Music fans dig deep for a brand new event

Crowd-sourcing comes to the festival world as Alt-Fest funds roll in

Fri, Apr 19, 2013, 01:00

As the Electric Picnic saga plays out in the courts, maybe it’s time for a complete re-think of the festival experience. How about tearing up the rule book and devolving all power back to the people who pay for it all in the first place – the fans?

It may sound quixotic, but even a cursory look at what’s been happening with Alt-Fest could persuade a person that this is an idea whose time has come.

Husband and wife team Dominic and Missy Void wanted to put on a festival of “alternative music” (scary goth/metal bands basically). But they also wanted festival-goers to have a say in who the headliners would be, what food and drink would be available, how camping would be organised, the temperature of the water in the on-site showers, etc.

Using Kickstarter, they sought upfront investment from their potential audience. They were looking for £30,000 to get rolling, but as of last week they had raised £61,672: people really embraced the idea of having a say in the festival.

Alt-Fest is set to take place in August 2014 over three days in the grounds of a big country house in Northamptonshire, between Birmingham and London. It’s already made music festival history by using Kickstarter. Now everyone will be watching to see how it will work. The very idea of a fan-funded festival, with no promoters involved, is scarily liberating.

It’s not yet quite clear whether Alt-Fest can dispense with sponsorship and media partnerships altogether (that will depend on how much they can raise), but all concerned know that the more money raised through Kickstarter, the better the headliners and facilities will be.

All contributors get a say in curating the festival and, so far, more than 28,000 votes have been cast in an online poll to decide every detail of the event – who to book, what non-musical activities to have, the price of tickets and even what logo should be used for the festival.

What is drawing people to financially support the event is that they get the chance to detail their past festival experiences and use them to help plan for Alt-Fest.

“We’ve been surprised and amazed at the support and interest,” says Dominic Void. “There is a real feeling from people who regularly go to festivals that there might be a better way of doing it. People are keen on the idea once they understand that they can genuinely effect how the festival is run and what acts play. People feel empowered by being able to influence decisions and ideas.”

The fine details – such as, are your ideas and suggestions worth more if you pledge more money? – remain to be ironed out, but because the organisers are constantly emailing those who have already contributed, there is a sense that you have a say in every single decision.

Potentially it’s a game-changer. We’ve already seen how crowd funding has been used by acts to bring out albums. Amanda Palmer raised a massive $1.2 million (though not without controversy) when she passed around the electronic begging bowl.

Here’s to the brave, pioneering goth-metal community. Even if Alt- Fest ends in mascara-soaked tears, they are sticking it to the man.