By Jade Garrow Newport, director of culture marketing at Wasserman.
While most people would have spent the build up to the festive season preparing to enjoy a cosy week of non-stop chocolates, family gatherings, drinks and movies, a growing number of people would have been attending, or planning to attend, the ever-increasing list of winter music festivals.
That’s not to say summer festivals aren’t still big business. After two years of waiting, it took a mere 30-seconds for thousands of potential festival-goers’ hopes to be crushed as the first wave of Glastonbury tickets sold out before they could get hold of them.
Festiticket has estimated that festivals are now worth £2.3billion globally, meaning that they deliver massive revenue streams all around the world. But as market competition grows, so does the need to keep avid festival goers coming back year after year. Data and technology is becoming key to achieving this and is increasingly being used to ‘improve’ festivals by tailoring the experience to directly reflect visitors’ tastes.
I’ve added the inverted commas here because there is a debate to be had on whether this is a good or bad thing. By tailoring the experience you are, in essence, giving the consumers what they want. But, on the other hand, by giving them everything they want, do you run the gauntlet of creating festival tunnel vision, and removing that wonderful unknown element of the festival experience? Wandering into a music stage/comedy tent/legal high stall/Kaftan emporium and finding a new experience all by yourself that can change your life forever.
This summer, Festicket partnered with some of the UK’s biggest festivals to create a platform which uses data from peoples’ Spotify accounts to create personalised festival recommendations. Consumers could then meticulously plan their entire weekend.
And it’s not just festivals where this sort of Spotify data manipulation is happening, artists are also getting in on the action, with the likes of Redfoo and Interpol choosing where they play their gigs in response to the number of streams they receive in different locations. Metallica now also base their set-lists on Spotify playlists in the areas they are playing.
Whether you are for or against the introduction of data and technology to drive the data-led experience, there are some innovations that are positive for everyone – for example companies like Crowd Dynamics who are taking data usage to the next level when it comes to improving security at festivals. By using techniques such as crowd behaviour analysis, and data modeling, they are able to plan, down to the smallest detail, the safest and most efficient movement of people around any environment – cutting congestion and increasing safety.
On the other side of the coin, though, platforms such as Spotify and Beats, have also begun to realise the importance of the human in the machine and moved towards combining the power of algorithms alongside the passion and insight of DJs via human authored programming.
And this is the exact approach modern successful festivals are taking – perfectly mixing the data and the divine so the experience is lifted for everyone – no matter what they are looking for. Data is now ingrained in the festival experience and some people will always want the curated personal touch, but it needs to be properly utilised, and it shouldn’t become so ubiquitous that it sanitises the festival experience for those who want to have an excuse to escape from technology, discover new music and immerse themselves in a genuinely unexpected experience.