Festivals: Artist Powered, Fan Driven.

Knack Weekend published a very short article of Geert Zagers about why people like Festivals so much. As we run our own festival of teams, sports and entertainment I was interested to know his findings. The article was a bit short, but anyway a good start.

Interaction Ritual Chains (Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology)When you ask people “Why do you like going to a festival”, the first answer that comes is up is nearly always “Because I like the atmosphere”. It’s a huge cliché, but it’s a fact.

Funny, because the atmosphere is mainly created by the people themselves. The organisers can only give a bunch of amazing ingredients, but the audience has to take it from there. So it’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. A tribe thing. If we, the organisers of festivals, deliver on our promise, the rest is done by the fans. When organisers listen to the fans, they are in for some mayor growth! Slowly but surely.

Simone Knaapen, a Dutch sociologist, says in the book “Het Festivalgevoel” by Arne Van Terphoven, that a festival is a temporary mini society. This society has separate norms and values. Visitors all live on the same rythm: the program of the day. They share the same circumstances, get to know each other easily, come with a positive attitude and everybody is welcome. The Mayor of the day is the organiser 🙂 Visitors follow their impulses, nobody has a judgement, it’s a celebration of individual freedom….but with a high collective mindset.

Reminder to @self: must read “Interaction Ritual Chains” by Randall Collins.

It’s clear that festivals are great examples of the experience economy and that they are here to stay and grow. They grow through the fans. Festivals are not about hyper consumption. They are about connecting, having fun, going back to the roots and recovering for a whole week.

Most of these festivals were started by idealists (like any other business I guess :-)). They started very small and grew slowly. The fans picked it up, told it to other fans, and there you go! A great example is Rock Werchter, probably one of the most famous Festivals in Europe and organised a few km from my back yard. Started in 1975 with 4 artists, added a camping in 1994, going to two days from 1996, three from 1999, four from 2003. Herman Schueremans was awarded 4 times “Arthur Award for best festival” by the International Live Music Conference. Rock Werchter was sold to Live Nation. Their tagline says it all: “Artist Powered. Fan Driven”. Awesome tagline!

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