Music Festivals Have Lost Their Soul : Bring The Good Times Back
With music streaming services and entertainment technologies advancing so rapidly, enjoying concerts and music festivals have sometimes become an overpriced luxury. Truth is, new technology has called for there to be some changes in the entire experience of enjoying music. Artists are making most of their money from doing shows and merchandise, so only a “true fan” is paying for the tickets. Crowd’s are also filled with people who are in attendance just so they can tell social media. Are we still connecting with the music? I wouldn’t go as far to say that the music is gone, but sometimes it feels like things were more fun in the past. Check out this article from DJBooth.net
It was Alex Cooley, a man with a vision, that went to Byron and saw more than a soybean field adjacent to a racetrack. His second annual Atlanta International Pop Festival had to be big. This was before Atlanta was considered this mecca for music festivals and entertainment. New York, Miami, California, these were all the places that attracted the most attractions in the world of music. To put Atlanta on the map, he had to put on the second-coming of Woodstock. He even used the same promotion angle (three days of peace, love, and music).
What the second International Pop Festival had that the first didn’t was a headliner, a hippy event with hippest rock star on the planet, Jimi Hendrix. Once word got around, people drove from all over America into this sequestered part of South Georgia, fueled by their love for music and lust for adventure. Tickets were only $14, with a lineup that was well worth triple if not more. Eventually, the event became free. The legend is that the large crowd began chanting, “Free, free, free. Music belongs to the people” and eventually the overwhelmed security flung open the gates and allowed anyone entrance.”
Is it possible to gain money and popularity without losing your essence? Festivals now are big business with more and more media, more and more people, more and more corporations changing the secluded secret into a V.I.P clubhouse for anyone to enter, if they can pay the price. The allure I see in the past is the spirit of peace, love, and music wasn’t a marketing ploy.
Alex Cooley wanted a festival that represented the hippie counterculture, it made me question what is it that the festivals of today stand for? I can do drugs, have sex, and listen to music any weekend, what is it that makes these festival special?
I feel the reason I go is just to see people from the internet, living out Joe McDonald’s words. Are we really spending all this money, waiting in these long lines, to just say we were there? Are we here to stand in the streets flooded by mixtapes, flyers and business cards? Are we here to take selfies and be on Snapchat? Are the artists on the bill bringing anything other than their popularity? Where’s the magic? Where’s the fireworks? Where are the moments that will be cemented in history? Will Drake’s Coachella performance be talked about in 5 years? Will Kanye at SXSW be a defining moment in his career? Does hip-hop really live at A3C? How can it be when Slim Jesus is on the bill.
Last week I went to TomorrowWorld and found myself engulfed in selfies, paying $20 for a hot dog, the shuttle service stopped, forcing people to walk miles back to their cars, any joy of communal music fading with every exhausted, angry step. Like the Atlanta International Pop Festival the masses that attented TomorrowWorld are now demanding “free,” not because music belongs to the people but because they want a refund. Come to a music festival, three days of love, fun and endless financial transactions!
Living in the moment isn’t a crime, but the older I get the more I’m filled with a desire for more than another weekend of fun. I want to feel the thrill of those early days of SXSW, exploring downtown Austin and discovering music that isn’t on the radio or on the blogs. I want to feel the rush of those early days of A3C when it was under one massive roof and I could travel between the three stages with wide eyes. I want to be transfixed by one artist, one person on stage commanding the attention of everyone far and wide. I want to get together, see real people, feel like we’re part of something larger. To know that this is the moment we will remember for the rest of our lives.
Maybe that’s just naive nostalgia though, maybe I’m chasing a ghost that never really lived. Or maybe, if I could talk to one of those thousands who desceded upon Byron all those years ago, I’d hear the story of a music festival that really did unify people around ideas more meaningful than money and fun. What do we do when things really were better before? If we really have lost something that we can never recapture? ”
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