One of the greatest parts of live EDM performances is it acts as a platform to unleash the deepest caveats of an artist’s creativity. Their artfully crafted music is the main attraction and the soundtrack to the duration of their performance, but the truly exalted artists bring all facets of a live performance together to not only create a mystifying experience for those in the crowd, but also to share with them a piece of themselves; their inner thoughts, their motivations, how they see and perceive the world around them, and how they choose to express themselves.
With that being said, there are two predominant settings for these artists to express themselves for the masses: festivals and tours. Each presents its unique pros and cons for such a demonstration, which leaves one to wonder from both the artist and fan perspective, which platform is more ideal to convey to an audience what you are all about as a musician and who you are as a producer and DJ.
Tours are always an exciting experience, both for the fan and the artist headlining it. For the fans, it’s pretty awesome to say this DJ is coming to my city to perform for my people in our home setting with our own energy. Plus, you know you’re going to hear an abundance of that performer’s personal musical repertoire and really hear what he or she has to offer.
Tours are also very intimate, usually never exceeding a couple hundred or in some cases couple thousand people jam packed into a finite area. Fans feel a closer connection to the artist, and the artist feels the same with the crowd.
With the artists, a tour is a chance to do whatever they want. There is virtually no time limit on a set, they get to design their own stage set up, and get to create and dictate all of their own visuals, lighting effects, pyrotechnics, and everything in between to their liking. Artists such as Porter Robinson and Zedd are elite examples of taking their performance completely into their own hands and creating an immersive and unique experience for those in attendance.
However, there are some downfalls to a tour show. One being the idea of a pre-planned set that you know is the same thing they’ve played multiple nights in a row previously. This can slightly diminish that special feeling of seeing an artist knowing this set wasn’t curated just for you and your audience. Also, during tour shows, you can be assured that the majority of the music played will be from whatever album the tour is promoting; this fixation on hyping the album can create a rift in a crowd where many are loyal followers who enjoy hearing all of the artist’s work, not just the recent album. Plus, as a fan you can almost be guaranteed not to hear new unreleased tracks, featured tracks, or remixes to newly released songs by others.
Festivals are the grandest stages of them all. They’re massive, grandiose, epic, over-the-top extravaganzas that bring in people from all over the globe to one spot for one night or weekend. Festivals are an enthralling experience unlike anything else and are beyond whimsical and magical.
At festivals, there is more openness in the crowd and less of a boxed sardine feeling, as well as usually an openness of being outdoors and looking up at the sky. The stages are bigger and more extravagant, the lighting effects are outrageous, and the pyrotechnics are unrivaled by smaller tour shows.
As for the music, anything is possible at a festival. A DJ has roughly an hour or so to capture your attention, keep it, and entertain it for the entirety of their set in about half the time of a tour set. Nothing is off limits during any festival set. I’ve heard Whitney Houston, the Backstreet Boys, and Celine Dion dropped at festivals. I’ve seen 2 Chainz and Chris Willis brought out to sing. I’ve seen Dillon Francis bring out Steve Aoki and Zedd bring out Flux Pavilion for a little B2B action. I’ve heard future monster hits dropped for one of the first times well before they are unleashed onto the public.
The unpredictability of a festival set is part of the excitement of a festival performance. The energy and vibe is completely different from a tour show as well in the crowd. Everything is just bigger and creates a lavish feeling for everyone involved.
But, that’s not to say festivals don’t have their cons as well. The sheer mass of a festival takes away that intimacy of a tour show that makes them so special and makes you feel a connection to the artist performing. Though they do have some control over lighting and visuals, the artist loses some of their creative expression which the crowd usually also connects to. The stage set-up is also out of their control as it is not theirs to design, yet another contractor of creative expression for the artist. And conversely to a point made earlier, some people do only want to hear that performer’s music, not half their music and half other artist’s music or remixes of their songs.
Tours and festivals are part of what make EDM so great. These live performances have a way of breaking away from the pack of other live music genres because they are so unique and creative. Each have their good and not so good qualities, as is with anything in life.
So, I ask you, which do you prefer: tours or festivals?
From my first festival experience at Buku 2013 I have been a nonstop part of the EDM community and love every aspect of it. I have been writing for as long as I can remember and it's what I love to do, so music + writing is the perfect combination for me.