If there are any virtual event planners left who still believe that the viewing public will accept and forgive technical issues associated with live streams and platform access, Emily Eavis’ experience with Live at Worthy Farm should evaporate such naivety quicker than the last roll of Andrex at the festival toilet-block.
The backlash from thousands of performance-starved music lovers, who had paid £20 per faulty access code and found themselves locked out of Saturday’s pay-per-view from the Glastonbury festival site, was brutal and ever-so British.
The Tory MP for Chandler’s Ford even waded in on Twitter to label the Driift Live platform a ‘shambles’.
While countless memes, angry jibes and japes about how waiting has always been part of the Glastonbury experience, and whether Invalid Code would be headlining the Pyramid Stage in 2022, filled-up the social feeds – no doubt stinging an organiser just trying to keep the festival afloat for future years.
Driift posted a link to watch the stream without a code two hours into the five-hour festival set, before promising that those who had purchased the 7pm Saturday streaming ticket would be able to access the two Sunday encore sessions, as well as a streaming link that lasts until 30 May.
When it was all over, the production company, which has had past successes with Kylie’s Infinite Disco stream and Andrea Bocelli at Christmas, went a step further – offering refunds to anyone whose spoiled suburban viewing party had changed their minds about supporting live music, or Glastonbury’s three main charitable partners, Oxfam, Greenpeace and WaterAid.
Of course, Emily Eavis was also extremely apologetic but from a content perspective, she has nothing to be sorry for.
The ‘film’ was a homage to the world’s greatest music festival. The sets, staging, camera angles and performances were slick, other-worldly and inspired real-life longing for the day we can once again stand shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the Pyramid Stage and experience the rush of live music as it fills our souls from this spiritual field in Somerset.
When executed well, this is the power of virtual events – to bridge the emotional and experiential divide between the screen and the performance.
Coldplay, performing from the heart of the Pyramid field and surrounded by the illusion of light as if coming from a throng of mobile phones being held aloft by an invisible audience, transported us into a flag-waving crowd under a rainy sky full of stars.
It’s a hell of a trek from the Pyramid field to Glastonbury’s Stone Circle but Damon Albarn’s hypnotic wizardry not only transported us there in a heartbeat, it also cast a spell that stopped us shouting at the screen for Beetlebum and Charmless Man and had us instead, transfixed under a giant inflatable moon for 40 minutes of his most obscure and haunting tunes.
By the time the stream concluded with DJ Honey Dijon on a rave bus in the festival’s Block9 area, the only echoes of the earlier technical shut-out were those still emanating from Twitter and The Telegraph’s music critic, who had labelled the whole thing a farce by 9.34pm and was now presumedly watching the Italian’s take Eurovision.
The fact however that he would have been joined by thousands of other frustrated and unforgiving ticket-holders is reason enough for virtual event planners and suppliers everywhere to test, test and test again to ensure that platforms withstand the demand and that the potent cocktail of technology and human error doesn’t derail digital’s ability to bring-to-life content we’ve all long been yearning for.
Sunday morning’s hangover would have been felt equally by both the Eavis family and Driift Live. It’s unfortunate and disappointing that the streaming platform may take a little longer to recover, both in terms of its reputation and from the vile abuse it suffered online.
Personally though, I hope the experience hasn’t dampened Emily Eavis’ enthusiasm for what streaming can offer Glastonbury in the future. With how different generations consume programming, it could still offer an answer to greater reach, engagement and introducing a whole new audience to the power of performance from what will always be a very special place.