Image courtesy of dnongbri
Originally posted on March 18, 2013
Or how a new way of looking at marketing saved a great blues festival from going under prematurely
Digging into the library for this one, but it’s relevant today as music festival season is upon us, and folks have just returned from SXSW down in Austin, TX. I shared this presentation at the International Music Conference in Austin last year and described how we leveraged social media to really engage with new fans and sell more tickets to a 22-year old blues festival down in Florida.
A storied festival had hit hard times and was in danger of tearing down the stage for the last time (great grist for a blues number, isn’t it?) when our company decided to buy the festival. From an operations standpoint, there was a lot we worked on to streamline and automate things like concessions and ticketing. And we did quite a bit for sponsorships and marketing, too.
Know Thy Audience
Our core fans were aging rockers and blues fans who were surprisingly active on Facebook and Pinterest, among other social networks. We looked at where we sold tickets before, who bought them and then surveyed past ticket purchasers, and discovered that many of them used smart phones for more than calls and web browsing.
Spread Your (Limited) Budget Wisely
We knew these were lean times, so we relied on social media early on to generate buzz and create public relations leads for us. Festival marketing happens year-round, but you don’t know your festival artists until four months from the festival date. It was interesting to see a slightly older demographic engage with the festival brand in Facebook and Pinterest (where those fans were comfortable), and then get them to try new networks, like Spotify, to actually sample the music from artists coming to the festival.
We did do traditional media as well but really looked to capitalize on the artists headlining the festival by having each artist record a one-minute video clip “welcoming” fans to the festival. These clips formed the basis of the content marketing portion of the outreach plan so that we could reveal a clip in the fan email newsletter each week leading up the festival. Plus, these were posted on the site and on YouTube, and shared on the Facebook timeline and Twitter feeds to make the clips even more viral.
Big Data Can Be Used for Good
The other discipline we brought to the table was around using ticket buyer data in real-time to see where tickets were being sold so we could adjust our targeting and deploy traditional print and radio in areas that weren’t selling well. Saving a bit of the budget for a push in the three-to-four weeks just prior to the festival is essential to capitalizing on the data collected to date. Got to have both to be effective.
In addition, we rolled out the industry’s first mobile box office where people could buy tickets from a poster on their smart phones then skip the long box office line and get scanned in right away. Fans appreciated the convenience but missed having a hard stock ticket stub, so we’ll address that with the next festival.
How’d We Do?
Sold out VIP tickets 30 days BEFORE the festival (a first) and ended up selling out the rest of the seats the day of the festival. Social media accounted for more than 12% of all ticket sales (normally 1-2% for most music festivals but growing) and check-in day of the festival broadcast events to an additional twenty thousand people (I’ll have to do a separate post on location-based services (LBS) another time).
If you have a public event and know the basics of what you want that experience to be, you should be leveraging social media nine to twelve months in advance to build that buzz and energize that fan base. Layer on paid and placed media closer to the event then turn things over to your fans to “market” the event with contests and other relevant communications to keep engagement and interest levels up. It’s a roadmap for a successful event!