Thursday, 16 August 2012

A Festival In The Comfort Of Your Own Home

Now, if you’re reading this I take it that you love music and, if that assumption is accurate I’ll assume you could probably add the word all, or at least ‘most’, to the beginning of that statement. Good, because I want to explore something…

This weekend, Bloodstock 2012 really grabbed my attention. It’s a growing metal festival which, since its inception in 2001, has aimed to bring some of the more obscure, maybe more extreme and novel metal acts to the British public: this year’s lineup included Sepultura (down to one original member); the perennial Canadian underachievers Anvil (if you’ve never seen Anvil! The Story of Anvil then you’re missing a treat) and the Norwegian Black Metal pioneers Mayhem, appearing without burning sheep heads on this occasion with Alice Cooper going head to head with the Olympic closing ceremony as Sunday’s headliner.

The lineup isn’t the main thing though, although it did excite my inner metalhead. Neither is the fact that one of the stages is called the Sophie Lancaster Stage as a touching tribute to the young girl murdered in Bacup, Lancs in 2007 just for looking different, which is to be applauded, but the big idea that grabbed me about Bloodstock 2012 was the fact that Dailymotion streamed all of the action from the main stage for free all weekend.

Now think about this for a second, here is a festival that I would never pay to visit that is beaming itself into my PC for free, allowing me to take my pick of their main stage bands. In one way that sounds ridiculous because festivals don’t do well by giving things away, but looking at it from a fan’s point of view it is absolute genius. Would I be writing this if they hadn’t offered live feed? No, so one motivation for a festival to do this is clearly publicity; an even better motivation is, hopefully, love of the game, the lineup was heavy with ‘vintage’ acts staffed by rock n roll survivors yet all of them seemed genuinely happy to be there, even Mayhem who have something of a reputation for their awkwardness and unpredictability!

The idea of a less mainstream festival finding an audience beyond ticket buying fans using the internet is very interesting. The question I quickly found myself asking is would this work for a large commercial concern like Reading & Leeds, or might it suit a smaller festival such as Long Division?

Think about it, I would dearly love to watch The Cribs and The Cure at Leeds this year, but I’m not going because I’m too miserable to have to put up with a load of undergraduate girls having a now essential rite of passage experience at a big festival, ignoring the bands to update their Facebook status, but if I could log on, watch the bands I really want to watch and do it in the privacy of my own home I would.

Would I pay for it is the big question? Well, I reckon I might because there is already a precedent here, Football Player which, ‘for the equivalent of 10p a day’ webcasts the matches and loads of extra video from the team of your choice, allowing you to watch the away games you would never go to.

For a large festival this is a sound idea because the paying audience would cover the costs, the punters could access the bands they want instead of having to rely on the often patchy TV coverage and they are taping the acts anyway for the TV broadcasters. Simples.

What about a smaller model then, would this work at Long Division?

There are two issues here, does it stop people attending, or help those who couldn’t attend anyway. Guess there’s a balancing act, but at the end of the day it’s up to the market; supply and demand and all that… It’s an interesting point though isn’t it?

Cost, quality and accessibility are the main factors, if you could control what you were seeing and when you saw it this would become a tempting option; for promoters it means reaching a new, wider audience without alienating or inconveniencing your paying public, now that has to be a bonus, for the bands it’s the same thing, getting their music heard by a wider audience.

At the end of the day, heavy metal made me think about something new this weekend. When was the last time you could say that!

Matt Rhodie 

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