Updated: Sep 29
Technical innovations in the $60 billion music festival industry have launched themselves into the stratosphere in the last decade, and are showing no signs of slowing down. These advancements span the live ecosystem, from ticketing and logistics, to remote attendance, digital engagement, and perhaps most importantly, the in-person experience. Festivalgoers today are enjoying what festivalgoers in the past couldn’t even begin to imagine.
The recently released 2022 Music Festival & Artists Report highlights the massive impact technology, especially immersive technology, is having in this space. Festival organisers, production houses, tech companies, artists and brands are capitalising on this opportunity, and using it to offer attendees an unforgettable, boundary-pushing journey that keeps them coming back for more.
Let’s take a look at a selection of the latest developments taking over music festivals today.
Astounding visuals: Anyma at Tomorrowland
Source: Anyma and Chris Avantgarde
If you’re interested in electronic music and you’ve spent even half a minute on TikTok or Instagram recently, you’ve likely seen visuals of Anyma’s recent Genesys performance at the historical (and now temporarily closed) London nightclub, Printworks. The performance has since gone on tour to Mexico City, Medellín, Buenos Aires and São Paulo, and will feature at Tomorrowland 2023.
Anyma’s performance shows enormous humanoid figures, designed by Italian artist Alessio De Vecchi, floating, dancing and interacting with one another above the stage. There’s no sense of where the screens begin or end, which creates an overwhelming, surreal and captivating visual experience. While Anyma has played with visual elements for years, his new project is especially interesting because it’s an NFT. You can invest in it through Sotheby’s — and pay via cryptocurrency.
Immersive sound: Polygon at Wonderfruit
Source: Polygon Live
You’ve never experienced sound like this before. Polygon’s 360-degree hemispherical arena has speakers placed all around it. This means that the sound doesn’t just come from in front of you, but above, around and through you, too. What’s more, the sound moves. Polygon’s team of sound engineers work with its world-class acts, like Viken Arman and Âme, to spatialise individual sound
elements, deliberately moving them so that you feel completely immersed in the music.
Polygon combines its state-of-the-art sound system with over 1km of LED synchronised lighting, so that you are surrounded by sound and light — oh, and scent, too. This is a multisensory experience, after all. Polygon features annually at Wonderfruit Festival in Thailand, and has previously rocked festivalgoers at MDLBEAST Soundstorm, the largest music event in the Middle East.
Intense Installations: Arcadia at Glastonbury
Source: Arcadia Spectacular
The Arcadia Spider is a 50-tonne, fire-breathing installation built from recycled military hardware. It came to life in its first iteration at Glastonbury in 2010, and its subsequent, upgraded versions continue to be a regular festival feature. The Spider is enormous. A feat of engineering and a sight to behold. As Arcadia’s founders, Pip Rush and Bert Cole, have said, “The Spider has always been a symbol of positive change, repurposing what was once the machinery of war into a unifying totem for tens of thousands of people.”
At its 2023 Glastonbury performance, Arcadia will run off entirely renewable energy sources, highlighting another major trend in festivals — the increasing demand, from organisers and festivalgoers alike, for more sustainable approaches. The Chemical Brothers are set to headline.
Live streaming and augmented reality: Flume at Coachella
Source: Unreal Engine
These experiences, however, don’t necessarily cater for the countless music lovers who can’t easily access these events. Innovations in live streaming and AR, fortunately, are changing all that.
Live streaming itself isn’t particularly new, of course, and has been part of live music events for years. But new developments have enabled Coachella, in partnership with 3D computer graphics game engine Unreal Engine, to create a unique, AR-focused, live-streaming experience for viewers to enjoy from home. (Coachella, it’s worth adding, has always been innovation-centric, and used a hologram of Tupac as far back as 2012.)
At the performance of electronic artist Flume in 2022, however, massive, wild, psychedelic imagery appeared on people’s screens, including a huge cockatoo, floating donuts and melting flowers. While they weren’t there in person, online Flume audiences were able to experience something truly unique.
Innovations at festivals: What's next?
Once, we knew what to expect at a music festival. Today, that’s no longer the case. As technology evolves, live — and even remote — experiences are likely to become increasingly immersive and outrageous. What lies ahead is anyone’s guess. What we do know is that we’re ready for it.