Creative Focus: V98 festival embraces the Net

If the sun's still shining on the weekend of the 22nd Virgin's V98 festival, bolstered by its own pre-event website, should prove a tad more inviting than the annual mud-fest at Glastonbury.

Virgin's efforts with the festival, now in its third year, have embraced the creative potential of the Internet and stretched its capabilities to deliver live webcasts, music samples, aduio interviews and more than a few digital stills of the event.

Of course if you're a company like Virgin with bands like The Verve and Texas waiting to prance around on your stage, getting traffic onto the Web site really isn't that big a challenge. A little more tricky is ensuring the promises made to adoring public are met. According to the company's new technology manager James Cronin last year's V97 went pretty much as planned with over 100,000 satisfied netizens logging onto the site over the weekend.

This year, with the likes of Robbie Williams and All Saints promising to fill the venues with the usual horde of screaming devotees, Cronin is making sure the Web site doesn't buckle under the strain: "We've come to arrangements for bandwidth with our partners all over the world" says Cronin who last year wrote a vital piece of software for the V97 Web site while tucked away in a portacabin. "We send out one 64k stream to lots of splitters which in turn send the data on to their local destinations."

The streams are used to deliver the concert performances of the big bands and Cronin likes to think his team's enthusiasm for the music/techie mix was instrumental in The Prodigy's attitude toward the Internet. "When they looked at what we were doing last year they weren't that enthusiastic. Ah, how things change..."

V98 takes place at two sites simultaneously: Hylands park, Chelmsford and Temple Newsam Park, Leeds. For those of you who can't go, try the website which is updated regularly by a team of journalists armed only with hand held computers and the promise of a glimpse at the All Saints. "If we have a frenzy" says Cronin, "like we had with The Blur last year all the editorial team come rushing back with digital images and stories."

How do you cope? "Well, there's only so many people you can squeeze into a portacabin!"

V98 starts 22nd August and finishes on the 23rd.

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