Why Music Fests are Overrated

EDUARDO PADRINO | ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST

The opportunity to see our favorite artists perform at a live show is something many of us would kill for. The thrilling experience of having a person, or a group of people, we admire right in front our eyes would be one of the most memorable moments of a lifetime. However, as much as we may love Coachella, Lollapalooza, SXSW or others, the hype of these festivals usually over-shadows what happens behind the main stage.

In an article for NME by David Renshaw in 2014 titled “Danny Brown and School-boy Q criticize ‘commercial’ SXSW,” Brown spoke against the increasing commercial aspects of the festival, which is not only distracts from the performances but also takes the spotlight away from new, less popular artists. SXSW is famous for giving an opportunity for new acts to spread their music and increase their popularity, setting up the stage for pre-“Section.80” Kendrick Lamar and pre-“The Heist” Macklemore in past years, but with the more “corporate” approach to the festival, these new musicians trying to climb the ladder are often mistreated and set aside in exchange for those in the Billboard Hot 100.

Another downfall of the music festival scene is the lack of musical intimacy between the artists and their audience. Other than the distracting advertisements, the audience can be very far away from the performer at times, creating an emotional disconnection as opposed to the standard venue setting that many musicians and fans may prefer. “I’m tired of performing and seeing my fans outside the gate,” said Schoolboy Q to The Washington Post in 2014 after performing at SXSW earlier that year. This physical distance often becomes an obstacle for the main purpose of music, that is, convey an intimate, emotional message to the audience.

Also, famed music critic Anthony Fantano expressed his view towards the prices of music festivals in one of his Youtube channels by saying, “people here got renting mortgages to pay.” In 2016, the prices to Desert Trip in California, Coachella and Ultra Festival were $990, $623 and $526 respectively, and do not include the extra expenses of beverages, food and others. On the other side of the coin, people can save much more money by attending venues or other alternative ways of seeing artists perform. Tickets for Coldplay, Foo Fighters and Kendrick Lamar in 2017 have sold for under $80 for a single show in exchange for an experience that is less hectic and perhaps more enjoyable than a massive festival.

This is not to say that people should totally avoid music festivals. On the contrary, I believe these events can be a memorable and unique experience, not only to see your favorite artists but also to get to know the some of the underground music artists looking to get their name out there. However, the price to attend to several of these festivals can be a little high for the extreme advertisement, poor artist treatment and the impediment of intimate and emotional performances that is given in return in some of these events, while the alternatives to these festivals can be overwhelmingly cheaper and more enjoyable for both the artists and the audience.

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