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Virtual Music Festival

Independent Study
UI/UX Design
6 mo

The challenge

Like any other service, music festivals have the potential to provide consumers with impactful experiences that influence their perspectives and leave them with lasting memories. However, unlike most other services, the music festival industry is an untapped source of bursting potential from a service design perspective. There is little existing research into the experiences of music festival-goers and even less research-based design work aimed at improving these experiences. The music festival sector has been one of many severely affected industries by the global pandemic. In order to continue operating during lockdowns, many music event companies resorted to hosting drive-in concerts, balcony concerts, and virtual music festivals in the hopes of generating revenue and maintaining brand loyalty. As the safest and most accessible option available, virtual music festivals were the most popular. Unfortunately, they were also the least engaging as they lack the social and cultural aspects of in-person music festivals that attendees know and love.

The goal

The Solution

In this new kind of festival experience, rather than purchasing festival tickets, a group of friends would book a stay for a specified weekend at an affiliated Airbnb-style home that is completely set up and decked out to maximize the potential for music enjoyment and socialization.

Each user would have access to a mobile app that is connected to the devices in the home (i.e. televisions, speakers, LED lights, laser lights, etc.) and they would be able to alter their physical environment by changing stages or socializing with people from other homes directly from the mobile app.

The music festival itself would be live but virtual as the artists would perform at specified times in the weekend’s lineup and users would be able to watch them on the TVs and hear them on the speakers that are in each home. However, being that research showed social interaction to be the most important part of the music festival experience, the ability for users to physically interact with their friends in a music-oriented, intimate setting and have the option to digitally meet new people that are sharing the same unique experience allows users to get the best of both worlds if/when completely in-person festivals are not a viable option for them.

View the interactive prototype

the process

I conducted user research to learn about the experiences of in-person music festival-goers and virtual music festival-goers in order to understand the aspects that play a role in the success of each experience. Based on my findings, I defined the target user’s needs and problem space, ideated potential solutions within the realm of virtual music festivals, created a prototype that aims to enhance the virtual music festival experience, and tested this prototype on the target users.

I used a variety of research methods and design methodologies, including:

Semi-Structured Interviews

I conducted semi-structured interviews via Zoom where I asked participants targeted questions about their experiences at in-person and virtual experiences, respectively. I also utilized the directed storytelling method by asking them to tell me the story of the last time they watched an artist’s set live at a music festival. My goal was to gain a deeper understanding of the aspects of a music festival that set an experience apart for participants.

Think Aloud Activity

I asked participants to navigate to a livestream that is well-known in the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) festival community and had them watch 15 minutes of an artist’s set with me while describing their thoughts and feelings about the experience.

Affinity Diagramming

I gathered the most important and relevant thoughts expressed by participants from every interview on digital post-it notes and grouped them by theme, sentiment, or opinion.

Affinity diagram created by Gabby to group together the statements made by research participants.

Speed Dating

After ideating as many potential solutions as possible, I narrowed them down to six with varying degrees of risk: low (2), medium (2), and high (2). Then, I created storyboards for each solution and ran speed dating interviews to test and determine the scenarios that participants responded to most positively.

Experience Prototyping

After settling on a mixed digital/physical experience for the final solution, I invited participants to an Airbnb where I had set up the physical environment with lights, textures, smells, music, and activities that would stimulate an at-home music festival experience. After the experience, I interviewed participants to understand the ways in which the experience did or didn’t meet the expectations they would have of a regular music festival experience.

Wizard-of-Oz Prototyping

I designed a low fidelity (grayscale) version of the user interface for a mixed digital/physical music festival experience and asked participants to interact with it, complete certain tasks, and describe their thoughts as they did so. After the first round of testing, I upped the fidelity of the prototype from low-to-mid and tested with participants again, and then upped the fidelity again from mid-to-high and tested again. After each round of testing, I analyzed the feedback from participants and made corresponding design decisions and changes.

View the full process book


My experience as the project manager, researcher, and designer on this solo project allowed me to:

  • Learn how to effectively plan, manage, and execute a human-centered design project from start to finish with minimal supervision
  • Become comfortable doing research and synthesizing data independently
  • Improve my design skills by creating user interfaces for a new kind of experience that doesn’t yet exist
  • Gain a deeper understanding of music festival experiences from a human-centered perspective
  • Understand the social and cultural elements that affect festival-goers’ experiences
  • Determine the key differences in festival-goers’ experiences when attending a virtual music festival vs. an in-person music festival

This project is one that is particularly special to me as music and music festivals are both passions of mine and make up very big parts of my life. I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to learn about such an interesting landscape through the lens of a UX practitioner.