Scitech  The Jazz Festival goes mobile

When soccer fans sent nearly 580,000 tweets in one minute during the World Cup, they broke a Twitter record. Ellen DeGeneres crashed Twitter with a selfie taken during the Grammys. Social media and mobile devices have become ingrained in major events. The Montreal International Jazz Festival, which ran from June 26 to July 5, is no exception.

During the course of the festival, organizers expected millions of people to engage with the jazz festival online. According to Laurence Beauchamp, the festival social media manager, the festival’s website received 1.7 million views before the festival began. Organizers hoped that even more people will use the website during the festival to look up shows, get news about the festival, and explore the Quartier des Spectacles. Their new mobile-friendly website in particular attracted many online visitors.

“Last year’s site was not user-friendly on mobile devices,” said Beauchamp. This year, for the first time, the Jazz Festival’s website had a separate layout for mobile devices. The new layout made the website easier for festival-goers to navigate on smartphones and tablets. The festival website team’s effort was, thus, rewarded with more page views. According to Beauchamp, the website received 60,000 views from mobile devices this year, significantly more than the 35,000 visits last year.

The festival also made significant improvements to its smartphone application.  Last year, the app was installed on 65,000 Apple devices. Beauchamp said this year is the first year that the Jazz Festival app was also available for Android devices. While Beauchamp cited Twitter and Facebook as the two most important social media platforms for the festival, she noted that “the mobile app is the festival-goers’ main tool to get around the festival site.” The app was developed by Greencopper, a Montreal-based company that also developed the Francofolies and Nuit Blanche apps. “The design has changed a lot, it’s really more practical and playful,” Beauchamp said.

Beyond design tweaks, additional functions were added. The new link with Facebook provides suggestions about which shows to attend if a user links a Facebook account with the app.

Both the online and physical environment of the Jazz Festival have evolved to cater to mobile devices. Free wifi has been available at the Quartier des Spectacles for a few years, and people are taking full advantage of it. Beauchamp said that the Wi-Fi network is usually stable and strong, but can be overwhelmed during popular events when lots of devices are connected.

Dozens of smartphones could be seen at the festival grounds during the first weekend, but people know that the dim blue light from a screen may not always be welcome. Blocking someone else’s view to take pictures or video with a smartphone was considered rude by many tourists. “I guess it depends on how disruptive it is,” said Dana Connell, a tourist at the festival. “If they’re not making noise and it’s really dark and I can’t really tell, they can do what they want.”

Others tourists said that while they enjoyed sharing their experiences with family and friends on social media, using their mobile device to document a concert negatively impacted their experience. “You’re there at something live and you’re looking at it through the filter of a screen,” one tourist, Kathy Booth, said.

While mobile devices can both improve and hinder the concert experience, it appears they are here to stay and are becoming a concert tradition for a new generation of concert-goers. “Back in the day, back in the [19]70s, you used to have people do lighters at concerts,” said Greg, a tourist from New Hampshire. “Now, you have smartphones.”