Initial field research — Final Major Project

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

While in Finland during the summer, I got the opportunity to attend a music festival as a photographer. I took advantage of my free time during the day to research for the project at the same time. My first time seeing live music again after 18 months! Alex and I also decided to analyse some online concerts in order to highlight the differences between online and physical concerts.

1. Järvenpää Soi 2021 Festival

Järvenpää Soi is an annual music festival held in the small city of Järvenpää near Helsinki in Finland. The 2021 line-up exclusively consisted of Finnish artists. I was taking videography for the band Heroines and got on stage to take photos of Mikael Gabriel, a famous Finnish rapper.

A few photos taken at the festival.

Research methods

After having compared several research methods to use, we decided that I would use three methods to collect information at the festival: AEIOU (Martin and Hanington, 2019) to collect a variety of information while being immersed in a live music environment ; The Love Letter & the Breakup Letter (Martin and Hanington, 2019) to gather insights about what people value in festival experiences ; and Personal Inventories (Martin and Hanington, 2019) to relate brought objects to their context.

Research methods used from Martin & Hanington, 2019.

We decided to adapt the two last methods as simple prompt questions to quickly and informally ask attenders: “What is the best thing about your festival experience so far? And the worst thing?” and “What items did you bring for the festival?”. We planned to film attendants to record their responses and the objects they brought.

Results

Walking around the festival backstage, on stage and in the audience area allowed me to note information from different perspectives. I also mapped how the festival space was organised with the different environments.

AEIOU analysis and mapping of the festival space.

When approaching attendants to ask them our prompt questions, I was suprised by how reluctant many were. At first, no one agreed to be filmed, even with their face cut off. I quickly abandoned the idea of filming and began taking notes instead. Even then, most of the approached people refused to answer questions. Thankfully, 5 attendants were willing to give me a few minutes of their time.

When asking about the best and the worst thing about their experience, attendants shared how they loved to be back at “real” live gigs. It is interesting how much the weather, an external factor, influenced the experience as well. Other activities such as food seemed to be important, particularly when the music was not enjoyed.

When asking people about their personal inventories, 3 out of 5 didn’t bring anything. I interpret this as attendants not willing to carry things on them in order to fully enjoy the festival experience. One attendant brought a headband that represented a sense of community and social integration for her. The same attendant also admitted smuggling a “prohibited” substance to enhance her experience…

Items brought by attendants.

2. All Time Low on Veeps (online concert)

As part of the research on online concerts, I analysed All Time Low’s performance at Sad Summer Fest in the United State, transmitted live on Veeps. I also watched a performance at Alcatraz Festival broadcasted on YouTube Live to benchmark both platforms. My teammate Alex did the same with Don Broco on MomentHouse.

Research methods

For online concerts, we also used AEIOU to be able to directly compare tables with physical concerts. Unfortunately, due to time difference, I couldn’t attend All Time Low’s concert live and had to watch it on replay the day after — an intriguing feature of online concerts! This did not allow me to ask questions to attendants. As these were our first online concerts, we took the roles of attendants to analyse our own experiences as well.

Online concerts typically have a waiting room with a countdown before the concert starts. All Time Low on Veeps.

Results

I noted what made me feel integrated to the performance and what did not. I was positively suprised by the sound quality and how well the sounds from the stage and the crowd were mixed together. I slightly felt “being there” when the camera view was within the crowd jumping in rhythm with the music.

View from the crowd.

On another hand, transitions were abrupt, from the waiting room to getting at the concert, and then when the stream ended. I noted that the band interacted multiple times with the crowd, while forgetting that live streamers were also part of the audience. As a live streamer, I couldn’t interact in any way, such as asking for an “encore” or catching flying guitar picks. This made the experience much more passive than at a physical concert. Live streamers also couldn’t see the opening acts of the day, which created disconnection. Lastly, constantly changing camera angles made the experience less authentic in my opinion.

AEIOU analysis of the online concert.

After filling the AEIOU table, I immediately noticed how much emptier it was for the online concert. In fact, a noticeable amount of activities, environments, interactions, objects and users were missing when compared to a physical concert, which led to a lot less fulfilling experience.

What I learnt

  • Attendants are not willing to be filmed, which I perhaps naively thought would be the case because the event was public. This might be due to a lack of trust, or due to cultural differences with my past experiences in France.
  • In the case of a festival, a lot of importance is given to other activities and not only to the music.
  • A sense of community and social integration, already discussed as an important part of live music in literature (Jones and Bennett, 2015 ; Hopkins et al., 2016 ; Brown and Knox, 2017), can be facilitated through objects.
  • Online streaming platforms provide a space to watch a concert happening live, but not really “attend” or “experience” it and thus disallow the co-production of the music experience (Strandvad and Pedersen, 2014). But could this become eventually the case by taking the elements that created connection and working on the ones that created disconnection?

References

  • Brown, S.C. and Knox, D., 2017. Why go to pop concerts? The motivations behind live music attendance. Musicae Scientiae, 21(3), pp.233–249.
  • Hanington, B. and Martin, B., 2019. Universal methods of design expanded and revised: 125 Ways to research complex problems, develop innovative ideas, and design effective solutions. Rockport publishers.
  • Hopkins, N., Reicher, S.D., Khan, S.S., Tewari, S., Srinivasan, N. and Stevenson, C., 2016. Explaining effervescence: Investigating the relationship between shared social identity and positive experience in crowds. Cognition and Emotion, 30(1), pp.20–32.
  • Jones, A. and Bennett, R.J., 2015. The Digital Evolution of Live Music. Chandos Publishing.
  • Strandvad, S.M. and Pedersen, K.M., 2014. Co-producing a festival experience: a socio-material understanding of experience design. In Experience Design: Concepts and Case Studies (pp. 105–112). Bloomsbury Academic.

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Sebastian Ervi

Sebastian Ervi

MA User Experience Design - University of the Arts London