“Bitcoin, Sh*t coin,” muttered a Gen Z girl standing close to me, easily distinguished by the neon proof of age bracelet wrapped around their left hand. Well ,that and their midriff baring crop top that’s basically a raised finger to to Bay Area meteorologists,
She wasn't wrong when it comes to Bitcoin — since it peaked at $20,000 in December 2018, it now stays pretty consistently in the low $6,400 range. Fortunes were lost, bubbles were burst, but people party on — just because Bitcoin wasn't the pot of gold doesn't mean you can't get there with currencies such as Monero, Stellar or Tron. Or that the blockchain isn't valuable.
That’s the theory behind Our Music Festival (OMF) and their similarly named OMF Token. On October 20th, 2018,,The Greek Theater in Berkeley held what might be the world first cryptocurrency music festival. OMF was created by Prime Social group, DJ and producer 3LAU and blockchain entertainment network SingularDTV. Around 8,000 people turned up to party, blockchain style. Naturally, you could buy your ticket with cryptocurrency, but real money was also accepted.
In essence, what this meant on the night is that you had the usual EDC crowd bobbing up and down while the headliners — Zedd, Mati and Kim, 3LAU and more — got up to their usual tricks, with occasional shout out to the crowd for ‘my crypto cool’ friends.
The venue was stunning, with an array of smoke, lasers and lights making the stage glow like a LSD rainbow. The performers were energetic and entertaining, and when they started remixing the theme tune to Pokemon, it was clear they’d read the crowd right. 80% of people instantly jumped to their feet, mouthing the words.
During 3LAU’s set, the DJ made a plea for more ‘people to get on the blockchain,’ — he said some other stuff, but people around me used that time to blow their whistles and so I missed the rest.
The best part of my night — and most relevant, considering the theme — was during the confetti cannon bursts that fluttered down at the end of 3LAU’s set. Instead of paper, tiny pieces of white paper printed with QR codes floated down from the sky like so many discarded candy wrapper on Halloween. Later I discovered that was thirty pounds of paper confetti. These could be scanned on the OMF app, and traded to gain rewards at the merchandise tents — basically, knotted friendship bracelets in different colors.
The high level idea here is that OMF is more than a music festival. In fact that’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their ambitions. Their idea is that festivals cane be improved, and they’re targeting ticketing, engagement, and data. OMF tokens were available to purchase at the event (it's not clear if you can purchase them at the moment.)
Now I’ll give OMF props for trying to push their crypto-message — the high level concept was that by simply by attending, fans can earn OMF tokens, which can be used for upgrades, food and more. Big picture, this type of tech could prevent ticket fraud and inflation and make events far more equitable. At this event.. not so much. Yes, QR codes could be tokenized and exchanged for bracelets and some people were randomly upgraded, but overall, the kinks still need to be worked out. As a fledgling brand, that’s to be expected, and they talk a good talk about wanting to effect some real change.
“Those goals may sit on a distant horizon, but we need to start somewhere,” said Justin Blau, a.k.a DJ 3LAU. “In year one, we’re enabling crypto payments for tickets and are giving all attendees their first ethereum paper wallet in the form of token cards.” As a PR push, they were successful, totaling 2009 OMF payments and getting 61,290 OMF tokens into concertgoers wallets by the end of the night.
Hidden among the neon dancers was a scattering of crypto-royalty, including Fred Ehrsam, founder of Coinbase, Daniel Gross from YCombinator and Adam Ludwin, founder of Chain. I’m betting they had a good time, and amongst a crowds like that, they faded into anonymity (insert crypto related pun here).
But that’s a good thing — this was a music event at its best, with the cryptocurrency aspect secondary to the sound. Which is as it should be. There’s nothing worse than going to an event then realizing you’re spending the whole time being sold to.
Here, they just let people get on with it — and their ‘Decentralize’ selfie board was pretty genius. For some attendees, the set list was a little scattered — all the acts, while well established, aren't exactly the cutting edge of current, and I heard complaints that they were ‘too random’ and that it was like ‘listening to an iPhone DJ.’ Even so, the grounds were packed, so clearly people were not that concerned.
The cryptocurrency world is young, figuratively and literally. Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum is 24-years-old, and there's a host of crypto-royalty who has more experience in classrooms than boardrooms. That's the real power of the blockchain, not just a leveling of transparency, but of equity and access for all.
Blockchain security expert Reuben Jackson, sums this up very well in in Bitcoin Magazine. "Millennials are waking up to the inequity present in the world and are hyper-aware of the status quo’s faults as well," he wrote. "Many in this age group see open-source blockchain technology as an accountability tool, one that will create a better system for voting, sharing data and advertising for instance. Blockchains provide not just productive ways for them to air their grievances but also social and financial tools allowing millennials to demonstrate what the problem areas are and, at the same time, exactly how to fix them. "
As an events group, I’d say that OMF has a lot of potential, and they've certainly figured out who their market is. In a world where the best referral is from someone you know, incentivizing people to share events is a smart way to reach a wider audience.
The Good: If this is what cryptocurrency festivals are about, I’m all for it. Basically, a night of fun without any of the hassle, and people with a relaxed mindset out for a good time. New Kids on the Blockchain!
The Bad: Much of the crypto stuff happened thought the app, which was poorly designed. You couldn't get lineup times if you didn't get into the app, and it crashed pretty regularly too.