Crossing the Transmedia Frontier: The Growing Trend of Transmedia in Music Festivals in the United States
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This study documents and explores the emerging trend of music festivals that are incorporating transmedia narratives into their programming. Through a study of music festivals, the concept of transmedia, and the emergence of a transmedia aspect to music festivals, the reader will gain a background to the field. I will then expand with three case study festivals: Midpoint Music Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio, Treasure Island Music Festival, in San Francisco, California, and South by Southwest, a music, film and interactive media festival in Austin, Texas. Through attendance, observation, and interviews of those associated with the festivals, a few trends emerge. This study serves to document these trends, and the place of a transmedia festival in a wider culture of media-consumer interaction. As media becomes more personal and interactive, it plays an increasingly constant role in our lives. A greater level of accessibility to multiple mediums has created a more technologically savvy world, where the general populous knows how to engage with and operate technology with ease and even an intrinsic ability. This allows for information to be shared on several levels, through a variety of mediums and at different points of depth. With this wider range of synonymous data, media producers have been able to supplement mainstream content, like film, with alternative content, such as viral Internet videos, websites with exclusive photograph and interview content, and products such as books, magazines, and director’s notebooks. This change in consumer culture is reflected in many areas of media consumption, including media festivals around the country. The inclusion of what Henry Jenkins calls a ‘transmedia narrative’ into culture has been well documented, especially by Jenkins. On his blog, Jenkins regularly discusses the changing culture and transmedia’s contribution to those changes, including effects on Hollywood, video games, education and music (http://www.henryjenkins.org). Transmedia centers around a larger narrative of the culture, event, or organization that is being represented through mediums. Transmedia specifically builds upon one medium- whether that be a music festival, a movie, or a comic book- and adds in any other form of media: video games, books, mobile phone applications, toys- products that will inspire the customer to engage with the narrative, and interact with the media. While transmedia was traditionally more of an engagement initiative among movies, video games, etc., it has become more widespread and widely defined as an everyday encounter between life, media, and branding. This new media proliferation into consumers’ lives allows for brands such as music festivals to expand their programming and their footprint. In this study, I explore how festivals are using transmedia to engage audiences, and ways in which they are able to financially support these new ventures. Some programming trends that arise include social media integration, digital documentation and sharing on the Internet, art installations, and interactive media elements during the festival. Financial support often comes from corporate sponsors looking to reach a new target audience, and larger umbrella organizations who run the festivals. The study of these trends and the music festivals that are leading them reveals a new way to festival through transmedia integration and audience engagement.