VF founder and director Steve Jenner provides a rolling behind the scenes glimpse into the present, past and future of virtual festivals as the site enters its second decade.
VF founder and director Steve Jenner provides a rolling behind the scenes glimpse into the present, past and future of virtual festivals as the site enters its second decade…
Hello. I'm now going to take you on an amazing real life adventure with me and my comrades at VF as we raise the stakes and enter the next action-packed chapter of our crusade to connect up all the world's music festivals and those who love them.
First, I'd like us to rewind for a minute to the early spring of 1999…
I remember life being rosier in some ways. The economy was booming, britpop was still reverberating, Tony's cool Britannia was rocking, the average price of a pint of draft lager was £1.85, we weren't at war, Simon Cowell wasn't involved in TV… Idyllic, perhaps.But, if you actually time-travelled back to then, I'm fairly certain you'd find that, by comparison to today, the festival scene was rubbish.
For starters, there were only a handful of well known festivals in existence and most people thought you were a bit strange if you went to any of them. Ok, not necessarily a bad thing.
But impartial festival info wasn't just closed to the masses – it wasn't available to anyone! There wasn't any one place that even the die-hard fans could get comparative information and advice on all the events. Line-ups were revealed when the festival organisers said so, end of – there were no rumours back then or unofficial news sources. There was also no way of interacting with or meeting other fans of festivals you were going to, let alone ones you weren't. It sucked.
It wasn't that the organisers operated in some kind of greedy cartel to exploit the fans, like the record labels were doing. Apart from four or five of the major fests, they weren't even in touch with eachother, let alone their audiences.
In the wise words of the Stereo MC's, the festival scene desperately needed to get itself connected, and that was the cause I decided to dedicate my life to, and VF was, er, born unto this world.
And, gradually, the industry began to metamorphosise from a bunch of scattered, isolated islands to a single, connected marketplace, that is driven – as it should be – by the feedback and creative input of the people who really matter – the fans. This is why the festival landscape has exploded to the extent it has over this period of time and become a mainstream lifestyle where now you're considered a bit odd if you don't like them!
The result: festivals have got much better and more attractive to a bigger pool of fans, as they are being run by people who are directly in touch with their audiences and everyone's having a better time of it. VF doesn't deserve all the credit for this, but I do like to think we led the charge on this movement, and in many ways continue to do so today.
Right now, 2 million UK festival-goers depend on this site to plan their summer and live out their fest lives. Several hundred independent festival organisers count on VF to connect to their audiences, and gather vital feedback that helps them make their event better. Through VF, YOU, reading this right now, wield the power to influence the shape and set the standard of the British festival scene by interacting online (and, of course, voting in the UK Festival Awards). And that, my friend, is what gets me and my team out of bed in the morning.
Yet we've still got a long way to go yet here in the UK and we've hardly even got started in the rest of the world.
This next part of our journey is going to be the really fun bit, particularly as we're going to do it together. Our work over these years has given you, the festival-goer, a new seat of power. Now I'm calling on you to seize it, use it and help us take this thing to thrilling new heights. I'll elaborate further on this in my next blog. For now, I'm glad to have you on-board. Enjoy the sunshine!