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A Festival Prescription With Adverse Side Effects

What does Tomorrowland's partnership with MTV truly mean?

True to American form, MTV is capitalizing on EDM’s burgeoning popularity in the country, exploiting it for all its worth. But for those of you who frequently fall victim to festival-related FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), the news that MTV will be broadcasting Tomorrowland 2014 as part of its World Stage programming serves as a relieving prescription for your symptoms. This is the first time the festival, now 10 years in the running, will be broadcast for all to enjoy in the comfort of their homes. In other words, you can stop replaying the euphoric 2011 Tomorrowland recap video, and have an updated source of jealousy.

The decision to broadcast the leading EDM event in the world on a major television network follows a precedent set by festivals such as Bonaroo, Ultra, and Coachella, all of which are shown live over the internet. These broadcasts are very reflective of American media’s cozy embrace around the seemingly limitless profit potential of the festival industry. However, the recent announcement has catalyzed an onslaught of complaints from ravers near and far – a reaction that isn’t unfounded.

Festivals like Bonaroo and Coachella aren’t as adversely affected by video broadcastings the way EDM festivals are, mainly because they boast a diverse line up celebrating a variety of genres. These broadcasts do not serve as a hyperbolic portrayal of culture spawned by a particular genre, but are instead a method of connecting fans at home to their beloved musical acts. Although this might be the goal in airing EDM festivals, these home viewers are more easily “lost in the crowd” – that is to say, viewers are more interested watching the audience react to the music than watching the artist and listening to the quality of the music itself.

From a marketing standpoint, broadcasting a festival is a fantastic idea. Video broadcasts provide implicit publicity to the event, exposing not just the talent but also the benefits of attending the event – all the fun to be had, and all the friends to be made. Exposure is a good thing, but overexposure for the sake of profit is not. Not only will EDM festivals begin to justify exorbitant ticket prices by promising an “exclusive” experience in attending, they will also validate broadcasting the event as a charitable means of remotely accessing the experience…making the it not all that exclusive.

I don’t have a problem with creating a more inclusive environment – after all, inclusivity is what makes the EDM community so beautiful. However, video broadcasting creates a type of “inclusivity” leading to the exploitation of the scene. It takes an escapist environment and places it back into the space of reality by projecting it through a screen. Thus, those not physically present to relish in the festivities are able to indulge in soundscapes primarily created for the enjoyment of a more immediate audience. Those within the environment are now thrown back into the jaws of reality, as their experience is now being shared with the rest of the world they intended to leave behind.

This consequently disrupts the organic interactions within an EDM festival that make it such a gratifying experience. I don’t know about you, but cameras hovering around dance floors certainly make me reconsider my behavior. Last year’s live Ultra broadcasts provoked me to haphazardly dodge every camera flying in my direction…mostly because of an irrational fear that my professors were watching the live feed solely to bust me for choosing Miami over class. I have also seen others perceive the sight of cameras as an opportunity to grasp their fleeting moment of fame. In either situation, the undertakings of broadcasting a festival provides reason for those in attendance to be over conscious of their relationship with the surrounding environment instead of simply appreciating it. That, to me, is incredibly damaging.

Although news of this broadcast will be embraced by many who don’t have the means to attend Tomorrowland, the decision to televise this festival is reinforcing a dangerous precedent. Audiences who would otherwise be uninterested in the event are essentially being exposed to product placement by a mainstream entertainment outlet. This will only exacerbate the already worsening factions within EDM festival environments – between those who come for the music and those who attend for the party. This is not the type of evolution I would like to see within a culture founded on pillars of respect and unity. While I plan on tuning into the broadcast, I will definitely be internalizing it with cautious appreciation.

Article written by Anita Obasi

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Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of EDM.com.