VH1 Supersonic: Flash sales, and what they tell us of how music festivals are perceived in India

Lakshmi Govindrajan Javeri

Sep 07, 2018 15:59:15 IST

VH1 Supersonic Festival is traditionally held in February every year. In fact, concertgoers are still reeling from witnessing the inimitable Incubus live earlier this year, making it one of the top international gigs to have been organised in 2018. And tickets for the 2019 edition are already on offer from 5 September in a two-day flash sale.

Flash sales haven’t been unusual for Supersonic though selling the tickets five months prior to the event is a first for them. Back in 2016, the organisers skipped that year’s edition and instead announced a flash sale in November the same year for the February 2017 outing. Priced at Rs 1,500 for a three-day festival, no artists were announced; just a commitment to date and venue. In 2017, the flash sale was held in October for the 2018 edition of the festival. And this year, it’s been advanced by another month while the festival continues to be held in February the following year. Perhaps in a few years they’ll hold the flash sale for the following year, during the on-going festival itself, who knows…

COST FACTOR

It isn’t uncommon for concert organisers in India to hold flash sales three-four months prior to the actual festival.

The NH7 Weekender, which models itself on a lot of famous international multi-genre music festivals, pioneered this flash sale concept in India. Heavily discounted to those who buy the tickets during the flash sale, this ensures a certain footfall even before the line-up is announced. The tickets are priced below the season ticket cost, making it very lucrative to buy them at what seems like a throwaway price.

In 2016, when Supersonic remodelled itself, the flash sale tickets were just Rs 1,500 for a three-day outing. Of course, post-demonetisation and GST and everything else that makes living in this country more and more expensive by the day, today the two-day festival is priced at Rs 2,499 all inclusive. The NH7 Weekender’s pre-sale tickets (pre-sale, flash sale, early bird booking all imply buying discounted tickets before the actual sale begins or the line-up is even announced) this year were priced at season passes for Rs 2,750, with a special Under-21 season pass for Rs 1,750. The actual ticket price for these 2- or 3-day festivals is usually in the range of Rs 3,500-4,000. Given the marked difference in the pre-sale tickets and the actual ticket prices, booking tickets well in advance seems like a sensible thing to do for a concert-goer.

 VH1 Supersonic: Flash sales, and what they tell us of how music festivals are perceived in India

A promotional poster for the VH1 Supersonic 2018 flash sale. Image via Facebook/@Vh1Supersonic

LINEUP

But what is the logic behind spending Rs 2,000-2,500 on a ticket without having a clue who the artists performing are? Back in the day, most people bought their tickets AFTER the lineup was revealed, knowing fully well what they’re in for. Today, without even one artist being announced, the organisers clearly see a market to hold flash sales for events that will be held months down the line. Would you buy tickets at Inox or some such multiplex for a movie without knowing which one is screening at 6 pm on Saturday October 27? No, you wouldn’t. Your first question would be “Which movie is it?” Yet, people are increasingly willing to block out two days, five months from now without a clue as to what the primary source of entertainment is. And once these tickets are booked and the lineup is revealed, it becomes irrelevant whether or not these artists are of interest to the buyers.

What then, are the buyers buying the tickets for? Would we book a movie ticket for the popcorn, airconditioning, and location of the theatre? No. If you keep the artists out of the equation, what else is there at music festivals such as these? The ambience, the food, the flea markets. In short, the experience.

Organisers have clearly done their homework to know that what they need to do is present an experience worth buying, because there will certainly be takers for it. These pre-sales most often target not just music lovers or fans of specific bands, but those who like the experience of being at a music festival. Whichever one it may be. Supersonic ventured out of the solely EDM space a couple of years ago, to bring in international hip hop and rock acts as part of its repertoire. What started out in 2013 Goa as an EDM festival — with the mighty Sunburn to compete with — has over the years morphed into a multi-genre festival that’s held in Pune. The Supersonic of today sounds an awful lot like the NH7 Weekender format.

On the Bookmyshow.com website, the upcoming edition of VH1 Supersonic is described as: “With a world-class line-up of 70+ top artists from across the globe, four multi-genre curated stages, beautiful and immersive art, a buzzing SuperFlea with cuisines from all across the world and unmatched consumer experiences, technology and innovations to choose from, the sixth season will be a complete visual sensory delight [sic].”

Multi-genre music festivals in India are less than a decade old. Image via Facebook/@Vh1Supersonic

Multi-genre music festivals in India are less than a decade old. Image via Facebook/@Vh1Supersonic

HOUSE NOT FULL

People just aren’t buying as much music anymore. The internet has changed the way music has been consumed. So, the festivals have no choice but to sell an experience. Music festivals like Glastonbury have been sold out in the past, even they have had editions where thousands of tickets have been available on the eve of the festival. And this, despite its rich musical pedigree and history, where the who’s who in the live music scene has performed.

Contrary to that, multi-genre music festivals in India are less than a decade old. Coinciding with the rise of music streaming sites and online radio, people are decreasingly purchasing full albums, with hard copies barely existing. How does one make it exciting to be at a music festival when — unless it’s a major international artist in the genre of one’s preference — most people with the purchasing power today, are lacking the bandwidth? They don’t want to just listen to music, they want to experience music while hanging out with friends, while shopping or riding a Ferris wheel and more. There’s concert fashion that combines hipster lifestyle with hippie aesthetics. It’s a whole package.

It would, however, be naïve to be derisive of what looks like a growing majority trend. Today, multi-genre festivals seem to resemble each other in the experience that they promise. The lineups may change but the experience remains similar. So, if people find it alluring enough, it’s like buying a ticket to a holiday without knowing the specifics of the itinerary. A travel plan with friends that doesn’t have the compulsion of sightseeing, but a sensory experience just perfectly crafted for every kind of traveller.

It becomes an excuse to travel out of one’s home city, with the company of friends, with easy, age-appropriate access to liquor. Oh, and there’s music too.

Also read — The difficulty of being NH7 Weekender: Damned if it does, damned if it doesn't

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Updated Date: Sep 07, 2018 16:07:21 IST