2020 – the year of the greatest challenge we have faced since World War Two. Music industry especially. Concerts, tours, festivals, album recordings and releases… all postponed or cancelled. But all hope is not lost! Thanks to modern technology, artists are slowly but surely embracing the idea of streamed live shows. This is also the case of Online Female Fest – the first virtual female festival in history. Next to bringing an amazing package of artists together, the festival has also a charity character as all the proceeds will be donated to Help Musicians UK, the leading UK charity for musicians of all genres. Read more in our exclusive interview with the festival founder Kiara Laetitia below.
MG: Online Female Fest is unique in many aspects. To start with, can you explain the main idea of the festival and why did you decide to launch it?
Kiara: I started talking about online shows back in 2011 as I had a feeling they would become a way for new generations to watch shows. Back then people looked at me like I was crazy. When I started my label in 2014 I encouraged artists in my roster to start exploring this avenue and I also talk about it in my last book Never Give Up. So to me, this has always been a possibility. When the covid-19 pandemic hit, it was obvious that the only immediate solution for artists was to play online shows. Recently, I personally think that there’s too many online shows, workshops and live chats, but that’s the way it is when people discover a new toy ☺ and because the majority is not as busy with their jobs. All of this online “noise” will gradually decrease.
The concrete thought for this festival started with the current situation of course, with all events cancelled and billions of people on quarantine or lockdown. I’m a huge mental health advocate and I try to stay close to people via socials, even though I can’t give advice, as I’m not a psychologist. Less than two weeks into the first lockdowns in Europe, I started receiving several messages from people getting suicidal or having a hard time being in isolation and that concerned me. Prolonged isolation can be very problematic for those already battling with depression or anxiety. What was the future of our mental health? I started thinking how I could be of help, how I could bring a sparkle, as small as it may be, to all the billions of people on lockdown. Music always had a healing power on me, so I thought I could set up a festival for charity. The choice of women is because we represent only 16.8% of all active artists. I wanted to give voice to women, particularly in this moment.
Artists will perform from their homes, the audience will stream the festival from wherever they are (most likely at home as well :-/). As a matter of fact, the Online Female Fest will be the first virtual all-female festival ever.
MG: We all know that the corona outbreak has been bothering our lives for a while now but how long have you been working on the festival? It all happened so fast, you must have acted very quickly. Are you getting enough sleep these days? 😀
Kiara: Those who know me or follow me on my IG know I rarely sleep much ☺ I put the idea together and sent the first emails and artist confirmation in a couple of weeks. It was all very quick. The first couple of days into my idea, I contacted some venues and booking agents to see if they wanted to work with me on this, but after the first “Mmm don’t know”, I decided to go solo on this adventure.
MG: What’s been the most challenging part of preparations so far? Are you working alone or do you have a team that helps you with everything?
Kiara: I only have my assistant in L.A. helping me with social media and a graphic designer created the flyer, but the rest is all me. There are many challenges actually, but probably the main one was at the very beginning (seems like forever but it’s only a couple of weeks ago) when I wanted to have a partner for the organization of the festival. I talked with a few agents and venues that are not working right now, but they were all very sceptical about the idea; as I mentioned earlier, all the answers I received were “I’ll think about it and let you know”. Then they disappeared ahah. Now they’re all contacting me asking how they can help. It’s always discouraging when people don’t seem to get your vision, but I didn’t give up on my idea and I decided I had to go solo. I think it’s normal with anything new to encounter some sort of scepticism and several Nos, but it’s never pleasant regardless.
The other challenge for me will be making sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible on May 16th.
MG: The line-up includes some very interesting names as well as diverse acts. How was the process of choosing the artists to be a part of OFF like? What was your key when deciding who you want to approach?
Kiara: I like all the artists I chose: their voice, their music, their charisma. They’re all unique women and talents. I wanted to have a good combination of genres and diversity in performances and style. On the Online Female Fest virtual stage we’ll see, in order of appearance:
Season Of Ghosts, a female fronted electro rock/metal band with catchy melodies;
Anna Holtz from Desdaemona, symphonic band from Italy;
Linda Varg, talented Swedish singer and songwriter, whom I discovered when she participated at Swedish Idol several years ago;
Chiara Manese, an amazing opera and crossover singer and vocal coach;
Ell’N’Rock, DJ and influencer, whose quarantine online show is viewed by tens of thousands of people every Sunday;
Lacey Sturm needs very little introduction: two times Grammy nominated singer and songwriter who collaborated (among others) with Breaking Benjamin, Orianthi, POD and with a successful solo career;
Last but not least, Share Ross from one of the most iconic all-female rock band ever, Vixen.
MG: Every good festival has a headliner. What can you tell us about the headliner of Online Female Fest?
Kiara: I actually wouldn’t say that the Online Female Fest has a headliner per se, because of the way the show was conceived. To me, the OFF is like a TV show and I conceived it as such, like a journey through music, trying to balance the different genres and performances in a unique show. I couldn’t think of it as if it were a live music festival, where people can walk around while listening to music when they’re also distracted at times. A virtual show has different dynamics. Even the fact that I chose only seven artists instead of twenty like a live festival is the fact that the attention span is much different online. The Online Female Fest has almost four hours of music; I felt that adding more artists would have taken away the attention from each talent and the show as a whole, for instance. That’s also why the performances never go past thirty minutes each – I want each performer to have all the attention. I honestly can’t wait to watch all the performances!
MG: The festival will be streamed through the StageIt platform. Can you tell us a little bit more why you decided to go with this service?
Kiara: I’ve been knowing of Stageit for a long time and have used it and know of many artists that used it in the past (Bon Jovi for instance). They’ve been in business for quite some time. The great thing about Stageit is that it’s an integrated platform where you can stream shows, sell tickets before and during the event, the audience can interact with performers. This to me what the best option for what I had in mind.
MG: As already mentioned, the shows will be streamed live in a real-time. Will there be a way to rewatch the stream later on for those who might not be able to watch or want to relive the experience?
Kiara: No. The great thing about Online Female Fest is that it will be like any concert: a unique experience that cannot be repeated. So the only way to watch the show would be to get the ticket and show up on that day like you would do with any festival. People wanting to attend the festival have to get tickets, which is a free donation, at this link.
MG: All the proceeds of the festival will be donated to Help Musicians UK. What’s so special about this certain charity that spoke to you and made you choose them?
Kiara: In about 4 weeks Help Musicians UK with their our Coronavirus Hardship Fund made payments of £500 to nearly 16,700 musicians facing financial difficulties, for a total of £8.35m; £5m were from their own reserves while the other £3.35m came from the support of the music industry, artists and music-lovers. I liked what they did during this crisis and wanna be of help in a small way.
MG: Clearly, you had a very good reason to found the festival this year but any chance of the second edition in the future, even when these hard times are, hopefully, over? Did you already think about it?
Kiara: Yes. I’ve already received a lot of requests for a second edition. I already have tons of ideas and artists who would like to participate but I can’t say anything else at the moment ☺
MG: Anything else you might want to add?
Kiara: I seriously cannot wait to watch all the performances on May 16th and hope I can fully enjoy them, since I’ll be working together with tech people on it. For those wanting to attend this unique festival, which will not be recorded, they can get tickets at: www.bit.ly/OFFTickets16