It's the end of the year, a time to look back at the wins, losses, innovations, and lessons learned within the live events industry. For those of us that made it out to a few key industry conferences, including FestForums in Santa Barbara and XLIVE in Las Vegas, we all had a chance to share insights, discuss experiences, and look at what's ahead for 2018. Whether you made it to either, both, or neither of the conferences, here's a look at some of the key takeaways I gleaned that I'd like to share; the topics and areas of focus that will be on my radar going into next year.
“While standing in the back of the room watching partners Kevin Chernett from Live Nation and Noah Heller from Hulu on stage at C-Space @ CES, going through it with Will Mason from UploadVR, my nerves were going haywire,” Jeff Nicholas, Director of VR Creative + Production for Live Nation Studios, stated in his post about their company’s “Big Reveal” at CES this past January.
Killswitch Engage are touring and performing veterans, but tonight, April 17, the band ventures into new ground during their Killthrax Tour with Anthrax. For the first time the Killswitch show (Anthrax will not be included) will be broadcast live in virtual reality from Houston's House of Blues starting at 11pm CT.
I couldn't help but notice the focus of a recent article in Quartz, (“Music festivals are making more money by ditching cash,” December 1, 2015) was on how festivals are embracing cashless payment systems. Really? That unto itself is not necessarily news, as cashless payment systems are not a new, twinkle in the eye technology.
What stands out is that the case study referenced was the Clockenflap Music Festival - in Hong Kong. The actual news is the continuing adoption of cashless, not only in the U.S., the U.K. and Europe, but in Asia.
In years past RFID systems were put in place to manage more streamlined access control, while some festivals, even the larger ones, put cashless into the ‘maybe someday’ category. At the same time, numerous festivals have implemented the technology with great success.
So that ‘someday’ has arrived. Fear of adoption will continue to plague festival promoters through a loss of competitive edge. There’s a way to overcome this. Festival leaders have opportunities to go into potential implementations with a clear idea of how these technologies work and better predict the outcome by learning from others who’ve walked the walk.
This month in San Diego, event technology companies, festival organizers, promoters, and thought leaders will gather at the annual International Music Festival Conference (IMFCON) + International Film Festival Summit (IFFS) to discuss how far festival operations, in all its facets, has come and what’s in store for the 2016 season (and beyond).
The three-day conference will dive into both film and music festivals, looking at trends and advancements in each industry, including the evolution of programming, operations, and attendee engagement (“Reviewing the Modern Film Festival: Current and Future Possibilities,” featuring Steven Gaydos VP and Executive Editor, Variety, and Colin Stanfield, Festival Producer, New York Film Festival).
Taking a look back at last this past year's festival season, “The Golden Age of Festivals” has Andy Hermann, Music Editor for LA Weekly, asking panelists Branden Chapman, The Recording Academy; Tom Russell, Founders Entertainment; and Simon Rust Lamb, Former COO & General Counsel for Insomniac, about the potential for a festival bubble to burst, when competition shows up in your backyard unexpectedly, and how they’re preparing for festival season 2016.
“Making Waves: Innovative Revenue Models for Music Festivals” will most likely include a conversation on cashless payment systems (Jeff, will you guys give Intellitix the green light to take Bonnaroo cashless in 2016?), along with how ticketing, social media, and fan engagement has evolved to drive an increase in sales.
Tapping into ways festivals can expand their brand’s reach beyond the people in attendance, “Creating Your Festival Channel: Technology, Strategy and More” will dive into how streaming, video, radio and social channels bring a larger audience into the live event experience. Google will join in along with SFX, Goldenvoice, Open Garden, and Bulldog Digital Media, who will moderate the conversation. Potential questions may include: How have these activations and tactics proven to drive the following year’s ticket sales, with the proverbial fan FOMO being played to their advantage? How can these pieces of content be repurposed throughout the year’s marketing and sales efforts?
I expect other topics of discussion will arise, but with a slightly more elevated take than last year’s IMFCON, as experiences and intelligence is shared:
How can we operate Health & Safety better?
How will climate change shift current emergency response practices and will next-generation technology solutions help to avoid problems that plagued the 2015 season?
When will the U.S. be able to go beyond the tabu of drug testing and embrace the benefits of this practice as their festival counterparts in the U.K. and Europe have done?
What festivals are increasing their use of iBeacons, notifications, geofencing, and evolved social media tools, and what was the outcome from this past year? What’s the potential for 2016?
Where are networking technologies like mesh and mobile-to-mobile platforms headed?
How will convergence of film, comedy, music, food & wine impact festival programming as fans increase their desire for diversified experiences?
What part does small to mid-sized and niche festivals play in the industry and what are the operational benefits and challenges?
How will the evolution of VR play a part in the real-time and post festival experience for the fan?
How will M&A continue to impact the festival space, both on the promoter and the technology side?
When is happy hour?!
Many questions. No doubt, many answers will be taken away from this year’s IMFCON-IFFS.
And along with the panels are the numerous and unique opportunities to connect face-to-face with new and old acquaintances alike, sparked opportunities for business partnerships, and chances to pluck knowledge nuggets and that could potentially make a huge difference in this coming festival season.
See you there!