San Francisco Music Fest to Fuel CrowdFire Experiment

Content Gathered by Participants Will Pour Into Online Media Stream

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NEW YORK ( -- This weekend, as thousands of people gather and five dozen bands perform over three straight days at the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, tech and media entrepreneur John Battelle hopes to create a different kind of performance, a mash-up of the thousands of camera-phone pictures, hand-held digital-video recordings, blog posts and Twitter "tweets" generated at the event.
Microsoft and Intel have signed on to underwrite an endeavor that will try to create a 'database of experiences' combining varied media.
Microsoft and Intel have signed on to underwrite an endeavor that will try to create a 'database of experiences' combining varied media.

Mr. Battelle is calling the venture CrowdFire, and he said the idea is to create a type of organized framework -- a "database of experiences" -- combining varied media generated at live shows. People at the festival as well as those who aren't attending will be fed a stream of near real-time activity over the three days.

Will CrowdFire be cool?
"People are doing this," he said of all the media. "The question is, Can you do something cool with it?"

Microsoft and Intel undoubtedly hope so -- those are the sponsors Mr. Battelle has signed on to underwrite the endeavor.

A pavilion in the center of the concert field will serve as CrowdFire's hub, which will be well-stocked with plasma screens and Windows Vista-equipped computers that people can use to upload their mobile media. The media will be tagged and aggregated into a stream that can be sliced in hundreds of ways by searching around specific tags. For example, people could search for all media shot around the "grove of trees by stage five," Mr. Battelle said.

The project came together quickly. Inspired during a trip to the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee, Mr. Battelle stuck a deal with Bonnaroo and Outside Lands organizer Superfly Presents. He is using his network of Federated Media blogs and video properties to promote the event.

Microsoft tries a different pitch
Microsoft is the presenting sponsor and will be promoting Windows Live products, including Live Messenger, Live Earth and Live Spaces, as well as its Zune and Xbox products. When asked whether this sponsorship was seen as an attempt to create a cooler, hipper image for Microsoft, which has been the target of Apple's scathing "Mac vs. PC" ads, Bill Capodanno, director of digital-marketing communications at Microsoft, said the company was really lured by the "deeper level of explaining our products and services" that could take place by being part of an experience.
John Battelle
John Battelle Credit: Bart Nagel

"It would not have had the appeal if it was a pure traditional sponsorship," Mr. Capodanno said. "It shows what's possible through our technologies."

CrowdFire isn't the first or only attempt to add digital-media production to events and festivals. One other example: Washington-area entrepreneur Peter Corbett is launching and marketing The Wired Ones, a space for creating and distributing content at music festivals, at the interactive conference Interact in September. And Dell has been traveling around to summer rock festivals with a geodesic dome that houses stations where users can mix tapes.

Mr. Battelle said if the first incarnation is successful, CrowdFire could be translated to other types of events in the future.

'Fungible' cloud
"We want to get a cloud of media to become something fungible that people can see and work with to create new things," he said. "I want the performance to go from one-to-many to many-to-many."
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