A spyglass-like look towards a future where festivals retain their newfound digital features while also regaining the physical gatherings that used to be their only component, as told through the experiences and thoughts of İrem Erkin.

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Author: İrem Erkin

Photo Credit: Jordi Sellas

When summer hits Barcelona, you know it’s time for Sónar. Since years, our friends visit us in Barcelona to share this experience. It is our ritual to meet in Mariano’s (editor’s note – author’s best friend) flat, get prepared, review our artist lists, stage routes, listen to new albums and refresh memories of abandoned favorites in festival’s line up.

All this to live that particular millisecond… The very moment, when you enter the festival area, clashing with the immense power of music, travelling all around your body, transforming into a rollercoaster speeding in time frames, memories of people, places, fragments of life, bringing in, in its last wagon attached or new emotions…

For 400 days, we have been longing for those euphoric miliseconds, in our lives. Facing the global dystopia have arised fear, obscurity and desperation. Physical world left its legacy to virtual, and through digital tools, we had to re-construct everything human, and recollect memories of the pre-pandemic days, on a simulated reality. Music festivals is one of the cornerstones of our, now vague, social interactions, and like many industries were hit hard, as festivals were canceled/postponed.

Life in Istanbul @ We are Europe
Arman Akıncı © Life In Istanbul

We are in this Together

Most fascinating virtue of humanity is versatility for survival. So, almost every member of the music industry, left competition, individuality, aside, and, roared back, by re-uniting via “love for music“.

They used their mutual passion as curing agent, giving birth to the biggest and most collaborative music community. They built digital platforms, DJs played for hours in live streams, exclusive concerts, sets and conversations were released for everyone, fans supported their favorite musicians, brands sponsored the events. Sound waves filled every household, implanting hearty smiles and, whispering softly; “we are in this together”.

One of these initiatives, is created by my dear friend, Arman Akıncı & his friends in my hometown. Arman is a lifetime music passionate, DJ, label owner, the co-founder & creative director of Life from Istanbul. A platform built to unite all local DJs of Istanbul, a community project based on revenue sharing among programmers via streams on Youtube.

They called out all of the club owners, DJs, producers and all actors in the music and nightlife scene and united them to carry the nightlife spirit into a digital platform. Arman says “Besides everything we created a strong local music community which surpasses the longtime competition in the DJ arena and, gave everyone access to enjoy the music, performed by local DJs. We agreed with partners, connected music fans to support us and created economic resources to protect the business, DJs, clubs and kept the music alive for all its lovers

Hyper-digital moments will find their way into music festivals

For exploring the merge of virtual world and festival experience, I contacted referents of the sector.

Moullinex @ We are Europe
Moullinex (picture taken In Situ) © Clement Chevel

Moullinex, my personal favorite and a renown Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist, envisages the future of music festivals as Best lessons learnt from this hyper-digital moment in our history will find their way into music festivals. I believe we’ll see mass adoption of AR/VR/XR apps within this context, after some initial brand activation gimmicks into meaningful experiences.

I also believe we’ll see spaces that nurture the feedback loop between artist and audience in real-time. The paradigm for live music could become less unidirectional. Any clubber will tell you that alongside the best club experiences there is always a feeling of belonging, resulting in the experience being more than the sum of its parts.

Can we augment this with non- intrusive technology? Also, we could complement the physical experience of going to a festival or any performative arts venue with a virtual one, that doesn’t try to replicate it but interpret it artistically in a complementary manner.

Ventura Barba, the Executive Director at Advanced Music S.L, the parent company of pioneer Sónar Festival, Sónar+D, OFF Sónar, reveals that “Sónar and Sónar+D revamp their formats and expand their mission, becoming the connective thread between the creative industries and agents of innovation in Barcelona and beyond.

Sónar+D 2021 will be the start of this new era, drawing on 27 years of experience and the lessons learned from 2020’s extra-ordinary event, to build the future of Sónar and Sónar+D from 2021 – 2024.

Sónar+D will be a hybrid event; decentralized and atemporal and thematically will explore the applications and impact of AI and new technologies deriving from 5G on the creative industries and artistic processes, among others.

In my opinion, the future of music festivals will be “phygital” ; where the digital experiences and restricted physical encounters blend. We will re-connect in virtual platforms, through AR and VR, reach out to AI, immerse ourselves into interactive installations, and, harmonize them with technologically secured, local spirited, small-scaled physical encounters

Initiative to revive the music festivals, lies in the sublime power of music and the euphoria of the shared passion for it. So, it shouldn’t matter if we leave ourselves to its hypnosis in a physical or a virtual place or whether we are surrounded by 500 or 50.000 music enthusiasts. We have to adapt and thrive… Because it is what makes us human.

This article was conceived as a result of our first call for contributions that aimed to address the challenges and changes that festivals and cultural entities may face in the future. Thanks to the contributions we received, we were able to create the Future(s) of Festivals feature series, that this article is a part of. We’re open to new proposals for our next call for contributions, available here.

On the Author

İrem Erkin is a curator from Istanbul based in Barcelona. She creates concepts and curates exhibitions, workshops and talks related to art, design, music, architecture, innovation and future scenarios. 

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