Sometimes all pieces of the puzzle come together. Last week I got this feeling at Festivak, a congress for festival organizations in RAI Amsterdam. In one afternoon my past, present and future festival experience passed before me eyes. Here is a short summary of my festival life in one afternoon.
The man who represented my past at Festivak was Jan Smeets. He breathes gigs and festivals for almost 50 years. For 42 years he is the boss of world’s oldest festival Pinkpop, and is therefore called Mister Pinkpop. In his speech he referred to all the experiences with the “giants” in the music business: stories about Van Halen who refused to play Pinkpop because of the name (“Pink? We’re not going to play a f*cking gay festival”), or Mick Jagger who would have played with Reggae-legend Peter Tosh in 1979 but walked from the stage when he saw a cameraman. His stories brought me back to the eight times I visited the festival myself: creating an earthquake at Rage against the machine by jumping up and down with 60000 other people, a fight with my parents for going to Pinkpop in the middle of my high school exams, but above all a huge list of artists who played in front of me.
In the past two years Crossmedialab examined the experience of festival visitors. This was done by investigating which variables are important for the visitor to make the festival a success. Some variables are the quality of food and drinks, the decorations, the quality of the sound, the possibility to meet new people or to discover new artists and the contribution of the use of social media. At Festivak the present was represented by some other presentations about festival experience. The content of the presentations mainly dealt with how sponsor brands were experienced by festival visitors or in what way social media can be used at a festival. Very interesting to see how others are doing research about festivals, but I was also very glad to see that I’m part of research that adds knowledge to the existing festival studies in the Netherlands.
The future was represented by Jesse Limmen, founder of the Magneetbar and the Magneetfestival. He presented a new phenomenon: crowdsourcing. In crowdsourcing visitors —also known as the crowd—typically form into online communities, and the crowd submits festival content. In other words, the visitor contributes to, for example performances, catering, decorations and facilities. It’s an innovative way to organize a festival, and Jesse got many compliments on his ideas. For me his presentation was a first view in the future. My ambition for the next few years is to enlarge my expertise in festival research. The innovative ideas of Jesse gave me an insight in the possible future of organizing a festival. Participation of citizens and consumers is already becoming more common in the political and commercial world. Will participation also be the future in the cultural sector?
I don’t know what the future will bring, but for now I sit back and enjoy the memories of my own festival experience at Festivak.