Future concerts workshop — Final Major Project

Designers: Alex Newson, Sebastian Ervi
Stage of the project: Exploratory research

In order to better know what should be designed, I got the idea of inviting industry insiders to discuss about what future concerts might look like, and if these speculated concerts are plausible or not, and preferable or not. Alex being in the UK, myself in Finland and our contacts in France, Alex and I ran an online workshop with 4 participants in the music industry: a touring artist, a music photographer, a music journalist and a local DJ in London.

Preparing the workshop

Having never practiced future speculation before, we decided to build the workshop from The Extrapolation Factory’s existing framework, a design-futures research studio based in Brooklyn founded by Elliott Montgomery and Chris Woebken. Instead of the existing futures cone that might be considered too restrictive (Tonkinwise, 2014) we decided to use a more gradual scale, from “probable” to “impossible”. We decided to use miro because of its real-time collaborative possibilities, and its ability to freely move around virtual elements.

Prepared virtual wall of the workshop on miro.

The structure was prepared as follows:

  1. Introducing the project, the workshop and participants introducing themselves. A consent form was signed by everyone.
  2. A set of signals predicating historical and current trends in live music — drawn from papers and news articles found during the initial weeks of the project — was presented to the participants. Participants could add their own signals from their own personal experience.
  3. Future scenarios of a concert in 2050 were individually written, drawn from existing and personal signals.
  4. Participants were asked to rank these written scenarios on a scale of probability.
  5. Participants indicated if the scenarios are subjectively preferable or not. And if not, participants were invited to write down what would be preferable instead.
  6. The workshop was concluded by individually designing a speculative concert poster of 2050.
Introducing the workshop to our 4 participants (names hidden for privacy concerns).

Running the workshop and results

Every participant contributed their own personal thoughts thorough the process and designed their own flyer of a future concert in 2050. I then re-arranged the post-its to summarise the results of the workshop:

  • Probable AND preferable scenarios were to have more small music labels, more inclusive policies and more female artists.
  • Probable but NOT preferable scenarios were that smaller bands can’t possibly tour anymore, “real” concerts being less common and digital-only ones taking over physical concerts.
  • Preferable but NOT probable scenarios were to have more inclusive technologies that would benefit everyone eg. vibrating floors, keeping the “tradition” of touring alive despite future sanitary, environmental and ecological complications, and having an easier international access for smaller bands.
Participants writing future scenarios and placing them on the probability scale on miro.

The designed posters show that two participants expect a digitalisation of concerts being embraced, with a future that mixes physical and virtual concerts on tours and festivals. The two other participants foresee a stronger focus on local communities with live events not limited to music and promoting human rights, equality and local donations.

Posters designed by our 4 participants.

What I learnt

We expect some concerts to become more digitalised and globalised by 2050, and other concerts more focused on local communities and their needs. The industry seems to already head towards more inclusive policies and practices, but a possible loss of authentic physical concerts is feared.

Of course, some limitations exist in these findings. The workshop was run with only 4 participants, which doesn’t allow to draw quantitative conclusions. What is more, the participants used their own subjective experiences and our set of limited preliminary findings to speculate on the possible future of concerts by 2050.

So… We seem to want smaller bands to be able to travel countries in a future context with serious environmental and economical threats. We don’t want digital concerts either. How could we design an experience of touring without digitalising concerts? Does this sound like a wicked problem?

It would be interesting to better understand why artists want to tour and what is really considered as an authentic concert.

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Sebastian Ervi

Sebastian Ervi

MA User Experience Design - University of the Arts London