Making the Most of Music Festivals

By: Sean Brenner

With two weekends of Coachella now in the books, music festivals are in full swing for 2016.

And it’s no wonder that music festivals have remained a hot target for brands. Thirty-two million people attended at least one of them in 2014 — as Billboard magazine helpfully (or, uh, morbidly) points out, that’s roughly 12 times the number of Americans who died the same year.

And although the demographics skew quite a bit based on the event, the location and the type of music, they’re particularly rich environment for millennials: 14.7 million attended at least one music fest that year, per Billboard.

Amazingly, even some of the festivals that have been around since before millennials were born seem to keep skewing younger. The Chicago Tribune cites research showing that the number of 18-to-24-year-olds at Lollapalooza (DOB: 1991) had increased by close to 10 percent in the past two years, at the same time the number of 35-to-54-year-olds had decreased at the same rate. (Radiohead, the Chili Peppers and LCD Soundsystem are your 2016 headliners, late July, Chicago. Go check it out.

So, aside from the opportunity to engage with millennials, what do we like about the opportunities for brands at music fests? To name a few:

Before, during, after.
Sure, you can activate on site at the event. Makes sense. But going to these events is such a big deal that the buildup can last for weeks beforehand, offering plenty of possible brand moments. In early April, online retailer Boohoo opened a pop-up shop in Westwood Village, Los Angeles, for the express purpose of selling clothing women could wear to Coachella  — which would begin two weeks later, 145 miles away. Or brands can tap in to all of the content the festivals produce by finding strategic ways to make the music, selfies and memories relevant afterward.

Highly social.
When it comes to social media, music fests make the magic happen. And comparatively few of the tweets, snaps and Instagrams are about the individual music acts themselves. An Eventbrite report suggests that fully 17 percent are focused on the event experience.

Far, far away.
Two points here: One, lots of fans really travel to get to the events — that Billboard piece found that the average distance traveled to get to a music festival is an astonishing 903 miles. Two, thanks to performances being live streamed and social media, a lot of the online conversation about the events happens in real time in cities and towns far from the main stage. These events can dominate the conversation among a certain niche, even if a lot of that niche isn’t actually there in person.

Enhance the experience.
The brands doing the best job of activating at music festivals are the ones whose activations are focused on adding to the fans’ enjoyment of the event. Per Engadget, Coachella attendees got a custom-produced Google Cardboard virtual reality viewer. Providing free rides, free air-conditioned tents, free phone charging stations or even free makeovers can help enhance the experience in a way traditional booths and swag never will.

Planning your 2016 music festival roadtrip? Check out Music Festival Wizard’s 2016 event list.