They say that music has the power to soothe the savage beast. In recent decades, however, the healing, empowering, and peaceful nature of music has been subsumed by tragedy. From the 1979 stampede at The Who’s Cincinnati performance that claimed eleven lives, to the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting that claimed 60 fatalities, to the recent AstroWorld disaster in which ten festival-goers were lost, what should have been profound moments of joy and togetherness were shaken by horror and carnage.
If these heartbreaking events have taught us anything, though, it is that we must do better. The power of music is profound, indeed, but it, by itself, is not enough. It must be combined with mindfulness, with the conscious care needed to ensure that what should be a beautiful event does not descend into an outlet for humanity’s worst instincts and impulses. Instead of bringing out the worst in us, music festivals can, do, and should bring out the best.
Whether you’re organizing or performing in a music festival or concert, chances are your primary concern is with the performance itself. And while yes, these events are all about the music, they are also about creating for audiences and participants alike the kind of transformative, life-affirming experiences which live music events, alone, can provide.
What that means, however, is that you must look outside of the boundaries of the music industry itself in order to bring your vision to fruition. Musicians, producers, and festival organizers are not typically experts in public security, crisis mitigation, or disaster management. For that, you need to call in the specialists, those who understand what can happen in large, crowded spaces.
For instance, though you may not think of them immediately when you are planning a live music concert or festival, workers from fields such as humanitarian aid agencies can bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to your event preparations. After all, these are individuals who have been on the frontlines of some of the world’s most devastating disasters. They know how to respond quickly to crises and threats. They know how to manage crowds in largely uncontrolled settings. They know how to wrest order from chaos.
And what that means for you is that persons with such expertise will also have a unique ability to recognize potential dangers, to spot potential weaknesses in safety and security, and to devise solutions to remediate these concerns.
This is, fundamentally, what it means to be mindful when you’re preparing for a concert or festival: You aren’t simply setting up a stage and sound system and letting the fans in. You are enlisting the experts to assess the venue and the event and to prepare for any contingency.
Performance with a Purpose
Practicing mindfulness when preparing for a live music event must begin, of course, with prioritizing the pragmatic concerns surrounding event safety and security, but it shouldn’t end there.
Mindfulness in the music experience should also integrate considerations of purpose. To be sure, the experience of the music is a powerful end in itself, but to unleash the full potential of music, it should be about more than the temporary pleasure of the event itself.
To realize the full power of a live music event, there is perhaps no better strategy than to couple the event with some altruistic purpose. For instance, Burning Man, one of the world’s largest arts and music festivals, operates on a gifting economy that eschews corporate sponsorship and provides a profound case study in the power of a self-reliant community of like-minded individuals freed from the paradigm of modern capitalist society.
And that’s not all. Other festivals have arisen to espouse and exemplify values so urgently needed at this pivotal moment in human history. The Wanderlust Yoga-Music festivals, for instance, combine live music performance with art and education on topics relating to mindfulness, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility.
Significantly, by aligning your event with some sort of social cause, you’re not only reaping the spiritual and humanitarian rewards, but you are also making tangible moves to support the success of your event. For example, investors are increasingly looking to commit their funds to organizations and events that embrace a socially responsible brand. By connecting your festival with a philanthropic purpose, you are inviting the support of partners, sponsors, and socially conscious investors.
And that means that from the partnerships you create to the practices you engage in, your festival will illuminate the awesome force for good that arises when music and mindfulness combine.
There are few things in human experience more universal or uplifting than live musical performance. No matter what language you speak, what culture you come from, or what your political or ideological leanings may be, music is the great healer and unifier. However, the true power of music can only be realized when it is aligned with mindfulness. This must include the prioritization of the health and safety of all concerned, as well as the coupling of the event with a purpose beyond the simple pleasure of the music experience itself.