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The Allure of the Music Festival: Why Do Big Brands Keep Going Back?

Posted by Samantha Stallard on April 5, 2017
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Bonnaroo, Coachella, Governor's Ball, Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, Electric Forest... the names are just as eclectic as the music. Despite the increasing ease at which music fans can find, follow, and curate playlists of their favorite artists online, the allure of the music festival continues to grow each passing year. Proving the point Pop2Life has been preaching for more than a decade... people can't solely exist behind their screens. In fact, consumers crave live experiences - and are willing to pay top dollar for them.

Yes, music festivals are expensive to attend. However, they aren't that much more than a single-artist booking. For instance, a three-day pass to Coachella will cost you $399 for a General Admission pass while a single ticket to Radiohead's tour (one of the festival's headliners) start at $90. Festivals make it easy, and cost-effective, to see dozens of high-quality music on demand, it’s the experience that drives attendance.

Festivals offer more than a 12 song set and an encore, there's also shopping, food, drinks, activites, and high quality music experiences - both onsite and off. Sophisticated social media campaigns have unquestionably played a role in hyping these events to their target audience. With many musicians struggling to pull in the same revenue they did from traditional sales, the industry has moved towards pouring money into live performances. Festivals grew in popularity because they offer high quality experiences. 

US brands spent more than $1.4 billion in sponsorship on music tours, venues and festivals during 2015. Both media and nonmedia brands are dedicating part of their marketing and branding budgets to live events, helping them to expand in scope and popularity.

While more and more brands are taking festivals into their own hands and activating in-house experiences from the ground up, like Red Bull Music Academy in New York and Budweiser's end-of-summer Made in America concerts in Philadelphia, the high-risk and high-production cost means that most brands choose to activate side-by-side at existing festivals. Last year, some 447 brands played a role in 300 music festivals worldwide, according to analysis by Frukt

But, why do big brands keep going back?

According to research commissioned by media agency Target Media and carried out by Eyeball, going to a festival is the most exciting thing 44% of respondents have ever done. This makes the target audience far more open-minded, allowing sponsors and advertisers a better chance of getting their message across. And with festivals attracting an increasing variety of attendees, brands have ample opportunity to earn "cool points" with existing consumers and attract brand new ones all in the same space. Here are a few reasons brands find so much success at music festivals:

Because the Millennials are there

It may be a dirty word in the marketing industry, but when a Millennial walks into a music festival, sponsors and brands know that they are prepared to spend money. Millennials are in the in-between period of life in which they have stable incomes combined with low overhead costs (since many have yet to purchase a home or start a family). They are willing to spend that extra cash on experiences - and brands that align themselves with those experiences.

Who does it well?

VH1 at Lollapalooza: The TV network hosted live music and a GIF photobooth where festival attendees could create an animated graphic, then email/share, giving participants a complimentary souvenir to share with friends. In addition, VH1 provided a 10’ by 17’ screen that displayed fans’ Tweets and Instagram Pictures as long as they tweeted at VH1 with the hashtag, #BestLollaEver. By doing so, VH1 was able to spread awareness about its brand not only at Lollapalooza, but also through entire social networks.

Because FOMO is a powerful motivator

Social media promotion is a powerful amplifier for brands activating at music festivals. Attendees not only want to live their best lives, but they want to post everything to Snapchat so friends and family can bask in their glory. The most successful brand activations include a custom hashtag that's shared alongside the official event hashtag, which has a higher chance of being searched both by attendees and those following along at home.

Who does it well?

American Express at Coachella: The credit card company offered exclusive VIP access prizes, and free tickets to Coachella 2017 to members through the brands #amexaccess social media marketing campaign. They also tapped 10 social influencers to post engaging photos using the hashtag. Their campaign reached over 15 million people with nearly 140k likes, and 400 comments across three different social media platforms (75x the number of people who actually attended Coachella in 2016).

Because content capture possibilities abound

Let's be honest with ourselves, the reason brands continue to activate at festivals is to grow revenue. The more consumers, the more earnings. But, brands have to provide an offering or a service attendees want before they will hand over an email address. Many tap into a specific need, like sweepstakes for a chance to win free VIP passes or showers/laundry service at camping fests like Bonnaroo. Music festivals are an ideal environment for brands to test new products in the innovation pipeline with a diverse audience. Sampling food, drinks, accessories, and more provide valuable data and insights into consumers' tastes and preferences. It can build loyalty, too!

Who does it well?

HGTV at CMA Fest: The annual country music fest in Nashville has a unique approach to crowd control, offering attendees "picks" in which they bid on concerts to attend. HGTV offered attendees five additional "picks" for signing up for their newsletter - a price well worth the chance to attend a sought after show.


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Topics: experiential marketing, music festivals, brand experiences

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