than once a year

What I can’t understand, is why the Oxegen brand is missing from the Irish music going consciousness for more than half the year. Promoters must spend an absolute fortune advertising the festival in the press and on television at certain times of the year. What’s with dumping a pile of money into a calendar silo?

Why don’t the promoters behind the festival organise a battle of the bands offering the top Irish bands a chance to play in the festival? Green is the colour of Oxegen, right?

Or how about having a series of gigs with little-known but up-and-coming international bands that are scheduled to play the small stages? Nurse that audience. The bill is way too big for people to discover next year’s Great White Hope. Educate the festival-going public a little more and increase attendance at the early performance slots of the weekend.

Looking at this post, I’m reminded of this marketing presentation made by Ian Tait on Radiohead’s success connecting to their fans online. What do you think? Do you have any ideas on how festivals can be re-engineered to be more fan friendly and successful?

More great Oxegen photos by Fionn Kidney.

3 thoughts on “Making music festivals unmissable”

  1. I don’t go to music festivals anymore. Want to know why? Because mobile phones have ruined them. Used to be that you could go to a festival, lose your friends, and immediately make twenty new ones and have a great time, or bump into someone you haven’t seen in years and hang out with them for a while.

    Now the weekend is spent shouting into your phone that you’re “beside the XXXX stage” and chasing a mobile signal.

    I pretty much agree with you about everything else though.

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