Estimated reading time – 14 minutes
It is a turbulent time. The corona crisis has a major impact and will have an even greater impact in the future. This is what Yuri van Geest tells in the 33rd episode of my Dutch podcast Digitaal Vermogen. The coronavirus not only leaves its mark on the physical side, but also on the socio-cultural and entertainment side. Still, you will have to look forward carefully as a festival organizer and event industry. Marcel Pantera of Treat Amsterdam is already carefully taking an advance for the event industry in the period after the corona virus. He wrote an article I would like to share with you as a guest column.
How does the event industry look in the Post-Corona (COVID-19) era
by Marcel Pantera
Human beings are by nature social animals and have been looking for union and entertainment since the beginning of time. Having spent over 30 years in the event industry I know my way around in both of these disciplines. As Mood Manager and Show Director I’m not afraid to call myself a specialist when it comes to what people want, how they behave and what they do in the time leading up to, during and after an event. My extensive experience as an autonomous out-of-the-box thinker is now more useful than ever in both disciplines because the entertainment industry has been hit hard, very hard. So it’s important as an entrepreneur to look at the future of events and hospitality.
What does the visitor want from us in the future?
Our systems have come to a screeching hold due to the current global situation and many of us find ourselves reflecting on what really matters and what is truly important to us. Initially it’s the essentials; your family, friends and whether or not you can provide enough bread on the table in the near future. Secondly, we will think about what our world is going to look like after all of this is over.
To substantiate my vision I use the theory of psychologist Abraham Maslow, despite the fact that critics doubt its relevance in our modern digital age. Maslow created his “Theory of Human Motivation” in 1943 to map out people’s psychological needs. Maslow argued that every living being pursues the same needs. Today, some of the primary basic needs are digital by nature, with the computer and smartphone starring at the top of the list. Naturally followed by fast Internet and Wi-Fi. Digital tools have clearly become a basic need and social contact does not have to be ‘live’ nowadays.
In the upcoming time we are mostly on level 1 and 2.
- Physical needs (eating, drinking, breathing, clothing, shelter, exercise and sex)
- Physical safety & economic independence (need for physical safety)
- Social contact (to belong somewhere, togetherness, union, love)
- Appreciation & recognition (self-image, reputation, self-esteem, self-respect)
- Personal development (self-realization, to do your calling, personal growth)
We are now forced to reconsider our habits, values and believes and reflection is always good. To speak with the words of professor Jan Rotmans: “Are we living in an era of change? Or a change of an era?” Change often leads to resistance but in this case: the smog in China has been considerably reduced with the result of the sky turning blue again, the nitrogen percentage in the air of the Netherlands has dropped seriously and the canals in Venice are also becoming clear again!
Mother Nature is recovering in a short time.
One thing that never will change is the need to meet and keep in touch with each other (Maslow’s level 3).
But how will that moment look like when we get off this rollercoaster ride? And when is that? What happens when we can go outside again? Has the world changed? Have we changed? Will the experiences that we were not missing ever come back? How does the world look like in the Post-Corona era?
Faith in human mankind is under considerable pressure. We often see this on our so called ‘social’ channels, where people feel the constant need to anonymously (or overtly) spread hate, give rude, oversimplified comments and sometimes the town ‘hatter’ rises to digital fame on the world stage. They shoot one tweet after another or decide to lay down on a piano without any clothes on…(yes, this is what a Dutch extreme-right wing minister did to get attention).
But I continue to have faith in people. I can find myself in the vision of Dutch historian and writer Rutger Bregman. He wrote a book with the Dutch title: ‘De meeste mensen deugen’, the English version came out as ‘Humankind’. It’s about during crisis the media profiling mostly the bad and horrible stories, but in real life people are in general genuinely kind to each other and wanting to help. As you can see, this pandemic crisis a lot of people is also helping each other.
There is a start of a solution. Measures are being taken. Our government offers a helping hand to the population and we are not shying away from difficult decisions. I think that is a blessing and a wake-up call at the same time. “Social distancing” is already the buzzword of 2020. However, “social distancing” is something that has been going on online for years. Online there are many tools and programs to maintain contacts, have meetings, share common projects, play games through multiplayer Real Time Gaming and watch streamed content. And yet, this cannot be compared to the real deal. And that’s why we’re going to get back together, physically.
“After all, nothing compares to the unspoken language that only a face-to-face meeting will uncover .”
Chances and opportunities
But HOW will we bring people together soon? WHERE will be there need and WHAT can we give them?
To answer this I made an analysis about the Post-Corona festival-goer. I see the following trend development in different types of visitors (based on my 30 years of experience in the industry).
Target group analysis 28+
- The Anxious one: I will stay at home for now.
- The Cautious one: I want to do some thorough research before I go and I want to know exactly who is there and what is happening.
- The Relevant one: I will go, but I want to know how this event relates to my environment and my loved ones.
- The Participant: I’ll only go if I can be part of the experience.
- The Fomo Feaster: I’m celebrating life and having fun.
There are currently about 1.000 festivals in the Netherlands with 26.5 million visitors per year (figures 2018). Prior to Corona the majority of them consisted of Fomo Feaster (5), less of Participants (4) and even fewer Relevants (3).
Will this last? Does this ‘Corona wake-up call’ effect the way we look at events? How does contemporary hedonism relate to the resulting awareness? Does the festival-goer suddenly get the jitters of so many people surrounding him? Is he now turning against unnecessary waste and energy consumption? Does he feel the need for ‘more intimate’ contact? Does he want more quality or quantity?
“To hug or not to hug, that’s the question.”
An evening out Pre-Corona
“The music goes crescendo, the special FX are doing their magic, we look each other in the eye, sweating. In the break we fall into each other’s arms and when the confetti explodes we are jumping through the roof on the pumping beats. When the next record is mixed in I look at whom I am dancing with. “What’s your name…?” I ask.
The mental impact this crisis has will certainly have consequences for the way we connect with each other and that doesn’t only concern the dance floor at your favorite festival. As a Mood Manager I know that intimacy is crucial to let the energy rise above the dance floor. Do we really think things will go back to normal after this humanitarian crisis? That we’re going to embrace sweaty people that are screaming in your ear? The longer the crisis lasts and the more severe the consequences will become, the fear of the unknown will ensure that people keep their distance for the time being.
New awareness will ensure that the average festival visitor will think twice about how he will spend his free time, with whom and where. The size of the event, the distance between the people / stages, knowing where the emergency exits are, letting loved ones know where you are, the hygiene of the bar, the toilet, etc. But the effect of the ecological footprint is also a question that is becoming increasingly more relevant and perhaps even a reason not to go. What are the risks with regard to my health but also will it contribute to my personal development.
In my opinion new awareness will ensure that the group of 5’s (as an exponent of individualism; nice and carefree partying) will become considerably smaller. There is a lot of room for growth within the 4’s and 3’s and even in the 2’s. These are the people who have an eye for the world around them, like to learn and adhere to the group feeling of ‘together we are strong’. In other words, as an industry we need to rethink the expectations of our visitors. With this we give substance to the 4th level of Maslow: Appreciation & Recognition.
New values arise at the horizon.
“As skin-hungry creatures, we long for intimacy, yet don’t really know how to be intimate anymore“
The need to blend in with the masses was huge but from now on we will think twice before joining big crowds. My estimation is that up to September / October 2020 almost all major events will be cancelled. Do you see yourself in front of a stage with 15.000 visitors? Or would you feel more comfortable in a tent that can only accommodate 1.000 or even just a 100 people? Or do we skip the event for once? When 25% of the visitors skip once or even stop attending all together – because they are no longer comfortable with the status quo – this means that 250 large festivals could cease to exist.
But what will they do? Where will they go? How do you keep your returning visitors? People will obviously go out, but the question is if they’ll find something to their liking they might stay there. Surprise is the essence of going out, escaping from the weekly routine of home / work. If you have choices you want to have ‘new’ experiences.
New needs will ensure that – to get the group of 2’s, 3’s and 4’s in – we have to look at the size of events, the layout of the space and the program.
On the short term there is much more room to gain ground for the smaller events like clubs & music halls again. There are opportunities for new events with smaller stages. Large festivals that add nothing social to the current landscape and do not adapt are facing rough times.
“On stage, I make love to 25,000 different people and then I go home alone.“Janis Joplin
For organizations, show directors and programmers this means that they must give substance to content and offer room for participation. It will not be sufficient anymore to just tag a theme label on an event. There have to be multiple and deeper layers of meaning that appeal to the imagination of the visitor. This will translate into how an event can contribute to your ‘being’.
For example; how does Burningman relate to Dance Valley? Or how does the large main stage show from Tomorrowland relate to the Being-fields area at Booom festival, in Portugal. The sustainability of our colleagues from DGTL is getting close to approaching an ideal, but what will be their next step with regard to the program? Will there be more space for ‘the message’? Whatever that may be.
And this is how we reach Maslov’s 5th level; Personal development.
“Don’t just preach ‘love’, but teach ‘love’“
The discussion is large and complex. We are still in the heat of the moment and there are still many questions unanswered (and unasked).
- How long does it take for the confidence to return?
- What does social distancing mean to B2C and B2B events?
- How do I experience an event?
- How do we greet people? What “state” do I want to be in? How will I deal with alcohol and drugs in this new situation? Do I want to dance or sit?
- This article is mainly about music festivals as ‘the leader’ of festival country, but what about art & theatre festivals or culinary events?
- Looking at the dance floor from the artist’s perspective: How will the light jockey deal with his special FX? What will the video guys come up with? And our DJs and musicians? Does the music go down in energy, or up?
- The financial resources for many will not be enough to travel far or party a lot:
- Will this be the salvation for many smaller clubs?
- Are you going to events for free?
- Can you contribute in other ways than money?
- What can venues do to get through this time and how should they act later?
- How can you make money with smaller events?
- What does the event actually add to my existence / world or is the experience that you bring back different?
- What will be the new DNA of your event? Or new event?
- How do we let the visitor participate?
My goal is to refine this vision in the coming weeks and completing it with fresh creative ideas and new progressive insights. But also to keep asking questions and trying to formulate answers & solutions to make sure we survive as an industry. Let it be the fire to reinvent ourselves, for the Post-Corona society.
We are in this together. Do you want to philosophize, brainstorm about the future or just spar? Let’s talk.
You could text me via +31 6 525 35 001 or mail via email@example.com
“Groove is in the Heart“inspire / empower / celebrate
Note: Wherever I’ve written “he” you can of course also read “she” or “unicorn”.
This article was created by
- Marcel Pantera (Treat); Author, Guest Expertise, Mood Management & Strategy
- Maya Ramhit: Copy & Research
Marcel Pantera is an autonomous out of the box thinker and owner of Treat, an agency for concepts & strategy in the entertainment industry. With 30 years of experience, he is now a specialist in the field of Mood Management and the ultimate Guest Experience.