music festival tech rfid wristbands in use at lollapalooza

Music festivals are a big part of the music industry. But where are they going in the future? We’ll be exploring that in our series The Music Festival of the Future.


It’s always tough to figure out what will happen in the future. The way music festivals will look five, ten, fifty years in the future will possibly be something we don’t recognize now.

There are a bunch of economic and political factors that are pushing music festivals to change and take a different shape than they have previously (or risk closing). We’ve already taken a look at that in our previous looks at the music festival of the future. What we haven’t looked at is the technology that could help shape the music festival of the future.

This technology could change the game and save music festivals as we know them by changing the economic calculus in the current model. Personally, I wouldn’t count on that so much. More likely, they’ll help design the new form these festivals will take going forward. Perhaps they’ll help sort out the faults of the ideas that are already out there to fix music festivals.

Or maybe they’ll go nowhere.

The music festival tech that will define the future

RFID

RFID wristbands music festival techYou may already be familiar with this nifty piece of music festival tech because they already exist and are relatively widely used at large festivals, but they’re only just beginning to tap their potential. It’s a little RFID chip that typically is embedded into a wristband. It’s an easy way to identify a person and speed along the ticket process. Just scan at the entrance and you’re on your way. It’s much faster than barcode scanning.

That technology is also applicable in two particularly useful ways that are starting to pop up at festivals too. First is as a payment system. It is much easier for festivals to move food, drinks, and merchandise when purchases are just a tap away. By further separating the purchase process from actual money psychologically, people are willing to spend more. Even if that been is $10+…

The second is the data. RFID chips, particularly as they are integrated into more transactions, provide tons of data on customer behaviors while at the festival. In the right hands, this data is actionable to make a better, more efficient music festival experience. This could range from your movement around the festival, your spending habits, social interactions, your taste in music, etc. Embrace the grid!

Virtual reality

VR music festival techOne of the technologies that’s been bubbling for a while now is virtual reality. It seems primed to explode any day now. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the actual tech itself has been making huge strides in both quality of experience and reduction of cost. Pretty soon, you’ll likely see it adopted more widely as music festival tech.

As is though, going to a festival in virtual reality likely isn’t going to satisfy people who really love going to them now. It might get there in the future, but the opportunity for virtual reality now is not through replacing the music festival experience, but expanding it for those who may not be able to access it, for various reasons physical and financial.

Already many people have been tuning in to the wildly successful live streams of Coachella and Bonnaroo. With more 360 degree cameras and other devices to capture more content, the next logical step in delivery is really virtual reality.

Security

Schiphol AirportIt’s sad, but it’s a reality that we face that as long as festivals remain large gatherings of people, they are targets of a heightened security risk. That means music festival tech will undoubtedly include security tech. The onus of security measures can be eased by some new technologies and strategies that are currently applied in crowd security’s biggest market, airports.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is actually a great example of this. They blend design and technology to create a, while not to go as far as to say pleasant, but tolerable security experience. While festivals are temporary setups, so you’re not likely to see the plants in the ceiling or anything like that, their crowd flow principles and use of advanced screeners that don’t require you to dump your phone, keys, wallet, jacket, left foot, etc. into a bucket are definitely applicable.

Lights powered by urine

light powering toilets at Glastonbury FestivalYep… Exactly what it says.


At the end of the day, music festivals, no matter what form they take in the future, will always be about the music, first and foremost. But technology has the capability to change how we experience that music, how we interact with the people around us, both the artist and fellow festival-goers, and how we consume everything else that is part of a music festival.

The future will be more social, more personalized, and more intimate, in ways good and bad. In many ways, music festival tech will determine the limits of what festival organizers hope to achieve in these fields. We can feel more secure, but at what cost of intrusion into our space? We can meet new people, but increasingly isolate ourselves via technology. We can get a festival experience tailored to you, but at what point are they using our personal information to just sell us stuff?

All these things will be a part of the festival of the future. Whether you like it or not, it may end up being the technology that helps makes music festivals financially secure for years to come.

And who knows, maybe in the future festivals will just be free as long as we produce enough pee to power everything.


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