Music festivals are a booming business and right now is a great time to be involved. Music festivals in the UK are not only growing in number, but music tourism is as strong as ever, meaning the number of attendees that are willing to travel to attend festivals, large and small. They’re also lucrative. Festivals brought in more than £1bn in revenue to the UK between 2014 and 2017.
Whether you’re part of an established music festival or just starting out, a robust promotional strategy is key to hosting a successful event with a strong turnout. The trick to good attendance is to establish brand recognition, generate sustained hype for the festival and build long-lasting connections with fans through your promotional strategy. In this post, we share three proven ways to maximise your promotional efforts and make your music festival a true can’t-miss event.
Get Social Savvy
Digital is a must when promoting your music fest. For maximum impact, map out your social media strategy early on in your planning process. This includes identifying your primary platforms (“all” is not always the best strategy), establishing your advertising budget and setting your engagement goals, such as number of conversions to ticket sales from your posts. Here’s a few baseline tips to think about as you get started:
- Content is king. Plan to curate great content in advance, so that you’re not scrambling to find fun, interesting things to post – you may even want to set up an editorial calendar. The content you post should be consistently branded and relevant to your festival audience. And think beyond just basic text posts – be sure to incorporate multimedia content like photos, graphics and videos. It is a music fest, after all; appeal to people’s eyes and ears!
- Hashtag happy. Early on, create a unique hashtag and use this in all of your digital marketing activities.
- Pay to play. Your die-hard fans will engage with your festival on social media, but purchasing a series of ads will help you reach new and larger networks of potential attendees. With Facebook, for example, you can set up a “Core Audiences” ad that targets recipients based on a number of metrics, such as location, age, gender or interests, like music types and groups.
Another strategy is to couple your social media campaign with a direct appeal to relevant influencers to ask them to share or promote some of your festival posts. Influencers are people with credibility and large followings on various social channels – they could be local officials or businesses, band members, or creative influencers from the art, music, fashion and food scene. Find these people and consider offering them merchandise or a free ticket in exchange for their promotional help.
One story about a band who started their own music festival suggests that you retain a sizable amount of your budget for marketing and advertising, both online and off. In addition to a strong social media presence, the band found success in renting billboards, advertising on the radio and creating cool posters that they hung “everywhere”.
Build Brand Recognition with Custom Merchandise
Another more tactile way to promote your upcoming festival is with some high-impact, high-exposure merchandise. The right custom merchandise can help you establish and build brand recognition in the months and years leading up to your festival, while generating a little extra cash as you go.
Two great choices to showcase your festival brand are bespoke badges and water bottles. Badges are great because they’re incredibly cost-effective, yet high exposure. They’re an ideal giveaway for promotions and partnerships during the lead-up to your festival. One design tip is to include your festival name, date, website and hashtag on a matching backing card so that people can find out more about it. Here’s an example of a great enamel band badge we did for the group, Bring Me the Horizon.
Water bottles are another great and timely choice. People are seeking ways to reduce plastic pollution, and high-quality water bottles offer a durable alternative to wasteful single-use water bottles. Here’s another example from Bring Me the Horizon. The band actually created its own shop called Horizon Supply Co to have greater control over its bespoke merchandise. This BPA-free aluminum canteen has Horizon Supply Co printed on the front and the band’s graphics on the back.
And don’t forget to order bespoke clothing to sell onsite at your festival! Here’s a great example from this year’s Glastonbury Festival. You could create your own “fest vest” or an entire line of t-shirts, sweatshirts, fleece jackets, hats and bags.
Think Outside the Box
You’re thinking creatively about your artists and your festival, so don’t be afraid to get a little creative with your promotional strategy, too. While digital is the way to go, also incorporate some “IRL” activities to encourage followers to engage with your brand offline before and during the festival. Here’s one idea: hold an adult treasure hunt around secret locations or landmarks in your area and give away festival goodies including a pair of festival tickets as the grand prize!
Thinking outside the box is also about reaching out to interesting sponsors or partners to help promote your festival. Connect with local restaurant owners or retailers to see if they’d be interested in sponsoring your festival or offering any sort of in-kind help, like displaying your posters at their store or even hosting a special pre-festival celebration to raffle off prizes like free merch or VIP seating.
If you run out of ideas, do some R&D — which of course means going to as many other music festivals as you can! Keep tabs on the growing calendar of events in your area – there’s a number of curated lists from sources like Standard, the Guardian, Time Out and the Festival Calendar. What makes each special? What gaps (or dates) could your festival fill?
If you get stuck, let us know! We’d love to talk about everything from bespoke merchandise to your band lineup. Rock on!