Grow your Audience

Christian Hill, from branding and digital agency Project Simply, shares advice on increasing your festival’s audience using innovative marketing techniques.

Crowd at an event
Photo: Getty Images

We know your marketing budgets are stretched, and with the increasingly competitive nature of the festival landscape, it’s more important than ever to spend those budgets in the most effective way. Here are some tips to extend your reach and engage with your audience – your current and future festivalgoers. We’ll look at ways to target the hardcore festival fans who will share your content, help build an online community and upgrade their tickets to VIP status.

Using tried and tested social channels to engage with and wow your audience is a given, but if you want to go the extra mile, innovate and stand out from the crowd, have a think about doing the following:

1) Livestream your festival
Livestreaming your event gives users unique and memorable access to the festival experience you are offering.

There’s some interesting stats around this one. Research from Digitell showed that 30% of fans who watched a festival on livestream then attended the festival in person the following year. It makes sense to market the opportunity to watch the festival live across social channels and to all subscribed but non attending users, once tickets have sold out, maximising initial marketing spend.

Kendal Calling teamed up with Twitch to livestream their festival playlist with a staggering 418,000 views of their channel. This won’t be unique users but if the 30% rule applies then they went some way to getting a sell-out event the following year.

Combine the livestream access with some data capture and you’ve got a burgeoning super fan list and lots of potential attendees next year.

Additional benefits of livestreaming include:

• Maintaining participation with your existing audience not able to attend the current event
• Interacting and engaging with your audience in real time
• Increasing reach to a wider audience with a relatively low budget spend
• Livestreaming from VIP viewing areas, pushing the value of VIP tickets
• Generating content for other marketing opportunities across platforms.

2) Get artists to promote for you
If your festival is focused on music it goes without saying that your line-up should be engaging with their fans on social media in line with your own marketing efforts.

No artist wants to play to an empty field. Consider creative tools that encourage fans to see their favourite artists at your event:

• A unique location
• A sunset in the background
• Similar artists to discover
• An exclusive new track or cover to be performed only at the festival
• Meet and greet competition
• Make it distinct and unique – a reason for fans to be in front of that particular stage.

Encourage performers to embed ticketing on their sites. See who is bringing their own crowd and gain useful data on who is worth booking again.

Festival Advertisements3) Leverage Facebook Messenger to boost ticket sales
According to MailChimp, the average email open rate for the music industry is 23%, with a click-through rate of under 3%. We think you can do better than that.

By pulling your fans into the Facebook Messenger platform you escape the perils of email comms, fraught with non-delivery, spam filters and the dreaded promotions tab. With Facebook Messenger you can engage in a more conversational way, and when you do send messages they pop up on the user’s homescreen; winner.

The possibilities for preference-based marketing, merchandising and incentive-based social sharing are huge, including:

• Incentivisation – we have created an in-built affiliate system in a Facebook Messenger bot, which is the perfect place for requesting social spread via fans for incentive-based outcomes i.e sell tickets/generate sign ups
• 100% visibility of comms – with email and Facebook organic reach, the % of people actually reached is low (between 4-30%). With our solution all messages appear on the user’s mobile phone homescreen, with 100% delivery
• Personalisation – you have the ability to gather rich interest data on attendees quickly and easily (i.e who are you most looking forward to seeing at the festival?). By doing this you can then engage based on their interests with relevant content/offers
• Merchandising – by gathering interest data you can merchandise and cross sell pre , during and post event
• Spin off gigs – if you know what people like, where they live, and can message them with 100% delivery whenever you want, you can create a multitude of smaller spin off gigs with little to no extra marketing spend. Welcome to the profit centre!
People often need little incentive to use Facebook, but they do require that something extra to share content. Consider low cost incentives such as special offers, early bird access or news, to show appreciation to your audience and encourage fans buy in.

4) Ensure third parties deliver
Now you have your own marketing as well as your artists pushing the message, it’s now time to lean on your third parties to help spread the word.

Work with a ticketing provider that has a sophisticated marketing program that includes pushing out targeted messages to its database of users. With kickbacks and commission in play, your ticketing provider is already incentivised to promote your event. Ensure your partners are 100% mobile optimised and use affiliate codes to ensure proper tracking.

Eventbrite found that the most common sites fans visit after ticketing pages are Google Images and YouTube. Your audience wants to see visuals of the event and listen to artists who are performing before they commit. Supply these assets and embedded links to your third party sites to encourage additional time on the ticketing sites and quicker conversions.

5) Further exploit video
Engage people through the power of video, specifically using YouTube to build a fanbase.

Belgium’s Tomorrowland used this platform brilliantly, garnering 38 million views and over 250,000 likes on their promo video release. Granted, it was a humdinger at 32 minutes long but don’t let that put you off, just create something that will appeal to your audience and get sharing it.

Hardcore festival fans are now more likely to share videos of the events they attend than pictures. Create multiple opportunities for your audience to do this at the event and make sure you have the tools in place to capture what is being shared:

• Festival hashtags – promoted on stage graphics, food vans etc. and promotional materials around Wi-Fi access points and charging stations when users are focused on their phones
• Share fan content in real time (referring back to their social handles so they feel a sense of recognition), encouraging them to share and capture more footage
• SnapChat geofilters – make it really easy for festivalgoers to boast about where they are
• Re-use livestream content.
Content from livestreaming doesn’t have to be lost after the moment has passed. Save and share the content to attendees after the event. Help them relive the moment and share it with their friends, encourage them to tag themselves to show they were there. Make sure you also provide your live content to the artists featured so they can share it with their fans too.


Festival Websites for All

An introduction to a new CMS website framework that can help deliver successful festival website experiences for events of all scales

Festival WebsitesAt Project Simply, we have been working with events and festivals globally including Parklife, Field Day, Winterville, Y Not, and Truck, to create branding, websites and digital experiences. In 2019, we launched the Marketing and Digital Festival Insights Report, talking directly to 146 events.

The research found that festivals need to be wary of an over reliance on social media and get a better handle on self-controlled marketing channels, including apps and chatbots. Some of the key stats to come out of the report were:
• 63% of festival organisers only use basic data and user tracking
• 30% of festival organisers found that print and paid media don’t work
• Almost 75% of small festivals feel they are too heavily reliant on social media
• 92% of festival organisers believe a good digital experience is key to success
• Social media influencers are not a good use of festival marketing budgets

Some findings of the insights highlighted issues with using third parties for design and website creation and management. As a website is the cornerstone of most marketing efforts, the key sales vehicle for tickets and the shareable asset that helps grow social audience, it is vital that it works for an event.

Frustrated that we couldn’t help smaller festivals and events with our current design process, we decided to create Plot, a festival and venue-specific website design system that creates powerful and successful websites in a few days. Our Plot sites now address the major issues, keeping price points low with no ongoing costs, admin is made specifically for festival teams and event lifecycles and there is no time lag as changes can be made instantly.

Inside Plot we’ve built some great functionality including pre-registration pages, line-up releases, thank you pages, a schedule manager, notification system, social media hook up, ticketing, landing pages and site launch controls. You can see more at


More Info
Christian HillChristian Hill is the co-founder of Project Simply, a branding and digital agency that helps music, festival and lifestyle clients engage audiences using a bespoke web platform. He also spearheaded the Festival Insights report, an annual global study of the habits, opinion and successes of festival marketing teams.

Download the Marketing and Digital Festival Insights Report at

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