In a world dominated by the need to have information in an instant, there’s one concept which can be quite frustrating for many to grasp: waiting. When you’re constantly surrounded by social media platforms which update their feeds faster than you (or Claudio Bravo) can save a word document, everything you’d ever want to know about something seems to be right around the corner. The same applies for the music industry, in particular the way in which festivals have adjusted their marketing campaigns in the last fifteen-odd years.
Whereas you’d first wait for a small slither of names week after week (something Rock Werchter still does), you’re now hit right in the face by a neon poster with varying fonts and as much as information as one can process in one go. 90+ new names? Check. A list of all available food and drink stalls? Check. A multitude of different colours and wacky (hip) drawings. Check, Lollapalooza. Festival announcements tend to have it all these days, which is both good and bad. It’s good because it gives the people what they want as soon as they can get it, but in turn it’s also bad because it turns us into a group of F5-happy refreshers who lose all patience and spend all day longing for more. It’s very cliché anno 2017 to write an article about the negative effects of the internet, but I’m simply trying to prove a point here away from the clichés.
That’s why it’s so refreshing to see a festival practically avoid all silly marketing techniques and make people actually wait to find out who’s playing. Dutch weekender Pinkpop does this every year, and has done so since its early beginnings in the 1970s. Every year, 1500 people congregate within the confines of Amsterdam’s legendary Paradiso as they all (alongside all the people who now tune in at home) find out who will be taking to the stage in Landgraaf three months later. This year, as per usual, only a small handful of names have been announced for the festival: headliners Justin Bieber, Kings of Leon and Green Day as well as Martin Garrix, System of a Down and The Ten Bells. Compare that to Rock am Ring (same weekend), which has unveiled nearly 100 names. Is that exciting, so far in advance? In a way it is, but isn’t it more fun to count down to one particular day and watch the whole thing unfold day-by-day and act-by-act? It adds a whole lot more excitement to the festival marketing process, and it also gives Pinkpop’s true followers a chance to experience the weekender on a more personal level whilst enjoying performances from a handful of festival performers. It’s all fair and well to let a marketing team do their thing as they schedule post after post, but it’s far more entertaining to be able to pick up a microphone and ask the people behind the festival important questions. Not that this ever happens, because debate instantly ensues after the standard “how much is beer this year?” question gets asked and Pinkpop boss Jan Smeets explains that it won’t hike in price. It’s a discussion closer, yet at the same time it’s also one which unifies the Paradiso in a collective of cheers.
There’s something cathartic and gratifying about standing in a room full of festival lovers as each new announcement gets cheered on. Not only is it nice to see equal emphasis placed on each act, but it’s also a good indicator for organizers to see who goes down well with fans, and who doesn’t. Last year, Bring Me the Horizon and Lionel Richie garnered huge cheers, with Faith No More doing the same in 2015. Let’s not even mention 2014, where The Rolling Stones’ headline slot was announced onstage in the Paradiso by means of a (actually quite cheesy) red phone. There’s no other event like it, which is what makes it stand out. Only six of the 50+ names for Pinkpop’s 2017 edition have been announced, and it’s been getting people guessing and guessing to a point where official prediction games with cash prizes have been launched by online forums (see here). It also takes place a few days before tickets go onsale, which means that fans obviously know exactly what they’re buying into without it selling out before the first name is even announced (some people are less lucky) and being more disappointed than an old-school Suicide Silence fan. Not that they’ll make much of an appearance, though; rather, you can definitely expect Pinkpop to travel down a poppier path this year which looks set to include the predicted likes of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Chef’Special and Clean Bandit.
What I’m essentially trying to say is that Pinkpop are actually doing something exciting here by maintaining such a longstanding tradition and not giving in to the “digital age”. It may be old fashioned and, in the words of many a festivalgoer, “boring”, but what’s wrong with upholding something you’ve done for years? They’re a major festival, but they’re still sticking to the spirit of what made them such a loveable festival all the way back in the 1970s. Jan Smeets may have deferred to a more mascot-like position while MOJO does the important work, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Pinkpop are holding off from the instant gratifications of social media by making today’s generation do something they don’t really want to do: wait. The Pinkpop press conference may be seen as outdated and unnecessary by many in such a digital world, but it’s still as important as ever when it comes to upholding some kind of tradition and doing things in a way which other festivals don’t bother attempting. Let’s hope that the press conference is here to stay for years to come.
The Pinkpop Press Conference takes place this week Wednesday (8 March) at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. It starts at 12pm, and you can follow proceedings in full on our Facebook page.