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Osheaga Music Festival to Include New NFC-enabled Features

The three-day event will better enable guests to share their experiences via social networks, as well as allow the festival to gather information about its attendees and what they like.
By Claire Swedberg
May 21, 2014

When the three-day Osheaga Music and Arts Festival begins this summer, everyone onsite will be wearing a wristband containing a passive 13.56 MHz RFID tag, including performers, member of the press, the event crew and the 45,000 anticipated attendees. In fact, the wristband will act as the ticket for audience members, and will grant access to specific areas of the event. The solution was first installed at last year's Osheaga festival by music promoter evenko—which, according to Michael Rodrigues, evenko's ticketing manager, not only will supply the same system again this year, but will also provide it for the first time at Heavy Montreal, another music festival taking place at the same site the following weekend.

Osheaga Festival is held for three days each August at the Parc Jean-Drapeau, located in Montreal. It hosts indie bands—such as The Cure, Jack White, and Mumford and Sons—on six stages, and hosts approximately 45,000 people per day, for a total of 135,000 throughout the long weekend. Several years ago, evenko, which produces a variety of events throughout eastern Canada and northeastern United States, began looking into a more efficient access-control system, such as those used at other festivals that employ RFID-enabled wristbands, to better manage the flow of people around the event.

When attendees arrived at the gates to last summer's Osheaga festival, evenko's employees used NFC-enabled iPods to read their wristbands' RFID tags.
"We keep getting bigger," Rodrigues said, regarding the Osheaga festival, while addressing an audience at this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, held last month in Orlando, Fla. During his presentation, he described the Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID solution deployed last year, as well as evenko's plans for the two festivals being held in summer 2014. For Osheaga, evenko required technology to enable reduced queuing and improved management of which individuals had access to which areas. However, Rodrigues said, access control was not the festival's primary concern; instead, the promoter sought other benefits from an RFID system, such as enabling ticket holders to connect with social media, potentially promoting not only bands and the event itself, but also products that could advertise via social media. Evenko also wanted to obtain analytics indicating which demographics liked which features of the festival.

To accomplish this goal, the company wanted to use the technology to get to know ticket holders more personally. This could be done by inviting them to input information about themselves while purchasing a ticket online, such as their age, gender and musical interests, and then gaining more data regarding those interests as the guests used the NFC readers at kiosks located around the festival to indicate where they were and which bands interested them.

Prior to the RFID system's deployment, Osheaga's knowledge was limited to how many tickets had been purchased—it knew virtually nothing about the ticket holders themselves. Everyone onsite was given color-coded bracelets to indicate where they were authorized to go, but this system was often confusing for personnel and yielded no historical data.

Last year, Osheaga introduced the NFC bracelets to manage social-network connections, associated analytical data and access control. Evenko deployed the solution with help from RFID Academia, which provided strategic marketing and technology consulting services throughout the deployment, says Anthony Palermo, RFID Academia's founder and business-development director.

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