Game on for Czech fest Rock for People
Organisers of Rock for People, one of the biggest music festivals in the Czech Republic, has announced plans for an interactive, 3D virtual festival, Rock for People in the Game, on 31 January.
Open to anyone with an internet connection, webcam and microphone, Rock for People in the Game will allow fans to explore the festival area, sing along with both Czech and international performers, dance in front of the stage and interact with other attendees and festival partners.
The festival will act as a complement to, rather than a replacement for, the main, 30,000-capacity Rock for People event, which is scheduled for 10–12 June with performers including Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Weezer and more.
“It is not a replacement for summer 2021, but a unique get-together in a gaming environment”
“We will move our festival to the online world for one day. It is not a replacement for summer 2021, but a unique get-together in a gaming environment,” explains Rock for People (RfP) festival director Michal Thomes. “Those who know the Festivalpark in Hradec Králové can look forward to well-known places, from hangars to the runway, stages or even RfP merch to buy. You can dance, sing out loud, go to a bar, meet other visitors and our team.”
Festivalgoers will be represented by custom-created virtual avatars, while artists including Nothing But Thieves, Crown the Empire, Calva Louise, I Love You Honey Bunny, KennyHoopla and RedZep will play short concert sets.
Despite the events of 2020, Rock for People promoter Ameba Production was able to organise some 25 club and open-air concerts, as well as the Rock for People Home and Kefírek festivals, while showcase event Nouvelle Prague went online. Rock for People, which celebrates its 26th edition this year, is sold out.
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Live music to start 2021 with a (virtual) bang
Tomorrowland, Big Hit and Lost Horizon have each announced virtual New Year’s Eve events to close a year of hugely successful livestreamed events.
Belgium EDM giant Tomorrowland has announced New Year’s Eve celebration ‘31.12.2020’, which will see more than 25 DJs perform across 27 time zones to usher in the new year.
The festival will start at 8 pm local time in all zones and will close at 3 am after performances from Armin van Buuren, CamelPhat, Charlotte de Witte, David Guetta, Diplo, Major Lazer, Martin Garrix, Snoop Dogg aka DJ Snoopadelic and more.
The festival will be hosted on Tomorrowland’s website and performances will be streamed from four stages in Naoz, a brand new digital entertainment venue in which “some of the festival’s most iconic themes” will feature.
Tomorrowland held its first-ever digital festival, Tomorrowland Around the World, in July and saw 1 million fans pay to attend – 150% more festivalgoers than usual.
The group’s management Big Hit yesterday announced that artists from its roster would come together under one banner for the first time for a hybrid New Year’s Eve event.
Big Hit announced that artists from its roster would come together under one banner for the first time for NYE
The concert, presented by Weverse, will be livestreamed and limited seating will be available, in accordance with the government Covid-19 restrictions. If restrictions change, preventing the in-person aspect, the event will go fully digital.
Nu’est, Enhypen, Txt and Gfriend have already been confirmed for the event, with more line up announcements expected tomorrow (12 November).
BTS performed on New Year’s Eve last year, headlining Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest in New York’s Times Square alongside Post Malone, Sam Hunt and Alanis Morissette and more.
Lost Horizon, the VR music venue created by the team behind Glastonbury’s Shangri-La, will also be hosting a special New Year’s Eve event to end a season of virtual events in December.
The season will take place in VR event platform Sansar and will play host to DJs, underground acts and visual artists, before culminating with ‘Chasing Midnight’, a 24-hour global celebration on New Year’s Eve, taking in 12 time zones and 12 countdowns.
Lost Horizon launched its premiere festival in July, a four-stage event in Sansar featuring artists including Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, which reached 4.36m viewers, according to organisers.
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London Mela announces Melatopia festival
The 18th edition of London Mela, the UK festival of South Asian culture, will be held in a virtual-reality venue created by the team behind Lost Horizon.
For 2020 London Mela – usually held in Southall Park, west London – becomes Melatopia, a VR event taking place online on 7 and 8 November 2020, and featuring the same mix of music, dance and culture from the Indian subcontinent and surrounding countries.
As with Lost Horizon, which was seen by four million people in 100 countries, Melatopia viewers will be able to experience live artists, DJs and dance performances in a virtual world created especially for the event, and on a range of platforms, including smartphone, tablet, computer or virtual-reality (VR) headset.
Like Lost Horizon, Melatopia will be built using Sansar, Wookey Technologies’ platform for virtual live events.
“We want to build festivals that the whole world can attend”
Performers will include headliner the Raja Kumari, bhangra legend Panjabi MC, Juggy D and Pandit Ram Sahai Sangeet Vidhyalaya, qawwali star Chand Ali Khan and BBC Future Sounds artist Celina Sharma. All artists will be recorded exclusively for the festival.
Remarkable Productions’ Julian Rudd, producer of London Mela, comments: “Remarkable Productions is really excited to be working at the coalface of digital, VR and online festival production with such impressive partners.”
“In these dark days for artists around the world, Melatopia represents hope and opportunity that there is a future for our sector,” he adds. “Alongside Nutkhut and Mela Partnership, we are proud to present Melatopia, the world’s first truly global VR mela festival of desi culture.”
Lost Horizon’s Chris Macmeikan MBE says Melatopia is a proof of concept that, once built, “like a real venue” can be used multiple times.
“We want to build festivals that the whole world can attend,” adds Macmeikan. “In July of this year, our innovative work with VR and streaming at Lost Horizon attracted over 4m people from over 100 countries.
“Melatopia is an exciting new opportunity to bring this international diaspora of people together”
“That is why we are so excited that our second project is with London Mela. London Mela is already a hub to the entire Asian diaspora. Now, we will create the world’s first global mela together.”
“When a global diaspora meets new technology, change happens,” comments Ajay Chhabra, artistic director of Melatopia. “The South Asian presence in Silicon Valley is completely engaged with Mela, and Melatopia is our way of bringing people together in a time of isolation.
“Change creates challenging new opportunities. With so much change occurring all around us, from the very personal loss of loved ones to the major change artists and communities are facing the world over, Melatopia is our way to keep fearless ambition alive, to be bold, to take risks and to create a new platform for what we know best: the coming together of community and artists to create a new utopia – Melatopia.
“The South Asian diaspora is international, with a footprint on every major continent, in every major city globally. In a time of isolation, Melatopia is an exciting new opportunity to bring this international diaspora of people together, by using new technology and cross arts to form connections to a new and intergenerational audience.”
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Antyfest: Festivals stage virtual event for ants
Eleven music festivals, including Pohoda in Slovakia, Busan Rock Festival in South Korea and Russia’s Ural Music Night, have announced plans for Antyfest: a miniature online festival taking place before an audience of (you guessed) it ants.
The brainchild of Ural Music Night – a multi-genre, 80-venue festival which normally welcomes over 200,000 guests to the city of Yekaterinburg in June – Antyfest aims to showcase festivals which would have happened this summer but for Covid-19 “to insect audiences, in the absence of humans”, say organisers.
These concertgoing ants will enjoy music from artists who should have performed at the participating festivals, on to-scale replica stages based on the actual festival lay-outs, set designs and lighting.
Also taking part are Blue Bird (Austria), International Music Showcase Festival (Israel), Lagos International Jazz Festival (Nigeria), Le Guess Who? (Netherlands), Stereoleto (Russia), Summer Sound Festival (Latvia), Terminal Music and Arts Festival (Serbia) and V-Rox (Russia).
“We secured the site plans and line-ups for all these festivals and have recreated, in detail, scale replicas of the experience that would have taken place”
Antyfest kicks off this Sunday (30 August) at 2pm GMT with a five-hour live YouTube broadcast hosted by Ural Music Night (UMN). This live stream is followed by pre-recorded videos of other ant audiences at shows that would have taken place at the festivals this summer.
Artists performing include Courtney Barnett, Garish, Noga Erez, Ayalew Mesfin, Lola Marsh, Jungle, Ofenbach, Nadav Dagon, Sheep and Electrogorilla+.
Natalia Shmelkova, UMN’s executive director, comments: “Covid-19 has forced the world’s music festivals to cancel or postpone until further notice. Ural Music Night was no exception. Despite this, we had the idea to unite people, music and concerts with Antyfest, a macro-festival of festivals.
“We secured the site plans and line-ups for all these festivals and have recreated, in detail, scale replicas of the experience that would have taken place should these festivals have gone ahead. This will provide our viewers with a brand-new virtual and fully immersive experience in the company of ants.”
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
V Festival returns for 2020 as online event
The UK’s V Festival – which in its heyday drew crowds of 170,000 across two sites in Essex and Staffordshire – will return as a one-off digital event later this month.
V Festival 2020 will be broadcast as a three-part television special on 21, 22 and 23 August. Festival headliners are Olly Murs, Dizzee Rascal and Anne-Marie, who will perform live from the original V Festival site at Hylands Park in Chelmsford, Essex.
In addition to new performances livestreamed from Hylands Park, the ITV2 special will also feature archival footage of past V Festival performances, as well as interviews with artists about their favourite V sets and memories. More performers will be announced in the coming weeks.
Cilesta Van Doorn, executive director of brand and marketing at broadband company Virgin Media, which is behind V Festival 2020, says: “We are thrilled to announce that V Festival will be returning in 2020 with a virtual twist. Festivals are a catalyst for connecting to each other, and they’re often social events as much as they are musical.
“Although we can’t flock to the fields physically this year, we’re so excited to enable people to stay connected not only to incredible live music, but to their friends and families online too.”
The last edition of V Festival, which debuted in 1996, took place in 2017, after which it was replaced by a new event in Chelmsford, Rize Festival. Rize did not return in 2019 following a disappointing first year.
“To come and sing at Hylands Park again was an easy ‘yes’”
“V Festival holds a very special place in my heart […] as not only did I used to go every year with my mates and camp as a punter, but I later got the chance to actually perform there and be invited back four times,” says Olly Murs. “Headlining the MTV stage in 2015 was definitely a career highlight of mine, as was jumping on stage with Madness to sing one of my favourite tracks of all time, ‘It Must Be Love.’ I’ve had some pretty special memories at V, so to come and sing at Hylands Park [again] was an easy ‘yes’.
“It’s great that ITV2 and Virgin Media are bringing V Festival into people’s living rooms, and I’m very glad to be a small part of that.”
Paul Mortimer, head of ITV’s digital channels, adds: “V Festival is a huge part of the UK’s festival history and the ITV2 team are so pleased to be able to play a part in bringing it back to the masses for one year only.
“The star-studded line-up music fans have come to expect from V Festival will be bigger than ever. We’re dipping into the archives to showcase some throwback performances, too, so people can reminisce on some of their favourites memories from past years.”
V Festival 2020 will air on ITV2 from Friday 21 to Sunday 23 August.
Report: £5 is ‘optimum’ price point for virtual shows
A ticket that costs £5 (€5.55) for individual adults, or £10 (€11.10) for families with children, is the optimum average price point for virtual events, new analysis reveals.
For Vivid Interface’s Meeting the Online Opportunity, the UK market research firm asked 1,019 people who had visited at least two visitor attractions in the 18 months prior to lockdown in March 2020 how much they would pay to “watch a [virtual] play, opera, ballet performance or live band gig, or do a class, and so on”.
For “independent adults”, the price point where both revenue and viewership are at their highest is, on average, £5, according to the report. For families with children under 16, revenue is highest at £10, while the biggest viewership is achieved at £5.
The survey also reveals differences in willingness to spend based on age group – for 18–25s and 36–54s the optimum price point is £10, while for 26–35s and over-55s it’s £5 – and gender, with men prepared to pay more for their online experiences than women.
“The right online offer can provide a rapid revenue recovery”
Vivid Interface’s MD, Geoff Dixon, comments: “Nothing beats the live events arena. It’s where we work – and my social life – but organisers have to at least explore the possibility of online augmentation of their offer in pandemic times.
“I believe that the right online offer can provide a rapid revenue recovery without harming the long-term viability of ‘live’. In fact, an online presence can reach new geographies and bring new customers to a brand, attracting people who may in time walk through a physical door rather than a paywall.”
According to Vivid’s research, the Royal Opera House, by charging £4.99 for its first post-lockdown virtual shows, “may not be optimising revenue”; however, Laura Marling’s groundbreaking Union Chapel concert, which attracted an online audience of 6,500 with a ticket price of £12.50 (€13.90), “may be optimising revenue at this price point”.
“Research will help to set out a plan and an understanding of the price-to-demand relationships that are key to successful brand building,” adds Dixon.
Wacken Open Air 2021 sells out
The 2021 edition of German metal festival Wacken Open Air (W:O:A) has sold out, with over 90% of 2020 ticketholders retaining their festival passes for next year.
Wacken, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019, was due to take place this coming weekend (30 July–1 August), with a line-up of acts including Judas Priest, Amon Amarth and Mercyful Fate.
However, the festival was called off, as is the story for the majority of events this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A virtual edition of the event, Wacken World Wide, is taking place from 29 July to 1 August instead, with exclusive live performances from Blind Guardian, Heaven Shall Burn, In Extremo, Kreator and Beyond the Black.
Fans can buy souvenir tickets and festival ribbons to support the event and artists involved, as well as a range of new Wacken World Wide merchandise.
“We would like to express our deepest gratitude for the incredible support you are showing us in these tough times,” reads a post from the Wacken team, announcing the 2021 sell-out.
“We are humbled that over 90% of you have decided to exchange your W:O:A 2020 tickets for W:O:A 2021 with the remaining ones being sold this quickly”
“Said gratitude is deepened since we know that many of you have to deal with your own hardships such as dismissals, short-time work and scarce job opportunities.
“We are humbled by the fact that over 90% of you have decided to exchange your W:O:A 2020 tickets for W:O:A 2021 with the remaining ones being sold this quickly. You can be sure that we will give our very best to turn W:O:A 2021 into an unforgettable experience.”
The Wacken team also say they are “blown away” by the number of fans choosing to donate their tickets for others to use, instead of exchanging them or asking for a refund. These so-called Solidarity Tickets will be given out in the coming weeks.
The first bands for Wacken 2021 will be announced this Saturday, as per tradition.
MDLBeast’s Ahmad Alammary: “Saudis love to dance”
Ahmad Alammary, chief creative officer of Jeddah-based entertainment company MDLBeast, has said the success of its recent Freqways festival further underlines Saudi Arabia’s emergence as a live music market to watch.
Alammary describes MDLBeast (pronounced “Middle Beast”) as an “entertainment and lifestyle experiences brand with a focus on music, art and culture”. Founded by a group of “ambitious professionals [from] various backgrounds and disciplines”, the company’s first event, the MDLBeast festival, took place in December 2019, with performers including Steve Aoki, Martin Garrix and David Guetta, as well as a number of local DJs.
“It was iconic, historic and a truly groundbreaking moment in Riyadh,” recalls Alammary, who also DJs under the name Baloo. “People really enjoyed what we prepared, and we pulled it off in record time.”
In keeping with the times, MDLBeast’s second festival was an all-digital affair: a 12-hour, multi-stage online event that took place from 20 to 21 June. MDLBeast Freqways again featured a mix of international and local talent, with Baloo and compatriots Cosmicat, Antabi Brothers and Jade and Tala rubbing shoulders with the likes of Aoki, Afrojack, Claptone, Maceo Plex and Benny Banassi during the free-to-watch live stream.
Freqways – which ran from 7pm to 7am local time – was seen by more than 650,000 people and recorded 1.2 million total views, with attendees in 185 countries across the Middle East, North America and Europe, according to MDLBeast.
“There are so many talented artists in our region”
The DJs performed live from their own cities, allowing those with an MDLBeast Freqways ‘boarding pass’ to visit destinations including Las Vegas (Aoki), Zurich (EDX), Rotterdam (Afrojack), Beirut (Jade and Tala), Paris (Phil Weeks) and Thee Ain, Saudi Arabia (Baloo).
“We wanted to develop something that anyone could relate to, and that we were all longing for,” explains Alammary. “Discovery, travel, culture, dancing, nature, heritage: all these came into play, and we produced 30 videos in locations around the world.”
“We realised that we needed to give people a sense of escapism,” he continues. “We wanted to remind people, virtually, that there is so much to see around the world, even through a screen – to bring people around the world together through a virtual musical experience.”
A “string of future events” are in the pipeline for MDLBeast, including further Freqways ‘flights’ and more “physical events, once we feel it’s safe again”, according to Alammary.
Events like MDLBeast/Freqways, as well as the growing number of shows in Saudi Arabia more generally, illustrate how “accepting and encouraging of cultural events” Saudi music fans are, he says. (Other recent festival successes include Jeddah World Fest and Winter at Tantora, while artists including Mariah Carey, BTS and Marshmello have played headline shows.)
“It was iconic, historic and a truly groundbreaking moment in Riyadh”
“People all over the world love music,” continues Alammary, and Saudis are no different: “Saudis are musical people; we love to dance!”
While many foreign observers focus on the newfound ability of Saudi Arabia to attract major international artists, Alammary says MDLBeast is committed to using its platform to showcase and developing local talent. “There is a big community of music-lovers in Saudi,” he says, and “Saudi DJs have been seeing great popularity on a local and regional level” after years of playing underground.
“There are so many talented artists in our region,” he concludes, “and we wanted to create a platform that celebrates them and our own perspective of nightlife and entertainment.
“There’s so much more coming, and we’re excited about bringing it to the surface.”
Tomorrowland unveils digital universe for 2020 event
The organisers of Belgian mega festival Tomorrowland have revealed the 3D, virtual world that will welcome fans from 25 to 26 July for a star-studded online edition.
Tomorrowland Around the World will feature more than 60 artists including Katy Perry, Amelie Lens, David Guetta, Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, Armin van Buuren and Charlotte de Witte performing across eight, custom-designed stages in the the virtual festival site, dubbed Pāpiliōnem.
The site, which takes the form of a butterfly-shaped island, has been created by Tomorrowland’s in-house creative team and 3D artists, in collaboration with exterior Dogstudio, a creative studio with offices in Belgium, Chicago and Mexico City.
The world has ten times more polygons compared to a modern computer game and each stage has a 16 square-kilometre surface, with 32,000 trees and plants and over 280,000 virtual people who each have their own individual attributes.
“Our biggest challenge – besides being an obvious enormous technical challenge – is making sure festival visitors will be able to feel they are being part of something larger than their computer and their internet connection,” comments Henry Daubrez, CEO and creative director of Dogstudio.
“People won’t only be immersed in Tomorrowland’s new universe, but they will also be able to communicate with other festival visitors.
“I can proudly say that we are setting new standards for web-based online music experiences, pushing the boundaries of the latest technology that is available, but on the other hand making sure that the platform is even working on a device that is a couple of years old.”
“Combining the live action performances of the artists into gorgeous, high-resolution virtual worlds has been a logistical and technological feat”
The Tomorrowland team filmed the performances that appear as part of the festival at the festival site in Boom, Belgium, with green-screen studios also set up by the Tomorrowland team in Los Angeles, USA; Sao Paolo, Brazil; and Sydney, Australia to film artists based in different world regions.
A full-sized DJ booth was built in the studios and all locations were made to have the exact same set-up, with cycloramas, or infinity walls, measuring 6 metre tall and 8 metres wide.
The performances were filmed on six 4K ultra HD cameras in collaboration with stYpe, which provides camera tracking technology to achieve real-time augmented reality and virtual studio effects in live broadcast.
The final elements of the shows will be assembled by Depence, a platform that visualise elements such as lighting, lasers and other effects, and Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, which allows for photorealistic landscaping and scripting of certain elements.
“How do we bring new experiences from great artists to remote audiences? This is the pressing question that’s being posed, and one that’s now being answered by real-time technology,” says
“What the team at Tomorrowland has been able to do in a very short period of time is seriously impressive,” adds Ben Lumsden, business development manager at Epic Games – Unreal Engine. “Combining the live action performances of the artists into gorgeous, high-resolution virtual worlds has been a logistical and technological feat.”
Fans will navigate through Pāpiliōnem with a PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet. Day tickets for the event cost €12.50, with weekend tickets – including a week of video-on-demand content to relive the experience – priced at €20. Tickets are available to buy here.
The Tomorrowland stages can be viewd on the festival’s Instagram page.
Melvin Benn: ‘I’m very optimistic about 2021’
Amid a challenging summer 2020, Festival Republic is feeling “incredibly optimistic” about next year’s European festival season, managing director Melvin Benn has said.
Speaking to IQ, Benn says Festival Republic (FR) – whose festival portfolio includes the UK’s Download, Wireless and Reading/Leeds Festivals, Germany’s Lollapalooza Berlin and the Republic of Ireland’s Electric Picnic – is working to the assumption that its open-air events will “be back in full force next summer”, most likely after the release of a vaccine against Covid-19.
With UK scientists now said to be 80% sure a vaccine will be ready by September, Benn (pictured) says festivalgoers being immunised against the coronavirus is currently FR’s “plan A” for 2021, with some sort of test-and-trace system also a possibility should the vaccine not be ready in time.
“I take great confidence in the fact that test and trace is a plan B for me,” he explains. “I don’t think we could have imagined the unity the scientific community has showed in working together to find a vaccine against this disease.”
Underscoring his optimism that a vaccine for Covid-19 is close, Benn adds: “If you look back at all the incredible inventions and creations – aeroplanes, cars, medicines; everything we take for granted in our normal lives – and then you think that, cumulatively, there are more scientists alive and working now than ever existed before… Are we going to solve this? Of course we are!”
“I’m already getting companies contacting me and offering tests”
IQ caught up with Benn the week after Wireless Connect, one of two virtual festivals the Festival Republic team has staged this summer (three if you include parent company Live Nation UK’s Isle of Wight Festival) in lieu of the physical events.
“The learnings” from all three, says Benn, are “immense”, and allowed FR to “discover what people respond to” in a digital event.
“Download TV was very much more a linear TV broadcast, just using YouTube rather than a terrestrial channel, and we learnt a huge amount,” he continues. “It was really the first time we’d done an as-live broadcast like that.
“With MelodyVR [for Wireless Connect], that was even more complicated, as we did a 360° virtual-reality broadcast, with artists going into a studios in London and the US. Whereas people were performing in their kitchens for Download…” (The virtual Isle of Wight Festival, meanwhile, was a simpler affair, broadcasting past performances on Sky television.)
While Benn says the definition of a successful year for him is having “fans in a field”, he says the FR team has done “extraordinary things with the three outings we’ve had so far”. “I hope we can build on that in future,” he adds.
By charging for online events, IQ wonders? Benn is tight-lipped, though he concedes that, “as an add-on, [virtual festivals] have potential”. “There’s a lot of discussion going round, but it’s really too early to say,” he continues. “What we do know is that there’s an appetite for live – in all its forms – that can’t be replaced.”
“We’re feeling very optimistic about next year. I think the pent-up demand is absolutely there”
On that topic, Benn notes that of the three 2021 festivals Live Nation/Festival Republic has on sale – IoW, Download and Creamfields – all are “selling really well, so we’re feeling very optimistic about next year. I think the pent-up demand is absolutely there.”
Even in the event of a vaccine not being available by next summer, Benn is adamant that FR, and the wider UK/European festival market, is “in a really good position”.
“I’m already getting companies contacting me and offering tests that are incredibly reliable, and can be done in a short amount of time,” he explains. “At the moment [in July] they’re too expensive – but given that they didn’t even exist in March, I assure you that by the time April or May comes around next year, there’ll be a testing company on every street corner and it will be relatively inexpensive.”
As for how fans might respond to mandatory testing, which has mooted as a requirement for entering festivals in the absence of a vaccine, Benn adds: “I’m very optimistic about human beings. We’re incredibly versatile creatures and we’ll change and do what we need to do in order to participate in the things we enjoy.
“So if that’s the only way, so be it. You can’t beat the experience of a festival.”