Music festivals were never just about the music.
Call it what you want, but ZoukOut 2017 revealed their understanding of exactly that. Amidst a sea of rising costs, especially DJs fees, ZoukOut seems to have shifted to focus on lifestyle experiences, instead of banking purely on a music lineup. It is a welcome move that moves organisers away from being at the mercy of DJ’s agents who dictate price trends and are setting sky-high fees for the acts.
According to a poll by Huffington Post in 2015, only 39% of festival-goers stated that they were mainly going to a music festival for the lineup – a representative trend for any music festival experience demanded, especially in recent years.
In a digital age where music and streaming services are so readily available, it’s important to note that the expectations of festival-goers have evolved much from the days of other iconic and historic music festivals like Woodstock (1969) and Monterey Pop (1960s). The emphasis on live music acts at music festivals from that era has, today, shifted towards the emphasis on how someone’s attendance at a music festival can benefit their Instagram profile.
It’s not difficult to understand why millennials who want to attend music festivals would focus more on the experience and aesthetic of the festival location over the actual music offered. These were the kids who were born with the privilege of (relatively) cheap and easy access to music, thanks to the myriad of music streaming choices online.
Attending a festival is now a matter of bringing private streaming to life in a fun and massive setting with a strong community. So how did Zouk adapt this trend this year?
Diverse DJ Lineup
In the context of Singapore, other international music events like Ultra Music Festival and Formula 1 Grand Prix makes choices of EDM artists even narrower for our local EDM festivals. Gone are the days where ZoukOut could cater to 3 stages, but even in dealing with market demand, this meant scaling back on a couple of A-list headliners. This year’s festival still attempts to cater to a gamut of different sounds to cater to different tastes: Hip-Hop (Rich Chigga & Higher Brothers), Trance (MarLo), Trap (Yellow Claw), commercial EDM (DJ Snake, Marshmello etc), Tech / House (Claptone & Gui Boratto) and Techno (Amelie Lens).
Aside from Djakarta Warehouse Project (DWP), 808 Festival and other shows with similar lineups have popped up in the region, including Creamfields (HK edition) and pop-up acts in Malaysia, like TWP Live with Marshmello over the same weekend as ZoukOut.
International acts may get repetitive around the world, but it’s how Zouk as Singapore’s top club portrays these acts in their homegrown music festival that keeps things uniquely Singaporean.
Zouk’s move to splurge on what they claim to be their “most elaborate stage ever” may cause tongues to wag, but from a macro perspective it’s undoubtedly making a statement the rest of the world to peek into Singapore’s version of the nightlife scene.
Neon Tropical Aesthetic
Sponsored booths at music festivals might as well be called “experiential booths” for the interactive and often ‘gram-worthy’ experience it provides anyone who walks through.
At ZoukOut 2017, the experiential booths by Martell NCF and DBS bank kept consistent with the festival’s neon tropical theme. According to Zouk, a mood board for the main theme was drawn up this year and passed on to the two agencies who proceeded to conceptualise the booths based on that concept.
Representation Of Singapore
Zouk collaborated with designers from Mother Of Design (Thailand) to build a stage – which, till now, people are still undecided if it’s a lion, tiger or dragon. Whatever animal, real or mystical, we just know it is extremely spectacular up close, representative of our Lion City and Asian-clad designs – and even shoots lazer eye beams. Beyond the commissions by Singapore Tourism Board and winning awards for being one of the top clubs in the world, Zouk Club and ZoukOut is iconic to Singapore’s nightlife ultimately because it is closest to us in terms of how it is run and how it constantly defines Singapore culture.
Singapore creatives and artists get not only an opportunity to curate the experience for festival-goers in Singapore, but the millions of viewers on social media who may very well be looking into Singapore culture for the very first time.
This affordance of even owning the platform to showcase Singapore nightlife is primarily because ZoukOut is not just another Singapore edition of an international music event, but a Singapore-based music festival that has its potential to stretch beyond our shores, as it has already done so regionally in the Philippines and Hong Kong.
The statement of Singapore culture through the spectacle of a locally-based music festival, of similar standards to international festivals, has to be timely and strategic in the experiences they incorporate – and how they want Singapore to be represented.
The world looks on.