“I was there!”…virtually



Dan’s post “Future of Britain there for all to see at Glastonbury” eloquently covers how Britannia rules the airwaves, when it comes to music. It was, as usual, an eclectic mix of music genres, spanning over six decades, for both bands and people alike.

This year’s Glasto’ saw many digital, mobile and social firsts, all aimed at making the “festival goer’s” life better. Whether this was planning which stage to visit, where to find stuff or simply to re-charge your mobile device, the right balance seems to have been struck. No overt, in your face, brand marketing, but more operating within that “sweet spot” where people and brands come together in harmony.

One first, was The BBC’s digital Glastonbury. As well as TV coverage, they provided people with the ability to go online, with any device, and select a live stream performance. Selection could be made across a number of stages throughout the festival, and you could do this in the comfort of your own home…cheap beer, and no queues for the toilets either. And if you missed any live footage, there was the ability to view past performances on demand.

Interestingly, when watching a live-stream on the iPad, it was noticeable that people at the event also watched performances through their mobile devices too. There must be some irony in this somewhere, but it’s interesting how the mobile device serves different purposes for different audiences.

  • Those of us who were not there physically there, used our tablets and smartphones to gain access to the event. To watch the bands we want to, and do so in real-time…to feel part of it.
    • The social networks enabled us to have conversations and share our passion about the bands playing, with people at the event or otherwise.
    • Those who attended do so to record their memories, capture the best bits, and share their captured content via the various social networks. “Guess where I am?” style of status updates.
      • Join in on the same conversations….but with a little more kudos, as they were there.
      • Or maybe there were a select few, who were physically at one stage watching one band,  but also watching footage from another stage….being in two places at once…virtually.

The smartphone/tablet and various online applications enabled Glastonbury 2013 to be shared across a much wider audience and a much wider geography. It will be interesting to see the combined reach of TV, live-streaming and social activity. This combination of real-time coverage is becoming a common mix of how live events of any size and scale will be covered from now on; whether this is professional coverage of events or/and via people sharing content across the various social networks.

Mary Meeker’s latest internet trends report touches on this. It’s summed up in a single image; the different behaviours of concert-goers of twenty years ago, from those of today.

For me, who’s been to many gigs over the years (I have a constant ringing in my ears), before and since smartphones have been around, there are pros and cons to this. An example would be one of the best gigs I’ve been to. It was an Iron Maiden gig, way back in 1983. They played under a pseudonym of “Genghis Khan” in the Ruskin Arms pub in East Ham. This was their local pub and the event wasn’t publicised. The pub could probably only hold about 200 people maximum, legally, so publicising it would have been the wrong thing to do. Knowing about the gig came from whispers via people “in the know”.

So why do I believe it was one of the best gigs?

  • I, somehow or other, became aware it was taking place, and because of this, was a fleeting member of a fairly passionate micro-tribe. An “in-crowd”.
    • Maslow stuff…some status amongst a like-minded community.
    • It was a genuine secret gig. The “whisper” did not escape.
      • Could that happen today with Twitter, Facebook etc.?
      • Arrived early to have a few drinks beforehand, watched the sound-check, and played Asteroids with Adrian Smith, the lead guitarist.
        • A sort of VIP access, and direct accessibility to the band
        • When Iron Maiden were in full flow, my friends and I were at the front totally absorbed by the music, and sharing their beer, which was tucked behind the Marshall speakers.
          • No smartphone distractions from myself or others
          • I was fully absorbed, not disassociated by watching it through a small screen

Would it have been different, if it had have been in the present day? (Apart from the fact I’m a good few years older.)

  • I’ve no recorded memories from the day. No images, nothing publically shared afterwards, nothing archived on the web, no ability to gloat.
    • You just have to take my word for it that “I was there.”
    • I could have used Instagram, Vine, Snapchat etc. to capture the build up, pictures with the band, showing off to friends, without revealing the location. That would have been even more fun.
    • Through the public sharing my information about the event, this data could be used to enhance my life and online experiences.
      • Notification of events, relevant lifestyle recommendations and products.
      • Become aware of who else attended and have the option to keep in touch…remaining as part of a community.

It is an interesting debate, whether or not mobile devices enhance or degrade people’s experiences at live events. I guess if you’re lucky enough to be of an age where smartphones have always been around, it will be difficult to judge. However, being slightly older, I can vouch for the fact, there isn’t anything much more annoying than standing behind a wall of smartphones in the air, when you’re trying to absorb the “real-life” moment and see the stage. But on the flipside, the post event envy you can attain when you next catch up with friends who weren’t lucky enough to be there does have a value.

From a band’s perspective, what would you prefer to play to….a wall of mobile phones pointing at you? Or a crowd of people fully associated, engaged and loving the music you were playing? Ideally, everyone is living in the moment, but the band also knows, that through your mobile phone, you’re sharing their performance with a much wider audience. It’s an evolving balance driven by the advancement of technology and changes in behaviour.

A great line, and for me (personal opinion), good advice from an artist who’s performed since the late 70’s and is still going strong today:

Get your face out of Facebook and turn off your phonePaul Weller, Wake Up The Nation


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