Fancy waving goodbye to queues and hello to hassle-free festivals?


BRIAN BOYDon music

IF YOU’RE AT Electric Picnic you’re probably in a queue at the moment. Queue to get in, queue at the beer tent, queue for the ATM, queue for the toilets. There might even (shudder) be a queue for the “VIP” area.

Console yourself with the knowledge that we’re experiencing the last of ye olde cash-and-queue systems. This summer, music festivals in the UK and US have been using microchipped entrance wristbands – the “wave and pay” cashless music-festival system, using the same technology as the Leap public-transport cards in Dublin – and the reports are very encouraging.

The wristbands use radio-frequency identification so people can find you easily in a big crowd, and the bands can be uploaded with money, so you don’t have to carry cash or cards. And, if you’re the sort of person who can’t be away from a social-networking site for more than a few minutes, you can also use them to check in.

There was a full run-out of the technology at the Wakestock festival, in Wales, last month with all 15,000 attendees using the wristbands. With fewer worries about punters losing valuables, and queuing times for everything cut right down, the festival’s organiser proclaimed them to be the future of festivals.

From next year, if the technology is rolled out as forecast, you will be waved into your festival with a hand-held device, and you’ll have to queue less, as people just point and pay instead of faffing around with cash.

The wristbands also keep the health-and-safety zealots onside, as organisers will know exactly how many people are on site and can adjust their hour-by-hour planning accordingly.

Many big movers on the festival circuit are impressed. Melvin Benn of Festival Republic, which organises Electric Picnic and numerous other events, has said: “I’m certainly going to look at the electronic wristband, there is no doubt about that at all. It’s the way forward, that’s for sure. I’ve got a cashless festival in Norway, and people don’t bat an eyelid there: they think it’s normal.”

Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis is considering introducing the wristbands for next year’s Worthy Farm hop. “It does look as though it’s something better than what we’re doing at the moment”, he says, referring to the current photo-ID system.

As the new wristbands could reduce ticket fraud and crime and improve crowd safety, there should be some urgency in getting the technology off the ground for next year’s festival season. If you were to lose your wristband a simple phone call would cancel it, and if anyone but you tried to use it to pay for something they would be caught.

Eavis, though, has concerns about the Big Brother implications of the wristbands, and some people don’t like thinking that they would be tracked around a festival site all weekend. “ID harvesting” could also be a problem, with companies wanting to get their hands on as many details about potential clients as possible.

Steve Jenner of Intellitix, which provides the software for the wristbands, is upbeat about the reaction so far, telling eFestivals that the technology is “game-changing and is already revolutionising the way festivals are experienced, produced and shared online . . . The praise from fans and organisers this summer backs up our claim that there are no disadvantages. This is win-win for fans, organisers, traders, artists, security and other suppliers. In the US every organiser who used the service has since signed up to multiyear agreements.”

Let’s hope that this is the last summer we have to fiddle around with paper tickets and cash and put up with never-moving queues for everything. This, though, is powerful technology we’re talking about, and its suppliers must ensure it’s not used overly commercially or in any way that infringes on festivalgoers’ privacy.

Say hello to Wave and Pay and goodbye to Wait to Pay.

Mixed bag

Love: “Rock stardom will die because nobody will make enough money any more to be rock stars. Everybody will be jobbing musicians” - Noel Gallagher this week

Hate: Kanye West heavily rumored to be a judge on the next season of American Idol. A colossal waste of his outrageous musical talent

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