IRL vs. URL: How Livestreaming Is Altering the Music Festival Experience

Courtesy of Amazon Music.

Nowadays, there are different ways to participate in a music festival. Thanks to livestreaming, you may not have to spend hundreds of dollars to enjoy your favorite artists playing their one-hour festival set. But don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing like making your way to a music festival. The excitement is high, your planned outfit is on point, and you’ve been refreshing your favorite artists’ social media pages enough to know they’re hyped up as much as you are. And once you are in the venue, you see the magic of festivals: they bring together fans that have similar music tastes and expose you to new artists. But sometimes it’s not all as perfect as you manifest it to be, with less-than-desirable music festival experiences, like bad weather and late set times, which are out of fans’ control. Other times, you simply can’t get that PTO to make the trek to the event. Thankfully, brands like Amazon Music are stepping up with livestreaming options to give fans an option to not entirely miss out on their favorite artists – or historical sets.

To get different points of view on the festival experience, Remezcla spoke with a U.S.-based fan who travels to festivals, a Barcelona-based festivalgoer, and a livestream watcher in Mexico City to get a glimpse at the different ways they enjoyed Primavera Sound 2024, which took place in Barcelona, Spain, at the Parc del Fòrum from May 29 to June 2.

Kayla Wilkes, a graphic designer from Long Beach, CA, said she was privileged to travel from the U.S. to Europe to watch SZA at Primavera Sound. After spending approximately $700 on the flight alone, she says it’s worth it. She likes attending music festivals to “actually feel the energy from the crowd” and seeing the art installations, pointing out the Gaza Mirror installation that live streamers missed online.

While Wilkes made it to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, some people weren’t able to make it to the festival. And let’s be real: in this economy, it’s hard to buy a €325 ticket (approximately $354, plus everything else involved in traveling) for a weekend of pleasure. Cue in Amazon Music’s livestream, which hopes to bridge this gap by giving global audiences a chance to tune in via Twitch or Prime Video for no cost. This option features an opportunity to watch featured festival performances and behind-the-scenes content from the comfort of their home. Other major festivals that Amazon Music livestreams include Mexico City’s Vive Latino and Miami’s Vibra Urbana.

After initially starting in response to the limitations imposed by the pandemic, Amazon’s livestreaming business has expanded the artists’ reach, and in 2022, it began broadcasting Primavera Sound. Now, it’s more global than ever, reaching “millions” of viewers. In a conversation with Amazon Music’s Global Head of Artist Marketing Kirdis Postelle, she points out how going to a music festival is a big investment, and the livestream is needed so fans can have the option of watching from home. “[With the livestream] you get an opportunity to check it out before you actually make that investment,” she tells Remezcla. “Or you get to see your favorite artist perform because you couldn’t – everybody’s not coming to Spain, right? And so it’s a global opportunity for people to see the artist they love perform.”

One of the fans who match Postelle’s livestream audience description is Ursulino Rueda Valdés, a chef from Mexico City who couldn’t make it to Spain due to his work schedule. Primarily watching for Bikini Kill’s historic reunion, he says an aspect of the livestream he enjoyed was the interviews, which he wouldn’t have experienced had he gone to the festival IRL. “At a festival, you’re running around, getting drunk, but you never sit down at the TV to listen to what the band that’s playing is saying or the people who are interviewing bands are saying. And that really enriches the livestream experience,” he tells Remezcla about a pro of watching Primavera Sound digitally.

Though he didn’t watch the band live, he at least dodged the unexpected thunderstorm that hit the festival grounds on Saturday (June 1). In-person attendees — like me — ended up decked out in improvised garbage bag covers to shield themselves from the rain pouring down during Bikini Kills’ set, which came after hours of standing on our millennial feet that we are still recovering from. Maybe sticking to livestreaming wasn’t a bad idea after all…

However, for other festival goers, the wetness was part of the magic of the experience, like full-time doctor and part-time rocker Diana Matos from Peru, who now resides in Barcelona. Watching the show online wouldn’t have given her the once-in-a-lifetime moment of watching PJ Harvey sing “Down by the Water” while getting soaked by the third night’s rain or catching the previously mentioned Bikini Kill’s historic reunion show fittingly backed by sparse lightning that complemented the singer’s punk rock screeches. For her, witnessing these unique moments in person were an unmatched “full body sensation.” 

Villano Antillano’s intimate show at the Red Sound Sessions stage the day before (May 31) adds to the “you just had to be there” feeling. Lining up an hour before to watch a rap show with about 150 people inside a massive festival was something I’d never experienced before. But watching La Villana connect with her fans in a more intimate way as opposed to on a huge stage made it all worth it. Seeing her rap new lyrics while reading from her cellphone, flirt with her audience, and make small talk with us throughout her set gave us a raw look at her essence, which otherwise we’d only see through our small screens. 

At the end of the day, it’s not all about which is better or worse but what works for you. While personally navigating the thrill-inducing music festival, I realized that festival-goers and livestream watchers both experience a degree of FOMO whether they’re on the ground or back at home. But isn’t that just how we humans naturally are? The grass always seems greener on the other side, even when you’re having a good time. At least now, we have more ways to get the best bang for our buck and time.

Travel and accommodations were provided to the author by Amazon Music for coverage purposes.