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Event 13 – “All that Jazz…” Jakarta Jazz Festival – WOW

“Jakarta has a jazz festival? No way!” This was the response I got every time I told someone I was going to a jazz festival in Indonesia. This was not just a jazz festival – this was an events management dream…Welcome to the most brand activated event I have ever experienced. 


What was the event? 

Jakarta Java Jazz Festival on the 1 – 3 March held at the Jakarta Expo centre was now its 15th year and it was already – as soon as I walked in – an absolute explosion of brands in front of me. Welcome to the story of how a Jazz Festival in Jakarta has become a world phenomena. 


What happened at the event? 

Over 3 days I was in awe. This was not just a jazz festival. This is a spectacle for all to behold and enjoy. I don’t think I will be able to explain everything in one post because there was more going on here than at Disneyland Florida on a Summer Day. 

With my wristband and tap pay topped up I walked through the gates of Jakarta Java Jazz Festival. This event can be compared to Las Vegas with all the lights and an over the top experience being produced. I am sure if NASA was to take a snapshot of Jakarta from the 1st – 3rd March – the Jakarta Expo Centre would be lighting up the skies from space. Imagine an explosion of brands coming together in a washing machine and then they are neatly placed in the middle of concrete car park with 9 stages in the expo halls and surrounding compact areas – that’s what Jakarta Jazz Festival is – and this is me just walking in.

Kit Kat, Domestic Flight companies, Food and Drink, Jack Daniels – AND MORE – they all have exuberant structures, PR staff with leaflets, bag giveaways, Instagram photo opportunities, live music inside there large multistory pods and I haven’t even seen any of the nine stages yet. This is an events managers dream. Immediately I knew I was about experience something so creative, so extravagant, so commercialized but so exceptional. For about an hour I was lost for words (for me this does not happen that often). I was wandering about with my eyes wide open and taking every leaflet I could. I have never been at something that has surprised me – in a good way – like the Jakarta jazz Festival did.


The technology they use is amazing, the creative output with set designs was second to none, the method of making people buy into the event as in collecting data and taking photos for instagram – could not have been manufactured any better. Don’t get me wrong – we are in Indonesia so of course the cabling was out in the rain and the overall safety element may have been missed – BUT packaging of the product is there. If you were to experience this festival and not know of the location you would think you were in Las Vegas, Tomorrowland – somewhere that has major production abilities  oozing out of every avenue – but you weren’t. The people who could afford to be here from Indonesia were middle class and even upper class. This was not a cheap event for the lower class population. But it was cheap in comparison to other global festivals on this scale. 

My notes I typed while standing on day one included “The world needs to see this festival”. I think this was because overall I was comparing to what I had experienced outside in the sheer poverty to then walk through a door of brand consumption and commercialization was mind blown. The reason I had picked this event was to understand how a jazz festival could work in Jakarta. Simple really because the brand is built and everyone enjoys attending, being part and experiencing this global stage for jazz and music – with their slogan #musicunitesusall.

In one way although the event was perfect some things were very mechanical. The hosts were reading scripts – which was every single performance on one of the nine stages was the exact same – a part from the name of the band. This was quite repetitive after seeing the 14th artist. I don’t know whether this is because they were repeating the sponsors over and over and had to because of contract. But that would be my only critism. 

Oh and the main sponsor – a cigarette company…where basically you can buy a packet of cigarettes for 40p.

Anything else to add?  

Two things I want to introduce and really focus on for this closing piece is music and waste. 

The music element was inspiring, varied and fun. The music production was out of this world. The lighting shows were amazing and overall it was just mind blown. with a very impressive stage production. This included a band who I had followed for years and had started from humble beginnings busking at New York Subway Stations. Now, Lucky Chops were standing in front of me and I was asking Josh, one of the band members, what was an event for him. He liked the questions but I loved his responses. However, what was crucial was how the band caused an interactive immersive experience. He was controlling the crowd without them even known. “Hands up, clap, clap this pace…shake your hips…” And so on. What does this do? Well it psychologically leaves a positive experience and people remember the concert they went to that was full of interactive experiences.


Walking down the streets of Jakarta – like the real streets where I had spoke earlier in the week about immersing myself in – you would not think that they would care about waste and recycling. Well, I can tell you in this festival – its completely different through the doors of the Expo centre at Jakarta Jazz Festival. Event Number 13 saw me witness some of the most branded, well positioned and packaged recycling campaign. They didn’t want waste – they wanted more music. I was so impressed and have lots of videos and photos to share.


I don’t think I can get across my excitement of experiencing Jakarta Java Jazz Festival. This event I could write a whole book on itself. I could write a PHD on how the event has grown, volunteer management (basically every staff member), developing a europhical experience and putting Jakarta

 One thing to take away…

Never think that a city that you may think is not capable of delivering a world class event – until you have experienced for yourself.

“Never just judge something in life until you stand with your eyes and ears wide open – then you can judge…”

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