The Future of Entertainment – Effenaar and the New Possibilities for the Music Sector  

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The Future of Entertainment – Effenaar and the New Possibilities for the Music Sector  

Effenaar general manager Jos Feijen has been involved in the Dutch musical venue for almost 25 years. Jos has seen the public change in various aspects, becoming increasingly demanding. He believes that a new form of entertainment is in order, and 5G is here to provide the technology needed for that. Jos talks about Effenaar’s adaptation process during the pandemic, possibilities for the entertainment sector, and introduces us to The Smart Venue, an innovative and unique project right at the heart of Eindhoven’s City Center.

 

With a solid background in communication, Jos Feijen started his journey in Effenaar in 1996 as an advisory board member. Over its almost 50 years, Effenaar has evolved, following Eindhoven’s technological advancement. The physical space has also experienced its changes, growing into one of the largest music venues in the Netherlands.

Looking for diversity in a demanding crowd

Jos says he has not seen much social-economical change in Effenaar’s community, even though the venue has broadened its programs considerably, going from the singer-songwriter to the dark metal band. However, Jos perceives an important transformation in their audience’s attitude and expectations regarding the atmosphere of the events: people have become much more demanding. Predominantly the public used to going to festivals. According to Jos, festivals nowadays offer a lot more than bands playing on stage: “It’s about food, gaming, big stages, incredible visual effects, etc. Back at the venue, the opportunities you have to create something like that are limited because you cannot alter the venue itself.”

This different environment brought by the festivals also has to do with the number of people a place can hold. While in Effenaar 1200 people can enjoy a session, in a festival there are thousands. Nevertheless, the public expects from the venue the same experience they draw from the festival, requiring a lot more from the event organizers. Jos believes, therefore, that the entertainment industry is lagging in this aspect.

 

The Dirty Denims on stage and a 360-degree camera. (Photo by Dick Rennings)

Where’s the innovation?

When talking about the scene he encountered when starting his work at Effenaar, Jos says there was no space to develop new programs or new initiatives. However, that is precisely what he envisions: “I don’t want Effenaar to be just a place you can book as a band, do your gig, and you’re gone. No, I want to contribute to society, to the municipality.” With this idea, Effenaar’s team started to develop new concepts to improve their financial footprint and their involvement in the region.

According to Jos, there are large acts, like Billy Eilish, using all kinds of new technologies. Nevertheless, most artists are still doing the same old: “There is no real drive in innovating the music industry. That’s how we concluded that, if we look around in the region, and we see what’s going on with AR, VR sensors, clothing, etc., we can use that to create not only completely different music but also new music experiences” – exactly what the public demands.

As he highlights, the audience wants to be engaged, be closer, and interact with the artists they admire. So it is necessary to look at solutions that enable that. “The technology is there, but how to use it in a way that people will relish fun from it?” Jos enquires. And he goes further: “I think that using new technologies in music enables applications to be more accessible for people and also to create these new experiences that we’re looking for. That’s why I started this project.”

The Dirty Denims performing on stage and being recorded with an (early) 360-degree camera. (Photo by Dick Rennings)

The Smart Venue

Jos points out that some artists are showing a new approach to music: “Imogen Heap is one of the frontrunners. I know that Bob Dylan has been doing some things with blockchain, and some bigger artists are carrying out some experiments, but there’s no other venue working on this as we are,” he explains.

As we can see, The Smart Venue is a unique project, comprising virtual and augmented reality, biofeedback, sensors, 3d printing, and full-body scans at the service of the artists’ creativity. The manager says that he did not have a vast knowledge of AR and VR. So Effenaar’s team started to “collect all these interesting things, and then we started learning what could be interesting and useful to us on stage,” he remarks.

Effenaar is trying to attract singers and bands interested in working with its features. However, according to Jos, that is not easy because artists have their own artistic processes. Effenaar’s team is adding new features to the 3d Cloud Platform and discussing ways to have other parties employing the venue’s innovative streaming services.

4G versus 5G – a whole new realm of possibilities

Much of what you can do with 5G you can already do with 4G – this is a fact. Therefore, Effenaar has been looking into the new features that 5G could provide to the venue. For this, they are doing three experiments within the 5G Hub. One of them consists of using AR glasses in concerts. Jos says he sees a real future for these gadgets, despite the huge waiting list nowadays to purchase one of those. As Effenaar is a 5G Hub ecosystem partner, the 5G Hub arranged several NREAL 5G AR Glasses for the venue. What they intend to do with them is to add an extra layer to the event: “I’ve got video, and I can also add AR. With that, you can add whatever you want to. For example, the public could put their own pictures on the screens during the concerts. Also, with the lower latency, the singer’s image will be much more synchronized with what is happening live.”

A visitor looking through an early version of AR glasses. (Photo by Dick Rennings)

5G antennas are already installed at Effenaar, waiting for the first tests at the hallAccording to Jos, when 5G coverage is expanded and the technology is up and running, they will be able to host 500 guests using AR glasses at the venueEffenaar is also working with holograms in their 4DR studio: “Within a few months, we will be able to live stream holograms. So you can also do that in AR glasses. I think there are some challenging opportunities for AR glasses,” Jos points out.

The power of the ecosystem

For the manager, being part of the 5G Hub’s ecosystem has immense value for Effenaar. According to him, “connecting to the 5G Hub and the ecosystem around it makes it possible for us to connect and work with other parties.” The ecosystem’s capacity was made visible, for example, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As he explains, the technology solutions available at Effenaar have been in development for about two years. With the burst of the Coronavirus and the subsequent closure of all entertainment venues, Effenaar had to generate an alternative to keep their business going. As Jos describes, “after one or two weeks, we decided we wanted to do streaming concerts. ‘Can we do that?’ we thought. So I called around all the people in our ecosystem, and they said, ‘yeah, we can! No problem: we’ll help you’.” From the second half of March, the project The Sessions (formerly, The Isolation Sessions) started, streaming live concerts daily, showcasing and supporting artists during the social distance period.

Clouseau performing in the 4DR studio, where volumetric video can be captured. (Photo by Natasja Paulssen)

Jos says that “if you look at the venues in the Netherlands, if you take away the name of the venue, and you look at the agenda, they’re all the same.” Therefore, being a one-of-a-kind space is crucial for Effenaar. For Jos, it is essential to present a project that the artists perceive as a place where they can do different, new things.

What’s next? (Or, The Future of Entertainment)

The manager explains that his team is working on several strategies. He believes that 5G has the power of making many processes easier, especially when it comes to streaming: “What we see now is that we have some issues with the capacity of our network. So I think that 5G could fit in there; we could profit more from that.”

Effenaar’s central goal is to become a reference for the employment of new technologies in the entertainment sector, being a platform for experimentation with new technologies. Cautiously, Jos recognizes that the public’s reaction is still something to be analyzed: “Whether or not this will be something that the audience is going to love, I don’t know. But we want to experiment.”

Dreaming high, Jos would like to see great artists coming to Eindhoven to make use of the fantastic equipment and possibilities offered by Effenaar: “I dream that artists like Billy Eilish would come to Effenaar because we’ve got all these facilities, which enable her to live stream what she really wants to do. I know this is a dream and far off. But it would be interesting if something like that could happen – that we become well-known.”