For the first time at a major U.S. music festival, attendees at Lollapalooza will be able to pay for their merchandise, food and drink entirely via their wristbands. The technology will improve security and streamline the festival experience, the organizers say, as well as gather data about buying habits.
Over the next few weeks, attendees will receive their festival entry wristbands in the mail. Each wristband contains an RFID chip which concertgoers can connect to their debit or credit card, and add a PIN number.
At the festival itself, they'll simply tap their wristband on a pad and enter their PIN code to pay on specialized point-of-sale system. Cash and credit cards will still be accepted, but you'll be able to wander around the whole time without a wallet.
"It's a way to streamline the experience for fans," says Patrick Dentler, festival marketing director at , which produces Lollapalooza. He says he hopes it means that fans will spend more time in front of the stage and less time in line.
Maura Gibson, president of Front Gate Tickets, says cashless payments proved popular during a test run at April's Counterpoint Festival in Atlanta, where 30% of all food and drink purchases were cashless. "People who used it don’t really want to carry their wallet around" a festival where they can be lost or stolen, she says.
The wristband holds a six-digit triple-encrypted identification number rather than the credit card information. It's also impossible to duplicate, unlike tickets with bar codes which scammers can print out multiple times.
The wristband is waterproof — and if the Internet goes down, as it frequently does at festivals, the vendor tablets will store the purchase and upload it once service returns. "You always have to plan for the worst at a festival," says Gibson.
The wristbands have safety benefits too, she says. Medical staff can access a visitor's emergency contact information through the wristband, and a lost child could be located by tapping in.
There seems to be some dispute about how much data the wristband is going to gather, however. Dentler insists that C3 Presents is introducing the wristbands to streamline fans' festival experience, rather than gather data. "We don't know John Smith purchased five Coors Light[s] over the course of Friday morning," he says.
Gibson, on the other hand, says that in the future a visitor who buys a lot of a specialty beer like Budweiser could receive special discounts based on that data.
"It's not an attempt to track fan’s movements,” she says, and yet "one of the interesting parts about it is the ability to know what people like." She says the ultimate goal is being able to tailor the festival experience to each user, perhaps sending push notifications when a bar has low wait times, for example.
"The sky's the limit on that kind of thing," she adds.
Asked to clear up the discrepancy, Dentler said Lollapalooza is not planning to use the data to offer discounts or notifications just yet: the festival is simply trying out the system. "Then we can start worrying about all the other benefits that come along with it,” he says. “I’m still learning about the whole process myself."
Tags: DIGITAL PAYMENT, ENTERTAINMENT, FESTIVALS, MUSIC