Festival Fatigue

The sheer breadth and depth of the BBC’s latest coverage of Glastonbury and T in the Park is quite an achievement.  The BBC had a combined production staff output of 720 at both events – A huge amount of staff you may think – but wholly justified when you consider the amount of multiplatform coverage it has delivered in the past few weeks. 

In this current age of multimedia overload, festivals and gigs are yet another experience that can be replicated and consumed vicariously at any time through any media. Which leads me to question the relevance of actually attending a festival or gig when many of the acts perform for you in the comfort of your own home?
Of course the sheer visceral emotion of singing along in a communal tribe is impossible to replicate without being there – although surely with so much blanket coverage – the drama, nuances and set lists of each band become common knowledge which leads to a diminishing of the genuine live experience.   I’m sure Blur were great in Hyde Park last week – but their set would have been much more memorable and surprising if know one had already witnessed it on TV, from Glastonbury, the previous week!
Gone is the suspense of the artist – the shock of the new.   Many live experiences we now see  are recycled from previous images or memories.  Of course it is not just the BBC who are too blame for this devaluation of the live experience!   – or though as much as I admire their blanket multiplatform coverage I still feel they are one of the main offenders.

The artist still has the ability to reverse this cultural trend – and untimely the power of expression still lies with them – but many unfortunately seem unperturbed.   Some artists have refused the BBC and other production companies the rights to record their performances – Leonard Cohen, Rage Against the Machine – both last year.  Of course this is much more favourable if the artist is very well known and doesn’t need the media exposure to increase royalties.   If the artist is dependent on mainstream coverage then changing the set list frequently can add an element of unfamiliarity at least without deterring from the ultimate monetary aim – it also adds a bit of mystique to a band – and detracts from the dreaded ubiquity and consequently fatigue of an artist. 

“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us” (Boris Pasternak)


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