Call it whatever you want, festival fatigue, overpriced tickets, boring DJs, repeat lineups, LED burnout, one thing is for sure we are starting to get fed up with events that are charging too much and not delivering anymore.
The shift to more boutique and inspiring festivals is starting to happen with events like Further Future, Lighting In A Bottle, Shambhala, Buku Music & Art Project and others starting to get some well-deserved limelight.
As the EDM tourists start to turn their attention elsewhere those seeking the more enlightening and full-bodied experiences of great festivals are speaking up with their wallets and the promoters are listening, or they are shuttering their operations.
Here are ten things (in no particular order) we hope to see more of at both upcoming and established festivals.
1. More inspired and truly curated talent lineups - So many festivals just book the same acts, who play the same sets and do the same shit. The art of programming music and vibes has been lost. If we see another peak hour set at six p.m., we are going to lose it. If you don't know what programming means, please quit and go work for Starbucks or something.
2. Smaller and more innovative stages - Bigger is not always better and just because you strap more LEDs and lights and lasers and pyrotechnics and other stupid shit to your stages doesn't mean we are going to have a better time. Real music fans are there to hear their favorite artists not be bedazzled by a light show, maybe invest in better sounds or innovative things like the Arcadia Spider stage or even a chillout stage where everyone has a beanbag to sit on. We are not against cool visuals, but don't forget the music and the experience at that stage.
3. Book more legacy acts, not just a token offering. There is a rich dance music history here in the US, and so many of our artists play overseas but don't play here. These guys are still amazing and would probably blow away younger fans and bring out older ones. Take a risk and do a small Detroit stage or a Chicago stage, bring guys out that helped create this culture. If promoters don't take the time to educate the younger fan base, they won't keep coming back because they don't feel a real connection to the music or the culture. Electronic music is a CULTURE and if you don't nurture the cultural part it dies.
4. Bring better food vendors: If people are coming out to spend all day and all night at your party, feed them right. Take the time to curate your culinary experiences like you do your lineups. Shitty pizza, mutant hot dogs, and mediocre burgers are not what people want. We want thoughtful vendors who love food and are bringing fresh ideas and fresh ingredients, food trucks are everywhere, find them and bring them to your festival. Not that hard and you will have a lot of happy campers.
5. Go Green - Waste is all around us, and the kids that are coming to your festival are the ones inheriting this planet. Set the right example with solar power, compostable utensils, cups, and plates, recycle bins, water stations to fill up reusable bottles, etc. This practice will inspire people to be more conscious about this in their everyday life. Treat every festival like Earth Day.
6. Substance Education - If you can't have pill testing kits or organizations present then hand out flyers that help patrons look for red flags and best practices when encountering trouble. Yes, alcohol is a drug too, and if you drink too much at a show in oppressive heat, you can get in trouble fast. It's a bummer that this has to be done, but younger patrons need a heads up on bunk pills floating around and other warnings to help prevent over-consumption.
7. Free Ear Plugs - Surely you can have barrels of 5 cent ear plugs available to people that would like to protect their hearing. Most people aren't thinking about losing their hearing but they will when they see earplug stations that warn of high decibel levels.
8. Quality control - Stop booking acts that are just standing there dancing around. Prerecorded sets aren't cute; they are bullshit, and everyone knows it. If you are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a "DJ", they should show up and actually do something that is going to blow the audience away not stand there while their Beatport top ten playlist plays itself and make stupid comments into the mic and heart signs. SO OVER THIS SHIT!
9. Chillout Stage - Yes this might overlap point number two, but it's important enough to get a double mention. There should be a stage or area where people can go recline and lose themselves for a moment, have a meditative experience to recharge. This type of area was a staple in the original rave movement and for some reason hasn't been a part of the party scene in a while. People like chillout music, A LOT, check out Soundcloud if you don't believe us.
10. Stop overselling tickets - nothing is worse than being at a festival that is too crowded as it kills the experience for the attendee. When you have to fight your way to every stage like you are in a mosh pit you don't have a good time, and most people don't come back after a couple of expereinces like that. Who wants to pay $300+ to be jammed into a shitty sardine can of a show for a weekend.