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UPDATE: On the afternoon of July 10, Rave Family Block Fest was postponed due to technical issues. A rep for the festival tells Variety, “There have been a number of issues with the server and with Mixcloud being down this weekend, so they have had to pull the plug and will be coming up with some new dates. While there were lots of fans that were able to access the event, too many were having difficulties, and Rave Family decided it was the best decision for everyone to hit pause and work out the kinks.”

Rave Family CEO Jackie McGuire promised to deliver refunds in 48 hours and the server is being left open for those who would like to continue camping and listening to music. Her statement follows in full:

Rave Family,

I don’t know that there will ever be words to describe my feelings right now. I’ve never been more proud, hopeful, frustrated or defeated. My entire team has worked harder in the last three months than I ever knew was possible. What started out as a silly idea between friends morphed into something far larger than any of us. I have also asked more of my team than anyone should, and they have delivered above and beyond in every way.

With that said, I can’t ask them, the fans who supported us, or the artists who put time and energy into creating this amazing event to continue to work under the level of pressure we currently are. It’s not fair to anyone involved to deliver a subpar experience and knowing what we’ve actually built versus what we were able to deliver is heartbreaking. People who attended paid for an experience that they deserve.

We have decided to postpone the event, while still leaving our festival and camping open for the people who have been enjoying them for the last few days. Many artists have indicated that they still want to have their music in-game, and with more time – and hopefully sleep – We will be in a better place to fully deliver the festival everyone deserves. I want to be clear that this was never meant to be a one-time event, but rather the start of movement.

For those who choose to receive a refund, we’ll issue them within 48 hours. For the renegades who want to continue to camp, fest and dance with us, we will continue to support the servers and the amazing new world we’re building for our community.

I sincerely apologize to anyone who felt they were deceived. As we are able to let you into more of our worlds, we hope you’ll understand the level of time and energy by dozens of volunteer builders and other supporters that went into them. And to those volunteers, I am so very sorry that your hard work and time wasn’t showcased in the way it deserved to be.

While I feel like I’ve let a lot of people down, and to a certain extent, let the negativity and trolls win, watching people run around and have fun together in a place that my friends, family and I built last night was one of the highlights of my life. I still believe that creating a community that fosters tolerance, acceptance and connection through music is the most important thing I can do with my life.

We will still have music tonight, and hope to see you under the stars <3

With Love,

Rave Family

 

For Jackie McGuire, CEO and founder of production company Rave Family, music has always felt like more than a hobby. But with a burgeoning career in finance, McGuire settled for attending any EDM festival she could to blow off steam – until an opportunity fell into her lap during the inaugural year of Camp EDC in 2018.

As she hopped from festival to festival in a 40-foot-long school bus she’d bought with her husband, McGuire grew increasingly concerned about the accessibility of these events. Tickets were incredibly expensive, most of them weren’t wheelchair-friendly and even camping had its barriers. What started with emailing a list of harm-reduction services to Camp EDC’s organizers turned into manufacturing thousands of sleeping bags and pillows for the festival’s general store — and Rave Family was born.

Flash forward to 2020, and Rave Family is preparing to throw one of the largest – and most accessible – music festivals to date, with over 900 artists and 85 stages — entirely within the video game Minecraft. Rave Family Block Fest takes place this weekend (July 9-13).

After a tough spring — McGuire was laid off from her job as a data scientist at a cyber security company and contracted COVID-19 along with her three children — the idea for a virtual EDM festival began to incubate. When her kids introduced her to Minecraft, McGuire contacted friends with connections to DJs and a few more who happen to be Minecraft developers, creating a snowball effect that has just kept rolling.

“I just loved the thought of a virtual music festival that could be really accessible to everyone around the world, but also to artists,” McGuire tells Variety. “There are almost 1,000 artists on this lineup, and it’s because we let the artists book other artists. We said, ‘If you feel like you have a lot of creative direction and know people that you would like to book that maybe wouldn’t normally get booked to play a festival, then we would love for you to curate a lineup of your own.'”

The result is a roster that is diverse in every way: popularity level, gender, race and sub-genre. Big names like A-Trak, MK, Maya Jane Coles, Rudimental, Khruangbin, Gryffin, and Paris Hilton have been reduced to the same font size on the event’s poster, which is listed in alphabetical order. There are no headliners.

“When you don’t gate-keep and let numbers drive who you book, you end up with a significantly more representative lineup of the community,” McGuire says. “We have two full stages of female artists and I think every other stage has at least one or two female artists on it. I’ve also seen so many more Black artists, because it’s not really a secret that EDM is not the most diverse genre.”

Not only is the festival accessible to artists, but it’s paying them, too. With general admission tickets going at $10 each, McGuire and her team developed a revenue model to make sure that both DJs – and the rights-holders of the music they’re mixing – are properly compensated.

“When we set out to do this, there were two big imperatives for me. One was to pay for the rights for the music because I think it is unconscionable to make millions of dollars in revenue streaming music and not pay the people that made the music that you’re streaming,” McGuire says. “So 30% of ticket profits go toward rights holders and the technology that makes the music stream. Then we split the remaining seven dollars: 60% goes to the artists and 40% goes to us.”

Although Rave Family Block Fest is set to make history, it hasn’t been a smooth ride. The festival was originally called Electric Blockaloo and was meant to take place the weekend of June 25, but an internal rift and a massive Minecraft update scheduled for June 23 caused an unexpected postponement. However, the extra two weeks gave Rave Family the opportunity to add even more artists and build more stages, including a tribute to Red Rocks, a space station, a giant alligator with the stage inside its mouth and a sloth-themed stage.

But this is just the beginning for Rave Family and McGuire, who hopes to continue holding virtual festivals as frequently as possible in order to make music more accessible to all, even post-pandemic.

“It’s the ability to reach all of your fans, not just the ones who can afford expensive festival and club tickets,” McGuire says. “I think people forget that some people don’t like to be in crowds or that most music festivals are not wheelchair-friendly, so there’s just a lot of people for whom a regular music festival is never going to be an option.

“I think once you’ve provided an income stream for artists – especially a very fair one where everybody’s getting paid for their music and for what they’re doing,” she concludes. “I don’t foresee anyone walking away from that.”