Beyond Glastonbury: why Gorillaz and Disclosure are in a field of their own

More and more musicians are throwing their own festivals is this the future of live performance or a cynical fad?

Once, musicians were just workshy, financially illiterate types who were quite happy to turn up to a festival, make their quota of onstage welly bants and head on to the next Pieminister zone. Enterprise culture was treated with suspicion. If you put on a festival, you were basically Bob Geldof. And no one wanted to be Bob Geldof. Now, though, a generation raised on startup culture this eras answer to Fairport Convention, or Peter Gabriel or whoever is curating Meltdown each year wants to lean-in at boardroom level.

Artist-curated festivals are bigger than ever. In Sussex this weekend, Disclosure and Rudimentals Wild Life punches in the upper-medium size bracket with 35,000 punters a day expected; while todays Demon Dayz festival, hosted by Gorillaz, has sold out Margates Dreamland. Then theres the xxs Night & Day, which is so popular that, having already been to London, Portugal and Germany, therell be an Icelandic edition in July.

Its an insight into the artists mind, Disclosures Guy Lawrence explains. People feel more connected to the act. Its basically the music from our iTunes. Despite what were told about the hopelessly cut-throat nature of festival economics, Wild Life has been profitable since it started in 2015. That was one of the biggest surprises, says Lawrence. Obviously, wed expected to lose money in the first year at least.

Facing
Facing the music: Disclosure. Photograph: PR

For bands, having your own festival is a chance to set the context in which youre seen (often left to chance in a field of cidered-up morons waiting for Good Charlotte). As Lawrence points out, its also an opportunity for fans to get to know you. In the language of marketing gurus, it also drives brand engagement. Just as surely as Nike Town isnt really a place to buy shoes so much as a place to imprint your brain with the memory of how awesome shoes are, festivals are a way to gather the tribe, then to help them develop a neural network of positive associations. All fine, so long as you come up with the rest of the goods. Notes Lawrence, Im sure if we were to release a dogshit album, people would have less faith in our festival.

But are these events actually fests, or just big outdoor gigs? Like Gorillazs one-off, the xxs Night & Day is effectively a headline set from the band, plus hand-picked supports. In March they ran it as seven nights at the Brixton Academy; roughly the numerical equivalent of one- and-a-half nights at the O2, but cannily dodging its sterility and corporate connotations, putting the our little thing back at the centre.

Either way, more cynical promoters are typically only a few steps behind any trend. It cant be long before the UK gets its first Fyre debacle. And when Ellie Goulding is left explaining why thousands of punters have been stranded on an airfield outside Crewe for 24 hours with only three toilets, we will see what bespoke grovelling looks like.

Wild Life is at Brighton City airport, 9-10 June; Demon Dayz is at Dreamland Margate, 10 June

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/jun/09/gorillaz-the-xx-disclosure-hosting-their-own-music-festivals