Six Festival Stories to Watch in 2016Article by: Marcus Dowling|@marcuskdowling
Mon December 07, 2015 | 00:00 AM
As the festival industry goes into hibernation and prep mode ahead of 2016, seven intriguing, developing stories are already poised to bubble to the surface in the upcoming year. From major anniversaries to business dealings that could potentially change the entire landscape of our beloved events, 2016 will be crucial for our scene. Here are the six stories to watch in 2016, in no particular order.
Electric Daisy Carnival Celebrates 20 Years
Speaking of Nevada, Insomniac’s Electric Daisy Carnival – the gargantuan festival likely at the root of Las Vegas levying a nine-percent tax on festival-style entertainment – celebrates its 20th year at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2016. During those 20 years, the festival has evolved from being merely anticipated to EDM’s marquee event; indeed, if anyone needs proof that America is the dominant playing field for electronic dance music, look no further than this three-day event, which hosted 400,000 total visitors in 2015.
There’s no word as to headliners for the landmark festivities next year, but do expect that big stages will be bigger, explosions will be louder, and that the event dubbed “American Ibiza” will be more ostentatious than ever before. EDC’s also become a global phenomenon in the past 20 years, and if you think that the “dance bubble” has burst, it's this event that will most likely prove you wrong. EDC's 20th year could be the spark that pushes dance music into greater prominence at the forefront of American popular culture. This is a massive event that has a lot on the line 2016.
SFX's Continued Evolution in 2016
Enough ink has been given to SFX’s battles at the forefront of EDM’s dalliances with corporate sustainability. However, the company survives into 2016, and has a significant number of North American and worldwide festival events still under its purview. Electric Zoo “transformed” into an event tailored more towards the long-haul and less towards pop-driven dance tastes, and SFX’s holding in festival production group ID & T could be sold to Dutchman John de Mol, who is known for his work with TV programs like The Voice, Fear Factor, and Big Brother. Regarding his EDM interests, he was also once the owner of music publisher Talpa Music, a company that once worked with the likes of Tiesto, Afrojack, Laidback Luke, and more.
SFX is also currently in talks with James Barton – currently LiveNation’s President of Electronic Music – to join the company in an “unspecified capacity” that will see the man who founded Cream (famed for its Creamfields festivals) work with SFX to bolster its management of live music and festivals. While many perceived that the purchase of SFX assets would be a lucrative buy for HARDFest investor and fellow player LiveNation, this is a similar – and possibly just as solid – move. Robert FX Sillerman’s desire to streamline and industrialize both EDM and festival culture is notable, and if he weathers this storm, still quite possible, too.
Will Australia's Big Day Out Return?
After two years of considerable financial and logistical issues that led to scheduling issues, in early June 2014, American festival promoter C3 Presents (which runs Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza) purchased Australia’s Big Day Out and announced the cancellation of the 2015 event. Though the option for the festival to return in 2016 was left open, there has been no word if the nearly 25-year-old event will return.
Big Day Out was one of Australia’s most significant events throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Well over 150,000 attendees came to five separate venues in both Australia and New Zealand in 2014, so there’s certainly a market for the festivities. However, from a financial standpoint, the festival lost $10 million in 2014, and C3 may be currently unwilling to take on the fiscal responsibility of what could ultimately be a losing venture.
Big Day Out’s also been linked with leading Australian indie radio station Triple J Radio, but in 2015 its One Night Stand event was on hiatus, too. Could we see a potential Triple J One Night Stand/Big Day Out massive co-branded event with C3’s support? With the EDM breakout of numerous Australian DJs and producers like (ex-Triple J presenter) Nina Las Vegas, Anna Lunoe and the Future Classic collective, Triple J’s global awareness is growing. Australia is still a vaunted market for live music and festivals, so this could be an ideal solution.
Will More Festivals Ban Native Headdresses?
This year saw the issue of appropriation of Native headdresses at festivals simmer to a boil. While some festival-goers buck against the backlash, festival organizers at events including Glastonbury to Canada's Bass Coast and Osheaga, ile Sonique, America's Electric Forest and more have all taken anti-appropriation stances. Whether for or against the measures taken, the one inalienable fact is that headdresses are worn by Native cultures who earn them through selfless acts of courage or gained via service work for a tribe. While yes, the “tribal” notion of festival culture does likely deserve some sort of physical homage, the use of feathers and war bonnets have such a venerated role in Native American tradition already, that festival culture could do well to discover a new tradition that lacks such deep cultural roots.
As festivals emerge into the mainstream, the necessity for heightened sensitivities and inclusivity has to take the front seat. If that ultimately means that garb that was once viewed as harmless now must be respected as being potentially insensitive, then so be it. Times have changed, and one small gesture can ultimately create an atmosphere that respects more people than ever before.
The 10th Anniversary of Movement Detroit
Detroit’s iconic techno festival has been key in the re-branding of the city from being a decaying, bankrupt wasteland to being a resurrected destination for creatives and entrepreneurs worldwide. Movement may be turning ten, but techno festivals have been taking place in the genre’s birthplace since 2000. The tempestuous history of ownership switching between four different owners prior to 2007’s takeover by Paxahau Event Promotions and Management is well documented, but the event has found both sustainability and widespread success in the past decade.
Movement Detroit celebrates ten years over Memorial Day Weekend, May 28-30, 2016. Held in downtown Detroit’s Hart Plaza, 140 artists will play over six outdoor stages, and, we hope, Grandma Techno will be in attendance as well. With 2015 seeing Paxahau’s Movement involvement in Europe reach a decade anniversary and the Movement Gateway event having taken place in Puerto Rico, such growth and sustainability of a once-volatile event is truly impressive.
Moogfest Returns in 2016 in Durham, North Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina’s Moogfest went dark in 2015, after years in New York City from 2004-2008, and most recently in Moog’s hometown from 2010-2014. Moogfest blends a mix of musical technology, classroom education and live music into a spectacular four-day event that featured techno progenitors Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, and electro forefather Giorgio Moroder amongst its 2014 headliners.
However, a silver lining has appeared. Moogfest will return May 19-22, 2016, moving east within the state to Durham. 2014 saw the event lose $1.5 million on a budget of $2.7 million in Asheville. As a result, the city of Durham wooed the four-day festival with the announcement of three festivals in Durham spread over as many as six years, as a mix of ticketed and free events. Regarding the fest's move, Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce CEO Casey Steinbacher told Durham Indy Week, "Moogfest was looking to strengthen the technology side of the festival. They are internationally known for their music, of course, but they wanted to accelerate their technology." Continuing, he said, "[O]nce they understood there was a really strong technology and innovation culture in Durham, they knew it matched well with what they were trying to accomplish."
What juicy festival stories are on your radar for the coming year?