Festival Materialities Assembling Cool from chaos


  • Large, shared, communal gatherings innate to human existence
  • “Festival” showed up in 16th century "festus” meaning “joyus”
  • Music festivals have been around since Ancient Greece.
  • However, the relationship between music and lived experience has been left under-explored (Olsen and Gould 2008)


  • Woodstock, 1969; paved the way for music festival culture in post-modernism
  • Since then internet has collided with music - creating surge of mega-festivals
  • A lot of things to manage: music artists, media, security, wristbands, food vendors, water supplies, bathrooms, emergency medical services, attendees, volunteers, trash/recycling, sound equipment, stages

CONTEXT: Lollapalooza - Chicago, Illinois

RESEARCH QUESTION: How are festivals able to keep their “relevance” or cool with so many different items to manage?

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  • Optimism
  • Industrial Revolution


  • Skepticism
  • Many perspectives to all facts of knowledge
  • Something can be something, and not something at the same time.


Stage 1: Historical Analysis

Stage 2: Fieldwork

  • Depth Interviews: 26
  • Ethnographic Interviews/Observations: 98
  • Informant Age Range: 11-73
  • Male n = 62 and Female n = 67
  • Total Text: 300 page document


  • Coded and recoded document, separately and together
  • Hermaneutic Part-Whole Analysis used (Thompson 1999)

Theme of Paradox Emerged

Specifically, the different elements all interact to create the tension of 7 paradoxes.

Involvement Motivation Paradox

Intrinsic Motivation vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Group Culture Paradox

Collectivist Culture vs. Individualistic Culture

Consumer Wisdom Paradox

Mature Consumers vs. Immature Consumers

Festival Stability Paradox

Festival Gambles vs. Festival Consistency

Music Types Paradox

Traditional Music vs. EDM Music

Marketing Approach Paradox

Cool Festival vs. Commercialized Festival

Festival Location Paradox

City Setting vs. Rural Culture


- A pattern of complementary tension materializes: ying-yang

Limitations & Future Research

Future Research Questions: 1) How does the materiality of experiential marketing shape, frame, add to and/or detract from the festival experience? 2) What makes experiential marketing a success? 3) What does commercial sponsorship add/detract from the assemblage of a music festival experience? 4) How does the materiality of smart phones, web 2.0, and/or augmented/virtual reality shape, frame or limit the festival experience?

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