Porter Robinson Explains Impetus To Create Second Sky Festival: 'It Helps the Audience Understand Me Better'

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Jasmine Safaeian
Virtual Self performs at Second Sky festival on June 15, 2019 in Oakland, Calif.

Last month, Porter Robinson fans congregated at Second Sky, the two-day festival in Oakland, Calif. conceived and masterminded by Robinson himself.

Initially intended to be a one-day showcase, Second Sky sold out rapidly and a second day -- with nearly the exact same lineup -- was soon added, and sold out as well. Both days drew rave reviews from attendees and those within the festival industry, who lauded Second Sky for its boldness and vision. Robinson caught up with Billboard to discuss bringing Second Sky to life. 

What was the initial spark that led to the idea to create Second Sky?
I thought it would be the most meaningful way for me to support my favorite artists. I don't think the algorithms do a good job of recommending "related artists" -- usually, anything similar is kind of similar in a superficial way. I wanted Second Sky to be my way of recommending truly good music to my audience that I think is worthy of their time. 

Not many algorithms would recommend Ananamaguchi to Porter fans, because it probably classifies me as some kind of EDM, and them as chiptune or rock or whatever. But there's so much shared DNA between the two projects -- the way we think and approach music is so related, and I just know Porter fans would love Anamanaguchi.

So, the concept was a single-stage festival, and I open and close the festival to encourage people to stay for all of the other artists. My hope is to give as much of a platform as I can to the music that I love, and as a bonus, I think it helps the audience understand me better.

Can you talk a bit about what went into curating the artists and also creating the running order for the day?
The lineup is almost exactly the first draft of what I had in my head! Luckily, almost everyone said yes. The running order was just based on what made sense based on the artists' followings and billings, which is quite typical stuff. The biggest difference was that I chose to open the festival in order to get people in early and watching.

One reality of artist-curated festivals is the inherent risk -- fans have this powerful relationship with your music, but then there’s this new responsibility of delivering a flawless event. Did that play on your mind in the planning?
It's so risky, and I was definitely anxious. There's so many things that can go wrong, and if I'm merely playing and not hosting a festival, none of those things reflect on me. My manager and I obsessed over this a lot, though, and I think one of the highest compliments we've gotten has been from people gushing over the logistics. I didn't think that was possible at a music festival.

Do you feel artist-curated events like your own represent a real shift in the U.S. festival market? Do you see a meaningful change in what's available to fans now?
I really don't know. I wasn't approaching this at all from the perspective of someone who sees market trends or anything like that. It was merely, let's put on this cool thing so I can play together with all my favorite artists. It really was as pure as that!

Festivals 2019