Can blockchain technologies revolutionize the festivals' economy and make it more participative and distributive? This is what plans to experiment the SeaNaps festival in Leipzig next September.
The SeaNaps festival will take place next September in Leipzig, Germany. It's a variation of Les Siestes Electroniques festival born in Toulouse, France. "Their team will provide half of the artistic programming and we will find many distinctive aspects of their festival in our own," says Maxime Faget, a French expatriate in Leipzig and co-founder of the Habeatus association, created to launch the project.
Les Siestes Electroniques, a free festival organized daytime in the heart of the urban space and invading its public gardens, occupy a special place in the French festival landscape. Thanks to it, "electronic music has made the nap its best lawyer [...]. It has became respectable for a whole audience, astonished to discover that there were soothing branches," wrote Le Monde in July 2006.
In 2017, Les Siestes will celebrate its sixteenth birthday in Toulouse, but also its seventh edition in Paris. The festival will also migrate to Leipzig, Milan and Conakry. About fifteen international editions have already taken place.
Crypto-coins on a public blockchain
In Leipzig, music will not be the only electronic component of the SeaNaps festival. "In parallel to our artistic proposal, we want to experiment concretely the opportunities offered by blockchain technologies in the field of cultural innovation," says Maxime Faget. All trade exchanges that will take place within the framework of the festival will preferably be done with a virtual currency specifically created for the occasion - the LIP – and indexed on the euro in order to avoid any fluctuation.
"Festival goers will be given bracelets with an embedded RFID chip," he says. These bracelets will be made available free of charge at all points of sale, where they can be recharged and used to pay. The vendors, of their part, will use a smartphone supporting the NFC (Near Field Communication) protocol to cash the payment of consumptions and reload the bracelets with an application created for this occasion.
"We will use a local Wi-Fi network connected to the Internet," says Maxime Faget, "so that the connected devices of sellers can work in real time without being slowed down by the crowd's traffic." "Once activated, which does not require the user to register, the RFID chip is associated with a wallet connected to the public Ethereum blockchain, on which it is possible to load or unload money," he continues.
Each transaction in LIP currency made at the festival venue, or with its merchant partners in the city (cinemas, bars, bio grocery stores, etc.), will be recorded on this blockchain.
Equity and fair distribution
"The use of a blockhain is here conceived as a way to improve artists' payment options at live events and to sensitize festivalgoers to the impact that their mode of consumption have, both on the retribution of the artists they support, but also, in our case, as a support to the local economy surrounding the event, " confides Maxime Faget.
For each transaction - for example, when purchasing a beverage - a smart-contract, or self-certified contract, is automatically executed on the Ethereum public blockchain, that will activate a distribution key previously approved by all contributors to the festival.
"A share of each transaction will instantly and publicly be directed to the various associated wallets. We will implement a smart-contract for all transactions, specifying for example that 70% of the amount is returned to the vendor, 10% to artists performing on that day, 5% to security personnel, 5% to those taking care of hygiene and cleanliness, 5% to cover various equipment or communication costs, and 5% to a local cultural association," explains Maxime Faget.
The aim is to formalize the agreements and contracts between all the partners upstream, to make them transparent, equitable for all, and not debatable. This will not be the only source of income for artists, who will also benefit from an independent contract. But through this process, their impact on attendance and profits for the festival and its partners will be recognized.
Questioning and experimenting
"For many free festivals, most of the income, except subsidies and sponsoring, comes from the sale of food and beverage. But in the chain of transactions, from payments between partners to various fees, mainly levied by banking and financial institutions, the artist is often the last and the least paid," assesses Maxime Faget. Using a blockchain offers the opportunity to test how smart-contracts can challenge this established system. "We want to question the way in which the cultural economic system considers the work of artists," concludes the young Frenchman.
The project raises many questions. How to secure the system against theft of bracelets or smartphones from vendors? Will we still be able to pay for our consumptions in euros? Who will be allowed to issue PILs? Aren't technical costs prohibitive? Maxime Faget already provides some answers. "On the public Ethereum blockchain, the cost of a transaction (also called "gas" in this context) is half a centime. So it would take 10,000 transactions to get a cost of 50 euros," he says. This is much lower than the cost of credit card transactions, and almost painless.
Apart from the RFID bracelets, equipment requirements are minimal. The purpose is to experiment. "There are some issues that have not yet arise. That's why we want the development process to remain as open as possible to contributions, even if it is a matter of expressing skepticism. " Open criticism will always lead to improvements in terms of efficiency, equity and ethics.
Research and local anchorage
Beyond the private and institutional partners supporting the event, Habeatus is seeking input and support from technical partners such as SubLab (a Fablab and a hacker space in Leipzig), the european association Aerternam (promoting the development of blockchain applications around a charter of fundamental digital rights), the Grassi Museum, which will host part of the concerts and will open its audio collection to the artists, as well as several local associations and festivals
The goal of the SeaNaps project is also to have a measurable impact on the local economy. The LIP crypto-currency will last five days, two days more than the festival, so that the public, who will easily find good reasons to stay a little longer in Leipzig, can spend the balance of its wallet in the city. During five days, shops, cinemas, museums or concert halls supporting the fair spirit of the experimentation, will accept cashless payments in LIP.
"The smart-contracts at work will then be a little different," comments Maxime Faget, "less focused on the reward of artists and much more on the financing of local associations whose names will be communicated upstream." A way to involve directly local actors and to provide festivalgoers the opportunity to participate further in this process of equitable redistribution.
"Of course, it will not be the only way to recover the remaining money on their bracelet," he says. Dedicated stands during the festival, and a website active for a month after its closing, will make it possible.