Beyond Glastonbury: why Gorillaz and Disclosure are in a field of their own

From the Guardian

More and more musicians are throwing their own festivals – is this the future of live performance or a cynical fad?

Fair play … Gorillaz present their Demon Dayz event at Margate’s Dreamland.

 

Once, musicians were just workshy, financially illiterate types who were quite happy to turn up to a festival, make their quota of onstage welly bants and head on to the next Pieminister zone. Enterprise culture was treated with suspicion. If you put on a festival, you were basically Bob Geldof. And no one wanted to be Bob Geldof. Now, though, a generation raised on startup culture – this era’s answer to Fairport Convention, or Peter Gabriel or whoever is curating Meltdown each year – wants to lean-in at boardroom level.

Artist-curated festivals are bigger than ever. In Sussex this weekend, Disclosure and Rudimental’s Wild Life punches in the upper-medium size bracket with 35,000 punters a day expected; while today’s Demon Dayz festival, hosted by Gorillaz, has sold out Margate’s Dreamland. Then there’s the xx’s Night & Day, which is so popular that, having already been to London, Portugal and Germany, there’ll be an Icelandic edition in July.

“It’s an insight into the artist’s mind,” Disclosure’s Guy Lawrence explains. “People feel more connected to the act. It’s basically the music from our iTunes.” Despite what we’re told about the hopelessly cut-throat nature of festival economics, Wild Life has been profitable since it started in 2015. “That was one of the biggest surprises,” says Lawrence. “Obviously, we’d expected to lose money in the first year at least.”

Facing the music: Disclosure. Photograph: PR

For bands, having your own festival is a chance to set the context in which you’re seen (often left to chance in a field of cidered-up morons waiting for Good Charlotte). As Lawrence points out, it’s also an opportunity for fans to “get to know you”. In the language of marketing gurus, it also drives brand engagement. Just as surely as Nike Town isn’t really a place to buy shoes so much as a place to imprint your brain with the memory of how awesome shoes are, festivals are a way to gather the tribe, then to help them develop a neural network of positive associations. All fine, so long as you come up with the rest of the goods. Notes Lawrence, “I’m sure if we were to release a dogshit album, people would have less faith in our festival.”

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