Dancing to the Same Tune: Fitting the Music Festival to Your Brand

In a recent post, we discussed the shifting musical festival landscape and how brands are essential to a festival’s survival.

Our determination is that, in many ways, music festivals have evolved beyond the music, meaning a solid line up of acts is not enough to attract attendees anymore. Festival attendees want to be given a unique experience. And that experience, more often than not, is created by sponsors, whether through experiential activations or another type of attendee engagement. These elaborate activations are simply not possible for most festivals without sponsors who can foot the bill for these costly attractions.

It is incumbent for music festivals, in order to earn those valuable sponsorships, to justify the high costs that sponsors will shell out by proving return on investment (ROI) to brands, especially non-endemic brands. Non-endemics are always going to be the hardest sell but are essential to the survival of music festivals.

For brands, on the other hand, ROI is just a portion of the picture. There’s an atmosphere to each music festival that ensures some brands will fit better in certain places than others. Does that mean there is an ideal music festival match for your brand? Well, the answer to that is threefold: yes, no, and maybe.

  • Yes – there are some music festivals where the majority of the crowd aligns with your brand’s message.
  • No – there are always attendees who refuse to be categorized and will appreciate your message as an outlier.
  • Maybe – most brands don’t have an unlimited marketing budget, so you have to be sensible about the crowds you target, which means getting the biggest bang for your buck.

With a little careful consideration, you can ensure that you and your intended audience are dancing to the same tune.

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Photo Credit: Thomas Cook

Fashionistas

Fashionable brands have plenty of music festival options. The most obvious is the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival outside of LA. Every year since 2015, clothing retailer H&M actually releases a clothing line labeled specifically for Coachella. Other brands do the same thing, they’re just slightly less in-your-face about it. Fashion retailers, makeup manufacturers, tech businesses, and high-end automotive companies have all featured activations at past Coachella festivals. In fact, it would be an interesting experiment to see what would happen to attendance if, one year, Coachella just didn’t have any musical acts.

Coachella, however, is not the only festival where fashionistas flock. Lollapalooza, which takes over Chicago’s Grant Park for a few days every summer, attracts a pretty trendy crowd, as does  Bottlerock Napa Valley (which, in addition to claiming to have the best live music, also touts the best in food, beer, and wine) and the European festival Primavera Sound.

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Photo Credit: Recessionista

Relaxed Atmosphere, Environmentally Friendly

These next fests are the flip side of Coachella and their ilk; hot, sweaty gatherings where a sense of community ties the event together. Here, the typical attendee is fairly relaxed and genuinely cares about environmental and social causes. An example is Lollapalooza’s neighbor to the west, the Pitchfork Music Festival held in Union Park located in Chicago’s West Loop. Pitchfork is a three-day fest that attracts a variety of musical acts and genres and a fair amount of repeat visitors. The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is another, where attendees spend most of four days camping on the grounds in Manchester, Tennessee. Due to the variety of acts, it’s more the friendly atmosphere that attracts attendees, than simply a single style of music.

Other examples include the Shaky Knees Music Festival (Atlanta, GA), Firefly Music Festival (Dover, DE), Treefort Music Fest (Boise, ID), Hangout Music Fest (Gulf Shores, AL), Fortress Festival (Fort Worth, TX), Panorama (New York, NY), Mo Pop Festival (Detroit, MI), and Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival (Okeechobee, FL).

There are also some festivals geared toward country music fans that reflect this relaxed atmosphere and sense of community. This country music genre has gone through a bit of an evolution in the past decade as many artists adopted more of a pop sound while others jumped back and forth between the pop and country scenes. The result has been a broadening of the fanbase and fests, such as the Stagecoach Festival and the Tortuga Music Festival, that have adopted an easy goin’ vibe.

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Photo Credit: Medium

Technodexterous

Music fests are attractive to an incredibly tech-savvy audience. Millennials and Gen Z'ers have never known a time when they couldn’t walk around with a tiny supercomputer in their pockets (that also makes phone calls). Some of the festivals already mentioned certainly fit into this category. For example, in addition to fashion labels, Coachella has a number of tech sponsors. Last year, HP put on a massive activation called “The Antarctic,” where visitors could enter an 11,000-square-foot, domed facility, take a break from the heat in some cozy seats, and view an interactive, kaleidoscopic film projected on the dome that took viewers on a journey through the desert, space, and within the human body.

HP did a comparable activation at the New York City-based Panorama Music Festival, where the company’s products were used to power a massive series of hands-on exhibitions designed by local artists. Other digitally friendly music fests include the Governors Ball Music Festival at Randall's Island Park in New York, the Wireless Festival in London (which was originally sponsored by the telecommunications company O2 but is now backed by Yahoo!), and Moogfest in Durham, North Carolina.

A similarly tech-savvy crowd can be found at the increasingly popular electronic dance music (EDM) festivals, such as Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Music Festival Miami. These can be a great way to reach a mostly younger crowd, but be sure to do your homework first. These gatherings are well known for a hard-partying atmosphere. So, if your brand is not the dance till dawn type, maybe another fest is more your style.  

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Photo Credit: Obscura Digital

Activation Tips

If you need some help to become part of the conversation, here are some tips that can make your brand as essential to the fest as the band on stage.

  1. Offer Amenities – A small gesture, like having plenty of charging stations, can go a long way toward earning goodwill from your visitors. Battery drainage is a serious threat to an attendee’s good time. Provide the ability for people to power up their devices – especially wirelessly – you are going to earn fans
  2. Hand out SWAG – However, this goes beyond simply tossing branded tchotchkes about. If you want to make an impression, ask yourself, “What will people at this festival need?” then solve it with your giveaway. The more you can seamlessly integrate your giveaways within the event, the more successful your activation will be.
  3. Provide an Oasis – Outdoor music fests and perfect weather are antithetical to each other; wind, rain, heat, cold, you name it. By offering an area where people can take a break from these conditions, you are providing an essential need and earning some valuable face time.
  4. Make Memories – The most important thing is to make an impression.  Attendees want and expect to be given a unique experience, so they can hop on social media and share. Give them something to post, tweet, and snap about.

Are you looking to create an engaging experience for festivalgoers? Give us a call at 972-323-9433 to discover how Event Architecture can help.

sofia krsmanovic