XLIVE Mixes Festival Fun with Conference-Style Learning for Industry Leaders and Enthusiasts

Article by: Laura Mason|@everfest

Mon December 05, 2016 | 11:45 AM

A festival conference that actually feels like a festival? Not an easy feat – but when you have a couple thousand industry experts, veterans, visionaries and aficionados gathered, all of whom live and breathe festival culture, and in Las Vegas, of all places, that's exactly what you're gonna get.

XLIVE, formerly known as IMFCON, lands in the entertainment capital of the world from December 5-7, boasting a multi-faceted lineup that certainly resembles that of many modern festivals, including music at many of Vegas's hottest nightclubs, cuisine, seminars and panel discussions, technology, film, and vendors. During a time when festivals now integrate so many learning opportunities into their overall experiences, this crucial, collaborative mix of wild fun and education feels equal parts contemporary and forward-thinking.

At this point, festivals are evolving so quickly it's almost impossible to keep up – that's why a gathering of industry leaders and enthusiasts at an event like XLIVE comes at such an important time. We need to put our brains together and think about the festival industry's big picture in order to maintain a sustainable future in the face of such rapid growth. Beginning today through Wednesday, XLIVE will bring together over 250 programs, including speakers, interactive sessions and exhibits, as well as honoring and grooming the next generation of newer industry leaders through their Young Executives program. It's all intended to achieve a hive mind's approach to our collective future of festivaling.

We spoke to XLIVE's co-founder, Waco Hoover, about why an event like this can have such an important impact on global festival culture.

How is XLIVE like a festival?

Further Future Waco Hoover Peter Ruprecht 2016

XLIVE co-founder Waco Hoover (right) at Further Future. Photo by: Peter Ruprecht Studios

I would say it’s a cross between a festival, a conference, and an expo. We’ve got a lot a food and parties and things going on at night every single night, dinners. There’s that b2b component where people can meet with 85 different suppliers. That’s the piece that's a little but different, but ultimately it’s a place for people to network and meet each other in a comfortable environment so that’s festival-esque. 

What programs and speakers are you most excited about?

There’s so much. Our four keynotes are fantastic. Chip Conley from Airbnb/Fest300, Tim Leiweke from the Oak View Group, Julia Hartz, the co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite. Ja Rule is going to be real interesting, he’s an artist, he’s got an agency, he’s working on a festival in the Bahamas. He can talk about the artists perspective and an organizer's perspective. What I really like about the lineup is that they all have such diverse backgrounds and they’re going to draw upon those and tie together the live experience that comes to life at festivals.

I'm excited about sessions with Paul Peck from Bonnaroo talking about making the Bonnaroo experience. We have some really cool stuff on the culinary side showing how that genre of festivals really growing. We’ve got four tracks [or categories]: The music track, food & beverage track, the event technology track, and last but not least, is eSports, which is growing like crazy.

What are some other must-dos for attendees while there?

Xlive Session 2015

Photo by: Cultivora

We’ve got a ton of parties and late night things at clubs, but one of the highlights is we’ve got 80 or 90 industry event suppliers, vendors and technologists who literally live and breathe festivals and events. When you look at all of those stakeholders, they’ve got a wealth of knowledge of how they can effectively execute and create these extraordinary experiences that attendees can immerse themselves in. That is a huge opportunity to learn from over the course of three days.

How can people get involved with the fest if they aren’t in attendance?

We are going to have livestreams of all the keynotes and key sessions. And the entire eSports track are going to be streamed as well.

What are some trends you see in the festival industry making their marks on festivals in 2017?

Coachella 2016 Goldenvoice Courtesy Of    01

Photo by: Goldenvoice

Competition from other festivals is a big thing people are concerned about. When you talk abut the commodification of the festival experience, will that happen? If festivals don’t continue to create new experiences, are people going to go? We love festivals but we want to go for their authenticity. And what role will tech play in all this? We’ll talk about VR, how can we recreate festival experiences. These extensions of recreating the live event experience will be interesting. It’s going to be a really interesting thing to see how fests differentiate themselves.

In every single industry, data and analytics is becoming a huge, important part of how they effectively engage their fans and do business, and live events have yet to do that in a meaningful way. We have a whole data analytics workshop and that's going to be an interesting trend at festivals. And the continuation of the culinary experience at a music festival or the music component of food and wine festivals...the lines continue to blur over what people come to expect when they attend a festival.

How can XLIVE change the festival world?

Festivals all have a vested interest in creating extraordinary experiences for fans and artists and sponsors and communities. For every stakeholder. That is really what XLIVE is about: It's about coming together in one place, whatever role you play, and having a really meaningful dialogue about how the industry can continue to create those extraordinary experiences, and walking away with actionable information that they can implement to make their events or teams or festivals better, continually leaving an indelible mark on the community.