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David Keene on SXSW and the Future of the Festival Business

The staging/live event market is a tale of two countries, so to speak. One is the corporate event market, and the other is the entertainment market. We’ve covered both over the years, and while often the rising tide of a good economy lifts all the boats in both places, other times it’s two different stories.

Covering the SXSW Music festival in March prompted a closer look at the entertainment side–and more specifically the concert/ festival side. If you’ve never been to SXSW, that started as Music festival and now also includes a Film festival and a technology festival (SXSW Interactive), you should attend. And I’m not talking about going to hear some of the 1000+ bands that play. Fun, sure, but I’m talking about what you’d learn from the conference sessions–in the Music, Film, and Interactive tracks. Go to NAB, to InfoComm, to see the present state of technology. You go to SXSW to see the future, in two ways: it’s a much younger attendee base than, say, InfoComm, so demographically it is literally the future. And it’s a look at technology that is on the rise and business/market trends that cross over many categories. For a look at what we learned about the future of music festivals at SXSW, see our cover story this month.

Music concerts at many festivals are no longer just “concerts.” They are shows with high production values, demanding big ticket prices. If you’re reading this–that’s a great thing. It means big staging budgets including massive LED screens, the latest line array loudspeaker rigs, and of course all the other audio, video, and rigging gear it takes to entertain increasingly jaded fans who now have literally hundreds of festival choices each season. But what is happening in that world that video and audio tech-heads may not be seeing yet? With the explosion in the number and variety of festivals, we have many trends going at once. The big are getting bigger, but other concurrent trends could reshape the future of music festivals.

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