Even though technologies allow people to enjoy their favorite songs via smartphones or computers, live concerts are still very popular. Moreover, after spending months at home during quarantine, many people are even more eager to spend time outdoors. However, Covid-19 put a halt to many large-scale concerts and festivals worldwide, making musicians seek new formats for sharing their music. For instance, some Italian performers organized small shows on their balconies, cheering their neighbors during the lockdown (Taladrid). Now, the situation is much better, and performers may occupy bigger stages, but the fight against the virus is still not over. I think, instead of designing one big zone for music festivals which might be closed any moment a new wave of Covid or some other virus strikes, it might be wiser to organize smaller ones. Surely, their capacity will be minimal, but so will the risk of their closing. Therefore, I believe exterior music venue design should focus on small-scale sites.
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Another argument in support of smaller exterior music venues is their accessibility. Firstly, a limited number of artists can perform at big festivals. As it is easier to organize a small music show than a large-scale festival, the frequency of potential performances is higher. Small venues can operate every day, any season, if the weather allows it. Thus, smaller venues give more opportunities for a larger number of musicians to show their talent. Secondly, not all performers and listeners have a chance to travel far due to financial reasons or virus spread risks. Nevertheless, local outdoor venues will always be available for them.
Diversity and Local Trends in Music
As small venues are accessible to a larger number of artists and bands, it increases the diversity of performances in terms of the types of shows, music genres, and popularity of the artists. Unknown bands have a higher chance of performing at a small venue than at a big music festival. It is also beneficial for the public as people get tired of global mainstream trends and constantly seek something new. Way et al. noted a raised interest in local music since 2014. Its supporters and fans formed a cultural movement that affects global music preferences and the choice of live music shows. At the same time, large-scale music performances can also include local music, and small concerts and show still seem better suited for presenting authentic local sounding.
Informal Trend in Exterior
Another cultural movement that affects exterior music venues is informality. It is expressed in the way people interact there and the design itself. Modern outdoor music venues, such as Coachella or Dora Park, where Kappa FuturFestival takes place, have a very simple structure: the stage and a vast field for the audience (Derrick May @ Kappa FuturFestival 2014). The proscenium arch, which divides the stage and the audience, is quite narrow and, in some places, is not strictly outlined. For instance, Sugar Mountain is very slim and almost non-existent, making the audience closer to the performer (Honey Dijon Boiler Room x Sugar Mountain 2018). People there have no strictly assigned places and freely surround the DJ. While it makes it easier for the artist to interact with the audience, it might not be the wisest choice from a safety perspective. Thus, I would not remove the distance between the stage and the audience in my ideal design.
In the pandemic and even in the post-pandemic era, exterior venue designers should consider such safety factors as social distance. To enable it and provide more space for performers and the audience, one can expand the usual size of festival sites. However, it seems more reasonable to focus on smaller venues where it is easier to maintain safe social distance. Moreover, the risk of infection is undoubtedly less at sites with hundreds of listeners than during a huge festival with thousands of people.
One should remember that people who visit outdoor performances do not only come to listen to music but also seek new opportunities for socializing. After the lockdown, the need for interaction and communication with other people significantly increased. Therefore, designers of new outdoor music venues should acknowledge it. It might seem a paradox, but according to Westermark and Donovan, the experts from the Gensler Research Institute, it is a small venue that gives more opportunities for wholesome communication. They also suggest that outdoor venues should have zones for socializing and recharge. I would follow this recommendation and include some social space in designing an ideal outdoor music venue.
Different clubs, restaurants, hotels, parks, and breweries can launch their own places for music performances. They can be temporary and organized for specific events or mini-festivals, or they can operate all year round and host concerts and shows of various local music bands. Some organizations have already adopted this trend either temporarily or permanently. During the pandemic, the nightclub Jammin Java gave music performances at the parking lot (Dalphonse). Virginia’s official travel blog also offers a number of exterior music venues located in the territory of hotels, breweries, restaurants, and parks (Winfree). In my opinion, such sites are perfect for enjoying music and socializing in a safe way.
as little as 3 hours
In conclusion, I suggest that designers of exterior music venues focus on sites for smaller-scale events. Firstly, they will provide more opportunities for local unknown artists and bands to share their music and for the audience to visit new original performances without having to go far away. Secondly, such a format is optimal for keeping people safe during the pandemic and shortly after it is over. These small live concerts can be hosted by hotels, clubs, restaurants, breweries, parks, or various institutions that can provide a venue for musicians.
I do not suggest that large-scale festivals should not be held at all and that such sites should not be developed. My idea is that currently, they might play a secondary role compared to local venues allowing more opportunities to enjoy the music and interact with other fans safely.
Dalphonse, Sherri. “Music Venues May Be Open, but Outdoor Concerts Are Still Big.” Washingtonian, Web.
“Derrick May @ Kappa FuturFestival 2014 // Day 2 //” YouTube, uploaded by Kappa FuturFestival, Web.
“Honey Dijon Boiler Room x Sugar Mountain 2018 DJ Set.” YouTube, uploaded by Boiler Room, Web.
Taladrid, Stephania. “Meet the Italians Making Music Together Under Coronavirus Quarantine.” The New Yorker, Web.
Way, Samuel F., et al. “Local Trends in Global Music Streaming”. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, vol. 14, no. 1, 2020, pp. 705-14, Web.
Westermark, Kai and Stella Donovan. “The Future of Live Music Venues.” Gensler, 2021, Web.
Winfree, Ryan. “Safe in Sound: Outdoor Music Venues in Virginia.” Official Tourism Blog Of The Commonwealth Of Virginia, 2021, Web.