There was a kind of interesting article in a newspaper in Sweden how Swedish festivals have changed over the past 10 years. Before many of the festivals were held in some small town in a muddy field. Camping festivals they have named them. Many of them have now been replaced by a large city festival inside parks in a big city.
I don't know if this is just a Swedish phenomenon or if it is a change all over the world? I guess it’s a worldwide phenomenon.
I was recently at Summerfest the world’s largest festival with a million visitors in Milwaukee in USA. It's not a camping festival but held in a park area in the city with permanent structures. What struck me was the vendors. A part of being on the festival back in the days was that you could buy things around your favourite artists or records like they had on Medimex in Italy where I was at the beginning of the month. Also, a festival in the middle of the city.
I remember when I went on my first festivals and found vendors selling my favourite band's merch like Ramones, Misfits, 23Till and more. The first festival I attended I bought a Ramones pin that I still have today over twenty years later. Back then it was impossible to find anything like that in my hometown Orebro. If you were lucky, they carried a ‘best-of’ compilation with the Ramones. The record dealers in that city were just greedy people that didn't care about music. They just sold the top ten on the album chart and was walking around like small popes deciding what was good music or not. Mainly they missed it by far. Today I'm really happy these horrible people that were awful gatekeepers have disappeared.
The festival was providing a breathing ground where I could choose my music. Discover new cool stuff. Not just on the stages but also in everything else. One thing now is that thriving festivals have stages for newcomers. Summerfest provides a whole big stage for over 100 totally unknown bands to come and play. Back in the day, even the smallest stage had very famous acts. So that is positive. I have been coming down on the vendors all this year and here is a big change. All they sell now is knickknacks. Had a hard time to find anything music-related.
At the same time, the internet has changed all that was obscure. Today you find thousands of different Ramones pins on eBay just a click away. The rare bootlegs are on Youtube and sometimes easier to find than the official ones.
Moving the festivals to the city is a part of this. You want it closer and more comfortable. At the same time, it won't be a full experience. Suddenly all the other millions of types of entertainment that are in the city are also vying for attention. All this is has gotten the audience to be looking for the next thing faster than they can listen to a song that is three and a half minute long. It seems like the thing to do at festivals today is to walk up to the mainstage and take a selfie to prove you were there and then keep on the hunt for your next cultural experience kick in a cloud of ‘FOMO.’
Nothing is limited any longer for either good or bad.
*FOMO=Fear of missing out.
Editor's Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems, and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals. He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and SuperBowl.